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Evidence barred from Bonds trial

| Saturday, June 12, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds scored an important legal victory Friday that could put his long-delayed perjury trial back on track.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that prosecutors may not present positive urine samples and other vital evidence that the government says shows that the slugger knowingly used steroids.

The appeals court ruling upholds a lower court decision made in February 2009 barring federal prosecutors from showing the jury any evidence collected by Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson. Bonds' perjury trial, which was scheduled to start in March 2009, has been delayed pending the outcome of this appeal.

Bonds' lead attorney, Allen Ruby, said the next step depends on what prosecutors do with the ruling but that the evidence excluded was vital to the case against the home run king.

"Presumably, the government wouldn't have delayed this case a year and a half unless they thought it was very important," Ruby said.

Lead prosecutors Matt Parrella and Jeff Nedrow didn't return calls. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Jack Gillund declined comment.

The government could ask the appeals court to reconsider its decision, ask an 11-judge panel of the court to rehear the case or petition the Supreme Court. Prosecutors also could go to trial without the evidence or drop the case entirely.

Last year, Anderson told the trial court judge that he would rather go to jail on contempt-of-court charges than testify against Bonds. And the court said evidence tied directly to Anderson is inadmissible "hearsay" evidence unless the trainer testifies to the items' authenticity.

Prosecutors argued that Anderson had told BALCO vice president James Valente that the samples belonged to Bonds and that they would call Valente to the witness stand. But the appeals court said that because Anderson wasn't directly employed by Bonds -- the judges considered him an independent contractor -- the trainer would need to testify because Bonds didn't control the samples.

"There is little or no indication that Bonds actually exercised any control over Anderson in determining when the samples were obtained, to whom they were delivered or what tests were performed on them," Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the majority court.

Although the ruling eliminates what prosecutors said were three positive tests, they still have a fourth showing Bonds used steroids. In 2003, Major League Baseball tested all of its players. The lab that MLB hired found that Bonds tested negative for steroid use. But in 2004, federal agents seized the urine sample and had it retested for the designer steroid THG, which they said turned up positive.

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