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Government's perjury case against Barry Bonds ends with a thud

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three quick thoughts after Day 10 of the perjury trial of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds:

1. Judge Susan Illston dealt the government a blow. By granting a defense motion to exclude an audio recording of a conversation between Steve Hoskins, Bonds' former gofer, and Dr. Arthur Ting, Illston killed the last chance prosecutors had to repair the damage Ting did to their case. Ting, Bonds' orthopedic surgeon, denied talking to Hoskins about steroids save for one conversation, which contradicted Hoskins' earlier testimony. The tape, which Hoskins made in 2003, would have showed that there was at least one other instance when the subject came up, salvaging some of Hoskins' credibility. But Illston ruled that much of the recording was inaudible, and that what could be heard was irrelevant and inadmissible. There were no bombshells in the recording; it consisted mostly of Hoskins talking about the BALCO raid and other news events, and the recording probably wouldn't have had much bearing on the outcome of the trial. But it was evidence the government would have preferred to put before the jury.

2. The government's case ended with a thud. The last act before the prosecution rested was the reading of an edited version of Bonds' grand jury testimony. Two court employees read the questions and answers out loud, and one imagines that the government hoped that jurors would find Bonds evasive or antagonistic. What they heard instead was Bonds insist over and over that he trusted trainer Greg Anderson, his old friend, and that he doubted Anderson would have given him performance-enhancing drugs because it would have jeopardized their friendship. Few sports fans would believe that an athlete of Bonds' caliber (and personality type) would ingest or rub on his body whatever Anderson gave him, but the jurors aren't necessarily that familiar with Bonds and his ilk. As a result, the government's closing piece of evidence in this phase was ineffective.

3. The defense will be brief. The government's presentation of evidence lasted more than a week, but the defense will take only a fraction of that time. Beginning Wednesday, Bonds' legal team will call to the stand an agent from the FBI and one from the IRS, presumably to talk about the government's motives and procedural mistakes. Harvey Shields, another of Bonds' trainers, is expected to take the stand as well. That could be it for the defense, a single day of witnesses. Allen Ruby, one of Bonds' attorneys, raised the possibility that Hoskins could be recalled along with evidence that he tried to extort Bonds. Ruby also said in open court that Bonds might take the stand. That is unlikely, and Ruby and Co. may decide that Hoskins is so battered that illuminating more of his flaws isn't necessary. Either way, you can expect closing arguments to begin on Thursday, at the latest.

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