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Barry Bonds to be sentenced for obstruction of justice conviction

Home run king Barry Bonds could face 15 months in prison, confinement at home or probation over his evasive testimony to a federal grand jury in a sports doping probe.

December 16, 2011|By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
  • Barry Bonds, left, arriving at the federal courthouse in San Francisco for his trial in March, faces sentencing for his conviction on one felony count of obstruction of justice for being evasive to a federal grand jury in a sports doping probe.
Barry Bonds, left, arriving at the federal courthouse in San Francisco… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

Reporting from San Francisco — Home run king Barry Bonds could be imprisoned for 15 months, confined to his Beverly Hills home or simply placed on probation when he is sentenced Friday for giving evasive testimony to a federal grand jury probing sports doping.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who presided over Bonds' perjury trial earlier this year, has sentenced other athletes convicted of lying during the probe to probation and home confinement. Distributors of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs served three to four months in prison for those crimes.

Bonds, 47, baseball's all-time home run record holder, was tried for lying in 2003 to a federal grand jury that was investigating a Bay Area laboratory involved in the sale of banned substances to athletes. A jury last April deadlocked on all charges except one — a felony obstruction of justice count for being evasive.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend 15 to 21 months in prison for obstruction, but probation officials have said Bonds' offense warrants much less: two years' probation, a $4,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and "location monitoring," which generally means home confinement.

Probation officials cited Bonds' long history of charitable and civic work — work that Bonds' attorneys said he kept private even though it could have enhanced his reputation.

Prosecutors counter that Bonds has suffered little from his misconduct and shown no remorse. They have urged the judge to put the former San Francisco Giants star in prison for 15 months for his "pervasive efforts to testify falsely, to mislead the grand jury, to dodge questions, and to simply refuse to answer questions in the grand jury."

"The defendant has not clearly demonstrated acceptance of responsibility for his offense," prosecutors said in written arguments. "In fact, far from accepting responsibility, it appears that the defendant continues to maintain his innocence."

Bonds' lawyers said in court papers that he does not believe home confinement "is necessary," but otherwise has accepted the probation officials' recommendations.

The judge's sentencing of other sports figures caught up in the scandal suggests that Bonds will not go to prison.

Illston sentenced cyclist Tammy Thomas to six months of home detention for perjury and obstruction convictions, even though the probation office suggested that she serve 24 months in prison.

But prosecutors said Thomas had more "personal challenges" than Bonds. She lost the ability to practice law as a result of her convictions and suffered financial and health consequences, they said.

Prosecutors reminded Illston that a federal judge in New York sentenced former Olympic track star Marion Jones to six months in prison for making false statements in the doping probe and a separate investigation into a fraudulent check-cashing scheme.

Jones got the prison sentence even though she "had pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility in her case, and had an infant child at the time of her sentencing," prosecutors said.

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