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BALCO leaker agrees to longer prison sentence

Attorney says he will serve up to nine extra months after a judge rejects his 24-month plea deal as too lenient for steroids case disclosures.

July 06, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The attorney who leaked grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes investigated for steroid use has agreed to let a judge sentence him to as many as nine more months in prison than he originally agreed to in a plea bargain.

In papers filed in federal court Thursday, prosecutors said Troy Ellerman was willing to accept a 33-month prison sentence after a judge last month rejected the original deal for a 24-month maximum sentence as too lenient. Federal prosecutors also agreed to reduce the maximum fine that Ellerman faces to $60,000 from the $250,000 agreed to earlier.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, who rejected the earlier deal, still must approve the new agreement when Ellerman returns to court Thursday.

Ellerman's attorney, Scott Tedmon, said he will argue that his client should be sentenced to 15 months in prison -- an argument that didn't persuade the judge last month.

"We are trying to wrap this thing up without a lot of litigation," Tedmon said. "We're trying to give the judge some latitude."

Ellerman, 44, pleaded guilty to allowing a newspaper reporter to view confidential transcripts of grand jury testimony from Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and other athletes embroiled in the government's steroids investigation. Ellerman initially blamed federal investigators for leaking the testimony.

Ellerman was a successful Sacramento attorney when Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, hired him after the raid of the Burlingame nutritional supplements lab, part of the government probe.

Ellerman also later served as the attorney for BALCO Vice President James Valente and had copies of the grand jury testimony being used to prosecute his clients. Ellerman allowed San Francisco Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada to view the players' grand jury testimony, according to the plea agreement.

Fainaru-Wada and fellow reporter Lance Williams then published stories in 2004 reporting that Giambi and others had admitted using steroids, while Bonds and Sheffield testified that they didn't knowingly take the drugs. The leaked testimony was featured prominently in the writers' book "Game of Shadows," which recounts Bonds' alleged use of steroids.

After Ellerman pleaded guilty in February to four felony charges of obstruction of justice and disobeying court orders, prosecutors dropped their case against the two reporters. They had faced up to 18 months in prison for refusing to divulge the source of the leak.

Ellerman was fired as commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn. and voluntarily gave up his California license to practice law.

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