Attorneys for Barry Bonds told a federal appeals court panel Wednesday, the retired San Francisco Giants slugger shouldn’t have been convicted of obstructing a 2003 grand jury because he directly answered some of its questions.
Bonds is appealing his 2010 conviction of obstructing justice from a trial in which a jury also deadlocked on three counts of perjury. And in a rare move, the justices opened up the hearing to cameras.
The federal government’s single conviction was based on Bonds’ answer to the grand jury’s question of whether he ever directly injected himself with steroids.
In an answer his own legal team described as rambling, Bonds replied he was a “celebrity child with a famous father.” He also said, “I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation. ” Prosecutors said Bonds’ answer showed was attempting to evade answering the question.
But during the Wednesday’s appellate hearing at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which Bonds did not attend, his attorney, Dennis Riordan, said Bonds answered “right” when asked the grand jury later asked him to confirm he’d never directly self-injected.
But government attorneys told the three-member panel that Bonds was lying during the grand jury testimony and even though he directly answered some questions, his rambling answer was intended to thwart the grand jury’s probe into the Balco steroids scandal.
The judges appeared to be weighing Bonds’ argument, asking the government: “If he gives a direct answer, how can a previous statement be evasive?”
Bonds is hoping to clear his record and overturn his sentence of two year’s probation and a month of electronically monitored house arrest.
The trio of judges gave no indication of when they would issue their ruling.