A San Francisco federal appeals court overturned Barry Bonds’ 2011 felony conviction for obstruction of justice on Wednesday, clearing the controversial slugger of any legal issues linked to his 2003 testimony in front of a grand jury over his alleged involvement in a San Francisco performance-enhancement ring run by friend and trainer Greg Anderson.
It was the only conviction Bonds received stemming from his grand jury testimony. Federal prosecutors tried to pin him with 15 counts of obstruction of justice and perjury, but only one stuck. Prosecutors initially said the now-50-year-old lied and purposely avoided answering questions by giving long-winded testimony.
Bonds appealed the 2011 conviction, but 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld his conviction two years later. It remained controversial in legal circles, as some argued that the famous rambling answer Bonds gave to the Grand Jury in 2003 when they asked if he had injected steroids was not a significant enough obstruction to warrant charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco dropped three perjury charges against Bonds in 2011, four months after a judge declared a mistrial in an earlier trial because the jury did not reach a verdict. Federal prosecutors could have retried him.
Judge Alex Kozinski was particularly critical of the conviction, saying that “Making everyone who participates in our justice system a potential criminal defendant for conduct that is nothing more than the ordinary tug and pull of litigation risks chilling zealous advocacy,” according to the Associated Press.
With no convictions looming over his head, Hall of Fame voters may warm to Bonds. This year’s voting saw Bonds get 2.1 percent more votes than he did in 2014. Bonds won 26.8 percent of the votes in 2015, which is much higher than what Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa -- they had steroid scandals of their own -- won.