YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Experts say prosecutors have scored only one direct hit on Barry Bonds

Legal analysts say the testimony of former Bonds aide Kathy Hoskins, who testified she saw the slugger's personal trainer inject him in the navel, may be a key point in the trial. Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case Monday.

April 04, 2011|By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
  • Prosecutors in the Barry Bonds perjury trial in San Francisco have painted Major League Baseball as a steroid fest, with some players willing to ingest anything for a boost.
Prosecutors in the Barry Bonds perjury trial in San Francisco have painted… (John G. Mabanglo, European…)

Reporting from San Francisco — Prosecutors in the Barry Bonds perjury trial will wrap up their case Monday following two weeks of testimony that portrayed major league baseball as a steroid fest with some players willing to ingest anything for a boost and all bound by the understanding that there were "girlfriend cities" and "wife cities" on road trips.

The sordid side of baseball — just before mandatory drug screening — was revealed by a parade of prosecution witnesses called to try to prove Bonds had lied when he told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he did not knowingly take performance enhancing drugs.

But for all the riveting testimony, prosecutors scored only one direct hit on Bonds, said legal analysts who are following the case.

It came on Thursday when a reluctant witness who charmed the courtroom testified she saw Bonds' personal trainer inject him in the navel in 2002 with something that Bonds told her was "undetectable."

An expert witness had previously testified that human growth hormones are usually injected in the stomach, and Bonds told the grand jury that his personal trainer had never injected him. That is one of four statements Bonds made that violated federal perjury law, according to the indictment.

"If she is believed, he is guilty of perjury," said Robert Talbot, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.

The testimony came from Kathy Hoskins, a tall, slender woman with her hair pulled into a pony tail and wearing glasses that she removed frequently to wipe away tears. Hoskins' father played for the San Francisco 49ers, and her parents were close to Bonds' family.

Hoskins testified that her brother, Steve Hoskins, also a key prosecution witness, dragged her into the case — "he threw me under the bus" — by telling federal agents that she had seen Bonds being injected.

Steve Hoskins, like his younger sister, had known Bonds since childhood. Bonds' mother had asked her son to reach out to him in the late 1990s, according to testimony.

Bonds helped Steve Hoskins launch a sports memorabilia business and hired him to ferry equipment to ballparks, make his appointments and give cash to his girlfriends. But the two fell out over money in 2003.

Bonds told the FBI that Hoskins had committed fraud, and Hoskins in turn told federal agents that Bonds had been taking illegal drugs to build muscle and endurance.

Steve Hoskins testified that Bonds began using steroids in 1999, eight years before he became the home run king, surpassing both Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

Defense lawyers — with the help of another prosecution witness, Bonds' former orthopedic surgeon — have managed to shred Steve Hoskins' credibility, legal analysts said.

A defense lawyer also pummeled Bonds' former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, who posed nude for Playboy and tried to peddle a book after Bonds told her to "disappear" in 2003 after a nine-year relationship. She said steroids so inflamed Bonds' personality that she feared he would kill her.

Bell managed to withstand eviscerating cross-examination, although she sometimes spoke through clenched teeth and once made a face at the defense attorney, whose back was turned at the time.

Cristina Arguedas, the defense lawyer, tried to portray Bell as a scorned and bitter mistress who sought revenge when Bonds cut her out of his life and his money.

So you thought Barry was handsome? Arguedas asked Bell.

Bell assented.

And you thought he was smart?

Bell refused to reply.

So, you won't say he was smart, Arguedas said. "How about, he was rich?"

Jurors appeared to like Bonds' lawyers, especially Arguedas. They smiled when she popped up to make a point and chuckled at her remarks.

"Bonds is 90% home in that they love his main lawyer," said Golden Gate law professor Peter Keane, who described Arguedas as one of the best cross-examiners in the country.

Arguedas is the lawyer hired by O.J. Simpson's defense team for a mock cross-examination of Simpson to determine whether he should testify in his murder trial. He did not testify.

Legal analysts said prosecutors also have performed well with a difficult case. Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew Parrella has tried at every opportunity to point out that Bonds is wealthy and that he cheated on his wife with multiple girlfriends. Eight of the jurors are women.

The trial has educated jurors on the so-called steroid era of major league baseball, which did not began punitive screening for performance enhancing drugs until 2004. Since then, home runs have declined, though the sport still may not be drug free. Urine tests cannot detect human growth hormones, and only minor league players are given blood tests.

Before mandatory testing, some players estimated that 50% to 85% of major league players were using performance enhancing drugs. During the Bonds trial, one former player testified that he took a steroid he purchased in Mexico only to learn later that it was used by veterinarians.

Los Angeles Times Articles