SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds looked at the witness stand with a blank expression as a childhood friend and former business partner described how baseball’s biggest star walked into the master bedroom at his spring training home along with trainer Greg Anderson, who had a syringe with a needle.
A few minutes later, Bonds and Anderson walked out.
Steve Hoskins testified in federal court Wednesday that he never saw Anderson inject Bonds. The question for the jury will be whether Hoskins’ description, which the defense began to challenge later in the day, is a path toward convicting Bonds of lying when he told a grand jury seven years ago he never knowingly took steroids.
Speaking softly and fidgeting a bit in the witness chair, Hoskins gave the first dramatic testimony in the trial of the home-run king, who faces four counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction.
Hoskins said he witnessed scenes of Bonds and a needle-bearing Anderson entering a bedroom once or twice each spring training for three straight years starting in 2000.
A partner with Bonds in a memorabilia business, Hoskins said the home-run hitter asked him to inquire about the effects of the steroid Winstrol in 1999, at around the time Bonds was having left elbow surgery April 20. Hoskins said he went to Dr. Arthur Ting, who is expected to testify later in the trial, and brought a sheet of information back to the slugger. Hoskins said he planned to go to Bobby Bonds, the defendant’s father and a former major leaguer himself, to express his suspicions.
“I was concerned in 1999 after speaking with Dr. Ting about it,” Hoskins testified. “In 2003 I was even more concerned because it was getting — it just seemed to be getting out of hand.”
This was the period when Bonds noticeably bulked up and started posting unprecedented power numbers for the San Francisco Giants. The seven-time NL MVP hit a season-record 73 homers in 2001 en route to a career record 762 by the time of his last season in 2007 — months before he was indicted for his 2003 grand jury testimony.
Hoskins, who also helped Bonds get his equipment in order at the ballpark, said Bonds’ body changed in this period — prosecutors allege the transformation was caused by steroids.
“His shoe size just got bigger,” Hoskins said. “His glove size changed. … His body weight changed. He got heavier and bigger.”
Bonds, in a lighter gray suit than previous days and a striped tie, took copious notes during the testimony of Hoskins, who followed federal agent Jeff Novitzky to the stand and became the second witness in a trial expected to last about a month.
Both prosecutors and the defense played for the jury portions of a recording Hoskins secretly made of a conversation that took place in front of Bonds’ locker in 2003. Hoskins said he put an Olympus digital recorder in a pocket and recorded Anderson “to show Bobby actually what really was going on.”
“That was the only way to prove it to him,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins never played the conversation for Bobby Bonds, who by 2003 was ill with cancer and died that August.
Much of the recording was first released by the prosecution in February 2009. At one point, Anderson is heard discussing what the government alleges are designer steroids he supplied to Bonds. “But the whole thing is … everything that I’ve been doing at this point, it’s all undetectable,” he said.
Voices on the recording were muffled, and during the portion played by the prosecution, jurors were given transcripts to aid them. Hoskins also admitted he secretly recorded conversations with Ting and a lawyer for the slugger, Laura Enos. Hoskins said the Ting recording had disappeared.
Hoskins said earlier that Bonds became angry when speaking near the ballpark batting cage in 2002 because “Greg would not give Barry a shot.”
“Barry just said that if Greg wouldn’t give him the shot, he’d give it to himself,” Hoskins said under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew A. Parrella.
Jurors took notes as Hoskins spoke. He directed his answers to the prosecutor, unlike Novitzky, who turned and addressed the panel.
Hoskins was a friend and go-fer to Bonds, besides being a business partner. He acknowledged giving thousands of dollars in cash to two women Bonds was dating.
Defense lawyer Allen Ruby, in the first 2½ hours of a cross-examination that is to continue Thursday, tried to build an argument that Hoskins came forward against Bonds only after the player terminated their joint business on March 27, 2003. While Hoskins had previously said the conversation with Anderson took place in March, Ruby played a portion of the recording in which Bonds’ early season slump was discussed, an indication the conversation took place in April — after Bonds told Hoskins their business relationship was over.
After giving answers that differed from his grand jury testimony several years ago, Hoskins claimed there were errors in both the grand jury testimony and a government report on an April 2005 meeting he held with prosecutors. The report of that meeting, according to Ruby, says Hoskins claimed to have seen Bonds injected.
The defense attacked Hoskins’ credibility by accusing him of attempting to extort Bonds, which Hoskins denied. Ruby also made a point that after Bonds went to authorities alleging Hoskins had forged his signature, the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle — where the case had been referred — never interviewed Hoskins. At around the same time, Hoskins began cooperating in the investigation into Bonds by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco.
Hoskins said that before his falling out with Bonds, he had the authority to sign the player’s name on contracts. In one deal, in which Hoskins’ company Kent Collectibles was to be paid $400,000 by Goldin Sports Marketing, Ken Goldin and Hoskins instead arranged for Bonds to receive a Bentley automobile.
“His accountants would not let him buy a car at value,” Hoskins said.
Despite giving evidence against Bonds to the government, Hoskins said he admired the player.
“I’d never want to get Mr. Bonds in trouble in any way, shape or form,” he said, calling him “a very good friend” and “a very good person.”
“I was the one trying to stop him from taking steroids because I thought it was bad for him,” Hoskins said.