SAN FRANCISCO — One of the five charges in Barry Bonds’ perjury trial has been dropped and the defense has rested without calling a single witness.
Bonds’ attorney Allen Ruby announced the move Wednesday morning. Declining to call a witness underscored the defense’s belief prosecutors have failed to prove that the all-time major league home runs leader lied to a federal grand jury by saying he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs. It also means Bonds will not take the witness stand.
“The defense rests,” Ruby told the eight-women, four-man jury before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston released them for the day.
The panel was ordered to return Thursday to begin deliberating after hearing closing arguments and the judge’s instructions on how to consider the evidence submitted during the 11-day trial.
Illston began the session by tossing out one of the charges pending against Bonds. Prosecutors asked for the dismissal after Illston made it clear she was planning to throw it out anyway.
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Athletes Behaving Badly
The dismissed charge accused Bonds of lying to the grand jury when he denied taking the designer steroids dubbed “the clear” and “the cream” prior to the 2003 season. Bonds admitted taking those steroids in 2003, but said his personal trainer misled him into believing they were legal supplements.
None of the prosecution’s witnesses tied Bonds to use of the designer steroids before 2003.
Still, it was a limited victory for Bonds. He faces the same punishment if convicted of any of the four charges remaining.
“The dismissal is one less bullet to dodge on the liability side,” said defense attorney William Keane, who represented track coach Trevor Graham when he was accused of making false statements. “If Mr. Bonds is convicted on one or more of the remaining counts it will not have much of an impact on his ultimate sentence.”
Bonds is still charged with three counts of lying to the grand jury and one count of obstruction. Legal analysts say Bonds likely faces a realistic maximum of about 15 months in prison if convicted, but likely would be sentenced to about a year of house arrest. That’s the same punishment elite cyclist Tammy Thomas received for lying to the same grand jury when she denied taking steroids.
The judge on Wednesday also ruled that the jury will be allowed to consider testimony that Bonds’ testicles shrank, which prosecutors claim is a side effect of steroid use. Bonds’ attorneys sought to bar consideration of that testimony after Bonds’ former mistress Kimberly Bell admitted that she exaggerated the degree to which Bonds’ testicles shrank when she testified before the grand jury.
The judge also turned down Bonds attorneys’ request to toss out the testimony of Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi and three other former athletes as irrelevant. None of the players testified directly about Bonds. Instead, they told the jury that Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, supplied them with steroids and human growth hormone and detailed instructions on how to use them.