Bonds has upper hand entering big trial week

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Bonds has upper hand entering big trial week

April 3, 2011
GIANTS PAGE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Over two weeks, prosecutors methodically worked to build a credible case that Barry Bonds lied to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Then, on Thursday, prosecutors called Bonds' orthopedic surgeon to the stand.

They regretted it almost immediately.

Legal analysts, trial watchers - even attorneys on both sides - all seemed to agree that Dr. Arthur Ting's testimony was disastrous for the government's case against the greatest home-run hitter in major league history and a symbol of baseball's so-called steroids era. The question now is whether the prosecutors can still get a conviction when the trial goes to the jury, which could happen this week.

Ting hurt the prosecution because he directly and repeatedly contradicted the government's star witness, former Bonds business partner Steve Hoskins.

In the first week of the trial, Hoskins testified that the doctor told him a 1999 elbow injury Bonds sustained was caused by steroid use. But Ting denied saying that. Ting also denied Hoskins' claim that the two had 50 conversations about Bonds' alleged steroid use. Ting denied having even one such discussion.

Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Nedrow conceded soon afterward, in an exchange with U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, that Hoskins was "impeached heavily."

Ting was one of the last witnesses the government planned to call. Observers said prosecutors were making good headway with the jury until then.

"With any trial it's always the last impression that is the most important," Robert Mintz, a prominent Newark, N.J., defense attorney, said in a phone interview. Mintz and many others have been following the trial closely as it is covered by dozens of reporters who file frequent updates throughout the court day.

Like other experts, he reached for a sports analogy to make sense of the trial's sudden and dramatic momentum shift.

"It was the sports equivalent off coughing up the ball on the 5-yard line," said Mintz, a federal prosecutor before going into private practice. "Suddenly, the other team has a chance to win."

Ting's testimony obviously buoyed Bonds' team. Ting was even seen shaking the hands of a member of the former slugger's entourage sitting in the first row of the courtroom after he stepped down from the witness stand.

Bonds lead attorney Allen Ruby, usually gruff and deadly serious outside court during the trial, had a smile for reporters during a break in the proceedings after Ting's testimony. The usually inscrutable Bonds, too, had a wide grin at the end of the trial day Thursday.

When the trial resumes its critical third week Monday, the government's last witness - anti-doping expert Dr. Don Catlin - is scheduled to finish testifying. Court staff is expected to read a transcript of Bonds' grand jury testimony from December 2003, and then the defense will get to call its witnesses.

Bonds' lawyers still have work to do. Hoskins wasn't the government's only witness.

The hitter's former mistress, Kimberly Bell, told the eight-woman, four-man jury that Bonds once told her he used steroids. She also discussed in great detail the physical and behavioral changes she saw the slugger go through that prosecutors attribute to steroid use - including outbursts and threats against her.

Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi and three former players testified that Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, had supplied them with steroids and detailed instruction on how to use them.

However, none of the players testified directly about the relationship between Bonds and Anderson, who is in jail for refusing to testify at the trial. Illston admonished the jury not use the players' testimony as evidence that Anderson supplied Bonds with steroids.

Meanwhile, Bonds' attorneys portrayed the ex-mistress as a scorned lover seeking revenge and they caught her in a few inconsistencies. In particular, Bell admitted that she was exaggerating when she told the grand jury that Bonds' testicles had shrunk by half late in their relationship.

Many legal observers expect Bonds' legal team to call just a few witnesses because they say the case is breaking Bonds' way- with one notable exception: count two of five in his indictment.

Bonds is charged with lying to the grand jury during his appearance in December 2003. He was called to testify what he knew about the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. That grand jury ultimately indicted five men with connections to BALCO, including Anderson, on steroids distribution charges and related counts. All five pleaded guilty.

Three of Bonds' charges accuse of him of lying when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone. Another count charges him with obstruction of justice.

Count two is the "needle charge" and legal observers say it's the government's best chance for a conviction. Bonds is accused of lying during this exchange before the grand jury:

Prosecutor: "Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?"

Bonds: "I only had one doctor touch me. And that's my only personal doctor."

Bonds goes on to deny that Anderson - or anyone other than Ting - ever injected him with anything.

After Ting's testimony Thursday, prosecutors called Kathy Hoskins to the stand. She is the sister of Steve Hoskins, and worked as Bonds' personal shopper for two years ending in 2003.

Hoskins testified that before a road trip in 2002, she saw Anderson inject Bonds in the belly button.

Hoskins came across as likable, down-to-earth and - most important - credible. She said Bonds told her the injection was "a little something, something for when I go on the road. You can't detect it. You can't catch it."

On cross examination, Hoskins tearfully denied she was trying to cover up for her brother, who she claimed unfairly entangled her in the case by falsely telling investigators she saw Anderson inject Bonds numerous times.

"He threw me under the bus," Kathy Hoskins said, referring to her brother.

University of San Francisco law professor Bob Talbot said Kathy Hoskins' performance may have saved the government's case. He theorized that jurors could easily become deadlocked on the steroid charges and decide to convict Bonds only of lying about injections.

Several other observers agreed.

"The defense has to figure out a way of dealing with Kathy Hoskins' remarks," Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann, a sports law expert who has been following Bonds' perjury trial closely. "They can't appear to treat such a sympathetic witness harshly."

Nevertheless, the consensus among lawyers sitting in on the trial and watching it from afar is that Bonds' lawyers have worked hard to put their client in the best possible position headed toward the last week of trial.

"Right now, the Bonds legal team is in control," McCann said. "I think they feel confident that the government was not successful in showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds' is guilty. I expect they will present a modest defense."

Rewind: Warriors' dominance over Clippers in 'rivalry' continues

Rewind: Warriors' dominance over Clippers in 'rivalry' continues

LOS ANGELES – Once robust, the fabled Warriors-Clippers rivalry is rapidly going the way of the typewriter.

When the Warriors strolled walked into Staples Center Wednesday night and laid a 115-98 mashing on LA, prompting much of the sellout crowd streaming toward the exits in the fourth quarter, it was seventh consecutive time they have throttled the Clippers.

More deflating for the Clippers and perhaps the rest of the NBA is that this much-hyped game, with LA’s new and improved defense ranking No. 1 in the league, was supposed to be more competitive than the previous six losses.

It was, instead, a 17-point victory, the biggest Warriors rout yet.

Though the Warriors shot a respectable 47.7 percent (but only 23.3 percent beyond the arc) and also lost a tight rebounding battle, 46-45, they did most everything else so well the Clippers were done before the first quarter was over.

They had 32 assists and only 11 turnovers. They held LA to 39.6-percent shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers, leading to 16 Warriors points.

“Defensively, that’s where we won the game,” Kevin Durant said.

“If we defend like that and take care of the ball, even on a night when shots aren’t going in, we have a chance to win anywhere,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Even on the road against a great team.”

The Warriors (19-3) locked up star forward Blake Griffin, holding him to 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting – and an unsightly seven turnovers – mostly under the unyielding defense of Draymond Green.

In a game circled on their calendar, the Clippers’ starting five finished with 41 points – less than the combined totals of Klay Thompson (24) and Green (22).

The Clippers (16-7) lost this game on merit, perhaps more than the Warriors won it. Committing nine first-quarter turnovers, which the Warriors turned into 8 points, LA looked like a team that was not prepared to play an NBA game, certainly not under the microscope of national TV.

The game was advertised never materialized, partly because the Clippers were so bad and partly because the Warriors were appropriately ruthless in taking it.

“It happens,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You go into a game that you really want to do well, things don’t go well for you, and you lose it sometimes.”

Largely thanks to Clippers turnovers, the Warriors smoked LA in paint points, 58-38, as well as fast-break points, 27-11. The Warriors had 12 steals, including a career-high-tying seven by Stephen Curry.

“When we get a steal, especially live-ball turnovers, it’s three-on-one and you’ve got to pick your poison,” Durant said. “We were getting layups, we were getting wide-open 3s – although we missed a lot. But for the most part, when we get out and run that kind of ignites us, no matter if we miss or make the shot.”

So it didn’t matter than Curry failed to make a 3-pointers for only the second time this season, or that Durant endured his worst shooting night as a Warrior, going 5-of-17 from the field.

With Curry, Durant and Thompson all shooting under 50 percent, it was left to Green to operate the efficiency department. He mastered it, going 8-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 beyond the arc.

“It was great to get some shots to fall,” Green said. “(My shot has) been feeling good the last couple days, so I said if I got a shot that I would come in aggressive. But still focus in on the defensive end. That’s always my No. 1 focus, especially against a team like this.”

To locate the genesis of the Warriors recent domination of the Clippers, look no further than Green. He suffocates Griffin, who tends to come apart. The Warriors have faced the Clippers nine times since Green was installed as the starting power forward. They’ve won eight of them.

“If you want to take a positive away from this experience, it’s that this isn’t the playoffs,” Griffin said. “So we have some work to do, obviously. It’s a good lesson for us and I think we’ll be better off because of it. We have to allow ourselves to learn from it.”

It’s a theme very similar to that which was expressed the last time the Clippers lost to the Warriors, as well as the time before that, and so on and so on and so on, going back to the days when this was a real rivalry.

The Warriors simply take the W and keep quiet. No gloating. Maybe that will come in the playoffs.

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

SAN JOSE – Against Ottawa on Wednesday night, the Sharks showed no ill effects from their recent respite. They controlled play in the offensive end for long stretches, earned six power plays, and outshot and out-chanced the Senators for the majority of the three periods. 

There was no rust to speak of despite no games since Friday and no practices or meetings on Saturday or Sunday. From the opening puck drop, the Sharks were the better team.

It didn’t earn them a win, though, or even a single point in the standings. Justin Braun couldn’t prevent a bouncing puck from getting past him with about one minute left in regulation of a tie game, and Chris Kelly squeezed a shot through Martin Jones while holding off Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sens added an empty netter, beating San Jose for the fifth straight time, 4-2.

Braun offered his perspective of the game-winner.

"It was just bouncing in the neutral zone,” he said. “I feel [Kelly] coming on me, and I'm trying to whack it over to [Joe Thornton and] miss. Miss with my feet. … You want to have that one back. Other than that, I think the boys played pretty well."

While Braun could have played that one differently, the Sharks probably deserved better than to be tied at 2-2 at that stage. They outshot Ottawa, 37-17, and out-attempted the Senators a whopping 78-36.

Despite a strong first period, they fell behind 2-0.

On an early power play, Mark Stone was the beneficiary of a deflected puck in front of the net, when Mike Hoffman’s shot hit both Paul Martin and Brent Burns before squirting to Stone. Erik Karlsson increased the lead to 2-0 with a wrist shot through a screen a few minutes later.

“Take a penalty, they get a lucky bounce, they score a goal, [then] they go up two on a shot through traffic,” Logan Couture said. “I thought we had most of the chances in that first.”

No one had better chances throughout the night than Joe Pavelski, who was the best player on the ice. The Sharks captain was robbed in front of the net twice late in the first period, rang a shot off the crossbar in the second on a breakaway, and in the third his desperation attempt on a loose puck just outside of the blue paint was snared by Ottawa goalie Mike Condon.

Pavelski finished with a game-high seven shots, and 10 shot attempts altogether.

“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “We’ve won games 2-1, 3-2. Tonight we didn’t find that extra one, and some of the chances we had, we have to get it.”

The power play got one in the second period, courtesy of Couture, but could have had more on its six opportunities. That 1-for-6 stood out on the scoresheet to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I thought the power play maybe could have won us the game,” he said.

Even with wins in six of their last seven entering Wednesday night, though, the Sharks are still struggling to score. They have two or fewer scores in eight of their last 11 games, although they’ve managed to go a respectable 6-4-1 over that span.

They continue to get goals from the usual suspects like Couture (seven goals in 10 games) and Brent Burns, who had the game-tying goal in the third period (his fifth in eight games), but the depth scoring just hasn’t shown up nearly one-third into the season. It’s clearly becoming an issue as evidenced by DeBoer’s constantly shuffling his lines, which he did again late Wednesday.

The coach downplayed a suggestion that the depth scorers aren’t holding their water, though.

“We've been managing to find ways to win games and get enough goals to win,” DeBoer said. “Just didn't happen tonight, even though the shots and most of the play was in our favor. We just didn't win."

While the shot and scoring chance discrepancy was encouraging, the last minute loss meant it was all for naught.

“You’re never happy when you lose, especially [when] you give up a late goal, you want to at least get a point out of that game,” Couture said. “I thought we were the better team, start to finish. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find a way to get the third one.”