Obstruction of Justice Conviction Upheld in Barry Bonds Steroid Case

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United States District Judge Susan Illston upheld the conviction of Barry Bonds on obstruction of justice charge. The government had hoped to prove that Bonds lied about his use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in the multi-million dollar perjury case against the baseball slugger. They had charged him with three counts of perjury for specific lies about his steroid use during grand jury testimony. However, Bonds was essentially cleared after a hung jury resulted in a mistrial on all three charges and the prosecution declined the opportunity to retry Bonds on the three perjury charges.

The case was somewhat of an embarrassment for the government. Prosecutors failed to prove that Barry Bonds (1) knowingly received steroids from his personal trainer Greg Anderson; (2) received an injection from anyone other than his doctor; and (3) received human growth hormone from Anderson.

Instead, the government seemed to be satisfied with a questionable conviction on obstruction of justice based on an allegedly “evasive and misleading” reply. When Bonds was asked if Greg Anderson had every given him an injection, Bonds provided a rambling, nonresponsive statement about being a “child celebrity” who didn’t involve himself in other people’s business.

“That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that – you know, that – I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts,” rambled Bonds during his grand jury testimony.” I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see…”

And voila, Bonds was found guilty of obstruction for rambling like Barry Bonds is known to do. Judge Illston didn’t overturn the conviction even though Bonds ultimately gave a very direct answer to the question during the testimony.

“An evasive answer about an issue material to the grand jury is not necessarily rendered immaterial by the later provision of a direct answer, even if that direct answer is true,” explained Illston.

Nonetheless, many legal experts find a conviction based solely on “evasive testimony” troubling.

“How can a proceeding really be obstructed by truthful testimony, when evasive or nonresponsive answers may be probed and clarified? In all but the most extreme cases, if questioners do their job properly, the witnesses eventually will have to either come clean or cross the line into perjury,” wrote legal scholar Randall Eliason in the National Law Journal.

Barry Bonds faces sentencing on December 16, 2011. Based on Judge Illston’s sentencing in other BALCO-related perjury cases, Bonds is not expected to do jail time.

Barry Bonds


Macur, J. (August 26, 2011). Conviction of Bonds on Obstruction Charge Is Upheld by Judge. Retrieved from

Eliason, R. (May 11, 2011). Did Barry Bonds really obstruct justice? Retrieved from