The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Barry Bonds’ request for a rehearing of a challenge to his conviction for obstruction of justice.
In a one-paragraph order issued Tuesday, the court said a special panel of 11 judges would look again at the 2011 guilty verdict. No date has been set for the rehearing.
Attorneys for Bonds have argued that the former Giants star and Major League Baseball’s all-time home-run record holder was wrongly convicted, based on a rambling but truthful statement made during federal grand jury testimony in 2003. The panel had been convened to investigate the use of performance-enhancing substances in professional sports, a practice that had become widespread in baseball in the late 1990s.
Bonds was one of several players who got special scrutiny because of a surge in their home-run numbers. Bonds set the single-season home-run record of 73 in 2001 and retired with the sport’s career record of 762.
Years after the 2003 grand jury appearance, prosecutors charged Bonds with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction in connection with his testimony that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
During deliberations, the jury in the case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the perjury counts. But the panel did convict Bonds of obstruction, finding that he was evasive when asked about whether his personal trainer had given him injections.
In what’s now known as his “celebrity child” testimony, prosecutors asked Bonds whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, ever gave him “anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”
Bonds answered by saying:
I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?
A. That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see. So, I don’t know — I don’t know — I’ve been married to a woman five years, known her 17 years, and I don’t even know what’s in her purse. I have never looked in it in my lifetime. You know, I just — I don’t do that, I just don’t do it, and you know, learned from my father and throughout his career, you don’t get in no one’s business, you can’t — there’s nothing they can say, you can’t say nothing about them. Just leave it alone. You want to keep your friendship, keep your friendship.
Bonds has already served his sentence in the case: 30 days of at-home detention and a $4,100 fine. Lance Williams, a reporter who has covered the case and co-written a book on it, says that for Bonds, the appeal is about trying to salvage his reputation as one of baseball’s greatest players.
“Barry wants to be recognized as the greatest home-run hitter in the history of the game,” Williams said Tuesday. “He’d like to go in the Hall of Fame, and I think he’s convinced that getting that felony conviction expunged would enhance his opportunities in that regard.”
Bonds retired from the Giants after the 2007 season, a year during which he hit 28 home runs and led the major leagues in on-base percentage. Despite evidence that he could still be a productive hitter, no team offered him a contract. Attorneys for Major League Baseball denied that teams had acted in concert in declining to sign Bonds.
Bonds became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2012. But based on the results of the first two years of voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, it appears unlikely that Bonds will win what the Hall calls “enshrinement” among the game’s immortals. Needing 75 percent of votes cast to get into the Hall, Bonds got 36.2 percent in his first year of eligibility, 34.7 percent in his second.