SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Federal appellate judges in San Francisco Wednesday challenged a prosecutor's assertion ex-big league slugger Barry Bonds misled the BALCO grand jury.
Two of the three 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges who heard argument in Bonds' effort to void his obstruction-of-justice conviction asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Chan how Bonds' initial rambling answers before the grand jury were misleading if they ultimately were followed by short, direct responses to questions, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Judge Michael Hawkins noted at one point prosecutors asked Bonds the same question and he flatly denied, three times, that his trainer, Greg Anderson, had ever given him self-injectable drugs.
Anderson had links with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which marketed performance-enhancing steroids and supplied several high-profile athletes with banned substances.
Hawkins said regardless of the truth of Bonds' answers, "it is no longer evasive."
"How can a grand jury get misled by that?" the judge asked.
Chan replied it was part of Bonds' attempt to block the investigation.
Judge Mary Murguia followed by asking whether prosecutors' decision to stop that line of questioning meant "the government no longer thought it was being misled." Chan answered it simply meant prosecutors decided to move to another topic.
Bonds, who did not appear at the appellate hearing, was convicted in 2010 of obstructing the 2003 grand jury investigating steroid use in Major League Baseball, but the jury deadlocked on three perjury counts. His 20-day house arrest sentence was put on hold pending his appeal.
The appellate panel did not set a date for its ruling on the case.
Bonds, 48, had a stellar career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants that was marred by the steroid scandal. Before he retired in 2007, he had smacked a record 762 home runs, including 73 in a single season, and was a seven-time National League MVP and 14-time all-star.