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SAN FRANCISCO — A divided federal appeals on Friday court dealt the federal government a significant setback in its prosecution of Barry Bonds on perjury charges.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that prosecutors may not present positive urine samples and other vital evidence that the government says shows that the slugger knowingly used steroids.
The appeals court ruling upholds a lower court decision barring federal prosecutors from showing the jury any evidence collected by Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson.
Anderson last year told the trial court judge that he would rather go to jail on contempt of court charges than testify against Bonds.
The court says evidence tied directly to Anderson is inadmissible "hearsay" evidence unless the trainer testifies to the items' authenticity.
Prosecutors argued that Anderson had told BALCO vice president James Valente that the samples belonged to Bonds and that they would call Valente to the witness stand. But the appeals court said that because Anderson wasn't directly employed by Bonds — the judges considered him an independent contractor — the trainer would need to testify because Bonds didn't control of the samples.
The court noted it was Anderson's idea to collect the urine samples and deliver them to BALCO.
"There is little or no indication that Bonds actually exercised any control over Anderson in determining when the samples were obtained, to whom they were delivered, or what tests were performed on them," Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the majority court.
Judge Carlos Bea dissented, writing that he would have allowed Valente to testify about the samples.
Although the ruling eliminates what prosecutors said were three positive steroid tests, they still have a fourth test showing Bonds used steroids. In 2003, Major League Baseball tested all of its players for steroid use. The results of those tests were to remain confidential and were to be used only to determine if MLB had a drug problem that needed to be addressed.
The lab that MLB hired to conduct its testing found that Bonds tested negative for steroid use. But in 2004, federal agents seized Bonds' urine sample and had it retested for the designer steroid THG, which they said turned up positive.
Bonds has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to a grand jury in December 2003 when he testified that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs. A federal grand jury indicted him in 2007. His trial was scheduled to begin March 2, 2009, but the trial was delayed by the government's appeal.
Unless federal prosecutors asks the Supreme Court to take the case or the appeals court to reconsider its ruling, the case will be sent back to Illston's trial court to reschedule the start of the trial.
Legal experts said it may take Illston several weeks to clear her busy calendar for the Bonds trial. Bonds also has six prominent lawyers with many clients each and their calendars will also have to be taken into consideration as well.
PHOENIX -- Rejecting claims his congressional privilege was violated, a federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the convictions of Rick Renzi on charges of extortion, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that members of Congress are entitled to certain constitutional protections from being questioned about their official acts. And that generally would extend to members of the congressman's staff.
But Judge Richard Tallman, writing for the unanimous court, said Renzi opened the door when he attempted to use his own legislative acts as a defense in the criminal case. And that, the judge said, allowed prosecutors to then question Renzi's staffers about the acts to make their case that he was lying.
"The rationale makes sense,'' Tallman wrote. "A congressman cannot claim the protections of the privilege when he himself introduces the volatile evidence.''
Thursday's action not only upholds the 17-count conviction following his trial in Tucson but the three-year prison term imposed on him last year. The appellate court, which had allowed him to remain free during the appeal, made no mention in Thursday's ruling when he would be ordered to report.
The main charge relates to efforts by Resolution Copper Co. to acquire land from the federal government it needs to begin mining near Superior.
According to testimony, Renzi, first elected to Congress from the sprawling district in 2002, agreed to sponsor legislation to authorize Resolution to get the land through a swap with environmentally sensitive land the federal government wanted. But Renzi said that land that Resolution had to buy and offer had to be a 640-acre parcel of land in Cochise County, adjacent to the San Pedro River, which was owned by James Sandlin.
Bruno Hegner, a former Resolution executive, told jurors of an angry phone call from Renzi in 2005 that "unless the Sandlin property were included in the exchange package, he would not sponsor legislation.'' And Hegner said when he attempted to explain the difficulties of such a deal, Renzi said, "no Sandlin property, no bill.''
Prosecutors said Renzi's interest in that property was that Sandlin, a former business partner, owed him $700,000 and needed the cash to pay off the debt. And when Hegner found out the pair had been in business together, the company opted not to purchase the Cochise County property and Renzi's swap legislation died.
He left Congress at the end of 2008 after his indictment but before his trial. To date, Congress has yet to approve a deal with Resolution to acquire the land it wants near Superior.
Renzi also was convicted of a separate effort to get Sandlin's property purchased by The Aries
Group as a condition of pushing a separate exchange of federal land the company wanted near Florence. Court records show Aries paid Sandlin $1.5 million in principal plus another $153,000 in interest but that a federal land exchange bill with Aries never was introduced.
And he also was found guilty of separate offenses that he embezzled insurance premiums paid by clients of his brokerage firm.
Thursday's ruling is unlikely the last word.
"We are disappointed with the court's ruling,'' said Kelly Kramer, one of Renzi's Washington, D.C. attorneys. "We intend to seek further appellate review.''
Among the arguments Kramer presented was that Renzi was interested in having Sandlin's land acquired because it was being leased to a farmer who was pumping a lot of water from the San Pedro watershed. And that drain of water, in turn, endangered the future of Fort Huachuca.
That is what made crucial the testimony Renzi sought to block from Joanne Keene, his former congressional district director.
She told jurors that Renzi "did not seem very excited and interested in the Resolution Copper exchange'' when the Sandlin tract was not longer part of it.'' And Keene also said Renzi told her he "wanted to put the brakes on'' the Aries exchange after Congressman Duke Cunningham had been indicted on charges of public corruption.
In Thursday's ruling, Tallman said both conversations were admissible because they went directly to counter Renzi's arguments there were different reasons for his actions.
Rejecting claims his congressional privilege was violated, a federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the convictions of Rick Renzi on charges of extortion, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a special sitting Wednesday at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Thursday tossed out the conviction of an Arizona man who left water jugs for migrants as they passed through the intensely hot desert.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a shareholder lawsuit against Scottsdale-based Matrixx Initiatives over what company officials knew about potential dangers from its popular Zicam cold remedy.
One parent in a divorce case can't veto a decision by a former spouse to send their child to a religious school, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.
NEW YORK • The battle for control of troubled bank Wachovia tilted toward Wells Fargo Sunday as a state appeals court blocked a lower court ruling that had favored rival bidder Citigroup.
The Arizona Court of Appeals issued a 54-page ruling last month on the controversial issue of whether state lawmakers are required to provide more cash to certain public schools.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The fate of Anna Nicole Smith's body was in the hands of three appeals court judges Tuesday who will decide whether to overturn a trial court ruling that meant the Playboy model would be buried in the Bahamas.
WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court sided with the Bush administration Friday on an electronic surveillance issue, making it easier to tap into Internet phone calls and broadband transmissions.
President Bush speaks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast Thursday, June 9, 2006 in Washington.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Microsoft Corp., which sought to protect itself from a big-dollar patent ruling.
NEW YORK - A federal appeals court has denied Research In Motion Ltd.'s request to delay the next phase in a long-running patent suit while the maker of BlackBerry e-mail devices appeals an infringement verdict to the Supreme Court.
A recent court ruling could pave the way for a rash of lawsuits against companies whose sales reps malign their competitors.
March 30, 2005
February 10, 2005
Mesa is considering asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue of whether cities can require random drug testing for firefighters. The City Council votes Monday on filing an appeal before the April 26 deadline.
PHOENIX — Convicted murderer David Detrich is going to get yet another chance to escape being put to death.
A federal appeals court rejected a last-ditch plea by an Arizona prosecutor to salvage Proposition 100, potentially paving the way for dozens of people locked up while awaiting trial to now seek bail.
Got something in your house you don't want the cops to find? Then don't leave it to your fiancée or roommate to deal with the problem.
Calling the measure unjustified and likely illegal, a federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked the state from telling doctors how they can and cannot use certain drugs for abortions.
A GPS device installed and tracked by police without a warrant is illegal even if the person being targeted for tracking is not the owner of the vehicle, the state Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
The state Court of Appeals will decide whether groups that run commercials publicly criticizing elected officials and candidates right before an election have to disclose their donors.