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Former mistress testifies at Barry Bonds' trial

Kimberly Bell, a star prosecution witness in the former slugger's perjury trial, said the ex-Giant threatened to cut off her head after he began using steroids. Bonds' lawyer was admonished by the judge for her aggressive questioning of Bell.

March 29, 2011|By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
  • Barry Bonds' former mistress, Kimberly Bell, leaves a federal courthouse after she testified in Bonds' perjury trial.
Barry Bonds' former mistress, Kimberly Bell, leaves a federal courthouse… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

Reporting from San Francisco — The former mistress of slugger Barry Bonds testified tearfully at his federal trial Monday that Bonds had threatened to cut off her head, cut out her breast implants and burn her house after he began using steroids about 2000, seven years before he broke the record for career home runs.

Kimberly Bell, 41, a star witness for the prosecution, told the court she became Bonds' girlfriend when she was 24, and he was in the process of divorcing his first wife. She said the relationship continued after he married his second wife in 1998 and ended in May 2003, when she said Bonds told her "to disappear."

Bell testified that the former San Francisco Giant told her in 1999 or 2000 that he was using steroids and blamed the drug for an elbow injury. She said she frequently saw Bonds' former trainer, Greg Anderson, go into a bedroom with Bonds and lock the door after breakfast when they were in Arizona for spring training. She said Anderson had a black satchel with him during those times.

Prosecutors have said that Anderson administered steroids to Bonds. Anderson, a childhood friend of Bonds, was taken into custody last week for refusing to testify in the trial.

After Bonds began taking steroids, he became aggressive and impatient, Bell testified. She wept and said she was often afraid of him. He would blow up if he could not reach her on the telephone, she said.

"He was just very controlling," said Bell, her voice breaking with emotion. She said Bonds was physically abusive, although she did not elaborate. The prosecution had been barred from allowing Bell to testify that Bonds once choked her.

Bell said she had been in love with Bonds and was upset when he decided to marry during their relationship.

She testified that Bonds' testicles shrank and he became impotent at times after starting steroids. But she also admitted under cross-examination that she had been wrong when she told a grand jury in 2005 that his testicles shrank by half.

Defense lawyer Cristina Arguedas, who grilled Bell for much of the day, tried through her questions to suggest Bell was a gold digger who was infuriated when Bonds broke up their relationship and tried to profit from it.

Arguedas accused Bell of lying and committing mortgage fraud, a federal crime, by making misstatements on loan papers for a house Bonds bought her in Arizona. Bonds is being tried on charges he lied to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he testified he did not knowingly use steroids.

The defense lawyer asked Bell if she had a "tremendous amount of practice" for her testimony, noting Bell had given at least 20 media interviews about Bonds, and suggested that Bell's tears had been disingenuous.

"On how many of those radio shows did you cry when describing this information?" Arguedas asked. "None, right?"

Bell repeatedly testified that she was "hurt" when Bonds abruptly ended their relationship. When Arguedas tried to get her to admit that she was angry with Bonds, Bell refused.

Arguedas then read an email Bell had sent to Bonds' website after the break-up.

In the email to Bonds, Bell said she understood why she was never allowed to travel with him to New York — he had another girlfriend there — and mentioned "the ugly whore in Vegas" and "the stripper in Phoenix," apparent references to other women Bonds dated at the time.

"You testified he had penile dysfunction," Arguedas said.

"He had some trouble," Bell responded.

"This is a lot of action, isn't it?" Arguedas asked.

"I don't know what he was doing with them," Bell said. "I can only imagine."

Arguedas questioned Bell so aggressively that U.S. District Judge Susan Illston admonished her at one point to "ratchet it down," prompting Arguedas to apologize to Bell. Bell answered some questions through clenched teeth and glared at the lawyer.

Bell admitted that she hired an attorney after Bonds broke up with her in an attempt to get Bonds to pay off her Arizona home. She said he had given her money for the down payment and had promised to buy it for her. She testified that she had quit a well-paying graphic design job and moved to Arizona for the ballplayer.

Bonds agreed to a settlement of only $20,000 and a confidentiality pledge, which Bell rejected and described as "peanuts" during a television interview. Bell testified she made $113,000 from the sale of the Scottsdale home.

Bell's presence in court Monday attracted the biggest crowd yet to Bonds' trial. The courtroom was filled at least 20 minutes before the proceedings started, and several dozen spectators showed up in an overflow room to watch the testimony on a live video and audio feed.

Bonds has not played baseball since 2007, when the federal government indicted him for lying during a probe of steroid distribution.

Maura.dolan@latimes.com

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