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Sources: Grand jury looking at whether Bonds lied about steroid use

From Ted Rowlands
CNN

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San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds.

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Barry Bonds
Baseball
San Francisco (California)
Crime, Law and Justice

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A federal grand jury is considering whether to indict San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds for perjury because of testimony he gave to another grand jury in 2003, CNN has learned.

Bonds told the first grand jury in December 2003 that he was clean. The new panel has been hearing testimony for a month about whether the baseball superstar lied about his steroid use during the hearing, several sources said.

"This is extremely bad news for Barry Bonds," said CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin, "because a federal prosecutor doesn't start looking into perjury unless he has a pretty good idea he's going to find perjury at the end of the day."

The U.S. Attorney's office would neither confirm nor deny the report. Grand jury proceedings are generally kept secret.

Bonds' legal team is unaware that a grand jury convened to hear the case, said Harry Stern, a spokesman for the attorneys

On December 4, 2003, Bonds and other athletes testified in the BALCO case, which targeted Greg Anderson, a trainer and longtime friend to Bonds, and Victor Conte, founder of the Bay-Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a sports nutrition center alleged to have created designer steroids.

During the hearing, prosecutors asked Bonds if he had used steroids, and when the man who is seeking to become baseball's all-time home run king emerged from the hearing, his attorney Mike Raines told reporters:

"Barry testified truthfully to the grand jury. Barry Bonds is clean."

Conte spent four months in jail after pleading guilty to distributing steroids, and Anderson was sentenced to three months on the same charge.

Bonds and his colleagues were offered immunity for their testimony. The deal was simple: Tell the truth, and you draw a walk; lie and go down for perjury.

Raines has long said that the federal government is out to get his client. And without admitting any wrongdoing on his client's behalf, he has suggested that prosecutors, with their immunity deal, are setting a familiar snare for Bonds.

"Look no further than Martha Stewart. The trap is perjury," Raines said. "You offer immunity and you get him in there and then you ask them questions and you get them on lying to federal officers.

"That's the trap. That's exactly what they got Martha for."

Raines also has suggested that prosecutors are going after his client because of his name and notoriety, not the allegations leveled against him.

Toobin said that wouldn't surprise him.

"Prosecutors are supposed to go after the big fish. It's those kind of prosecutions that tell everyone that it's not OK to lie to prosecutors or to a grand jury," the legal analyst said.

A House committee considered perjury charges against Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro when he failed a drug test for steroids following congressional testimony in March 2005 that he had never used them. The committee decided in November not to pursue the charges, citing "confusing and contradictory" information, according to The Washington Post.

"We couldn't find any evidence of steroid use prior to his testimony," committee chairman Rep. Thomas A. Davis III was quoted in the paper as saying. "That's not a finding of innocence, but it's a finding that we could not substantiate perjury."

Bonds' repeated and adamant denial that he knowingly used steroids came under new scrutiny when "Game of Shadows" -- billed as an expose -- hit bookstore shelves last month. The book claims Bonds used steroids he obtained from Anderson during the 1998-2003 seasons. That time span includes the 2001 season in which Bonds swatted 73 homers, surpassing Mark McGwire's single-season record.

Major League Baseball did not begin testing for steroids until 2003. Since the league began testing, the MLB has never reported that Bonds failed a drug test.

Raines has issued a statement saying Bonds has no intention of reading the book. "Barry regards this as an unfortunate distraction to his friends and teammates at the San Francisco Giants, and to the good name and the great players in Major League Baseball," read the statement on Bonds' Web site.

It further stated that the allegations have "misled the public in the interest of financial and professional self promotion."

After the book was published, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to oversee an investigation into steroid use in baseball.

Bonds missed most of last season with knee problems and had three surgeries to repair the knee. With 708 career home runs, Bonds trails Babe Ruth by six homers and Hank Aaron, the all-time leader, by 47. He has yet to hit a home run this season.

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