February 28, 2009 / 1:25 AM / 11 years ago

Barry Bonds trial on hold over evidence dispute

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Next week’s trial of baseball home-run king Barry Bonds on charges he lied about steroid use was put on hold on Friday after prosecutors said they would ask an appeals court to allow evidence thrown out by the trial judge.

Barry Bonds arrives for the 2009 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in honor of Neil Diamond in Los Angeles, February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Bonds, 44, who passed Hank Aaron to become Major League Baseball’s career home run leader in 2007, says he is innocent and aims to cleanse his tarnished reputation at the trial, which had been scheduled to start on Monday.

The already diminished standing of America’s “national pastime” — baseball — is also at play as one of the best players ever faces allegations his records were achieved with illegal drugs.

He faces 11 felony counts of lying to a grand jury about drug use and could go to prison for a decade or more if convicted.

The government’s case that Bonds took steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs was dealt a sharp setback last week when U.S. District Judge Susan Illston threw out records that prosecutors said linked Bonds to drugs.

Illston described calendars and coded drug test results as hearsay. She ruled they were inadmissible without testimony from an important witness, Bonds’s former trainer Greg Anderson, who refused on Friday to testify.

Prosecutors signaled on Friday they would ask an appeals court to overturn her decision.

“The government has filed a notice of appeal. The jury selection will not proceed until further notice,” the court clerk said in a terse message that stopped the trial.

Bonds’ lawyers in a briefing called the move a waste of resources. “It will frustrate Mr. Bonds’ interest in now putting this matter, alleging offenses occurring more than five years ago, behind him once and for all,” it said.

Government prosecutors were not available immediately for comment.

Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Peter Cooney

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