Bonds sentenced to 30 days of home arrest
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run champion, avoided a prison term yesterday when Judge Susan Illston sentenced him to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service with youth groups, and a $4,000 fine for providing evasive testimony to a federal grand jury eight years ago.
Bonds’s lawyers stated their intention to appeal, and Illston agreed to stay the sentence through the appeal process.
The sentence is in line with those Illston, who presided over Bonds’s perjury trial in April, has handed down to other similarly convicted athletes. Bonds, wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a silver tie, did not react to the sentence, which was substantially more lenient than the 15 months of incarceration recommended by the prosecution. His mother, Patricia, sat in the front row.
Bonds was convicted April 13 by a jury that listened to three weeks of often-graphic testimony about his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs. It found him guilty on one of the four counts in the case, agreeing that he had obstructed justice by giving evasive answers to a grand jury in 2003 when asked if his former personal trainer Greg Anderson had ever injected him.
The jury, which spent four days deliberating, also came within one vote of convicting him on a second count, voting, 11 to 1, that he had committed perjury when he told the same grand jury in 2003 that he was never injected by anyone other than his doctor.
Federal prosecutors ultimately chose not to seek a retrial on that count and two others involving perjury on which the Bonds jury deadlocked. They asked Illston to sentence Bonds to 15 months in prison, arguing that his “pervasive efforts to testify falsely, to mislead the grand jury, to dodge questions in the grand jury make his conduct worthy of a significant jail sentence.’’
Bonds’s lawyers countered that he should be sentenced to probation and community service, and that any time in prison would be “unfair and unwarranted.’’ Meanwhile, federal probation officers, in a presentencing report, recommended a “downward departure’’ from the sentencing guidelines that call for a prison term of 15-21 months for the crime for which Bonds was convicted.
Bonds’s legal difficulties began eight years ago because of his connection to the federal investigation into steroids trafficking by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative. In three other cases connected to Balco, Illston did not resort to prison time in her sentences: Former NFL lineman Dana Stubblefield received two years of probation; former Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas was given five years of probation and six months of home confinement; and track coach Trevor Graham received a year of home confinement.
Bonds, 47, holds the record for most home runs in a season (73) and a career (762). He last played in 2007, and has become an enduring symbol of baseball’s steroids era, which ran rampant through the 1990s and the first part of the last decade.
In recent years baseball has become notably more aggressive about testing for steroids and punishing those who test positive. Beginning in February it will begin testing major leaguers for human growth hormone, putting it ahead of other major sports.
But any sense that baseball was successfully wiping out the use of performance-enhancers was given a serious blow a week ago when it was disclosed that the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, the NL’s 2011 most valuable player, had tested positive for a banned substance, leaving him facing a 50-game suspension.