A federal appeals court in San Francisco Wednesday overturned former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds’ conviction for obstructing justice in 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating steroid distribution.
A special 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said by a 10-1 vote that there was insufficient evidence that a statement alleged by prosecutors to be misleading was material to the grand jury probe.
The obstruction verdict was Bonds’ only conviction in a prosecution that began in 2007. At his trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in 2011, a jury deadlocked on three other charges that he lied to the grand jury.
Other charges against Bonds, 50, were dropped or dismissed before the trial.
In the statement at issue in the conviction, Bonds called himself the “celebrity child” of a baseball-playing father when asked whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him anything to inject himself with.
The appeals court majority said, “During a grand jury proceeding, defendant gave a rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question. Because there is insufficient evidence that Statement C was material, defendant’s conviction for obstruction of justice … is not supported by the record.”
The court concluded, “His conviction and sentence must therefore be vacated, and he may not be tried again on that count.”
The grand jury was investigating the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Ten other athletes, trainers, BALCO officials and a chemist were convicted or pleaded guilty to various charges as a result of the probe.
While playing with the San Francisco Giants from 1993 to 2007, Bonds set the Major League Baseball career home run record of 762, as well as the single-season record of 73 in 2001.
Bonds and his team of six lawyers appealed for and obtained a rare review by an 11-judge panel after a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld his conviction.
He has already served his sentence of one month of home confinement. According to his lawyers, he wanted to continue the appeal to clear his name.