SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds will not be indicted immediately, federal prosecutors said Thursday, but the ongoing grand-jury investigation of steroids and possible perjury and tax-evasion charges against the San Francisco Giants star will continue.
Speculation had been mounting for weeks that Bonds, one of the biggest names in professional sports, would be indicted, and his lawyers had said they were preparing a defense in the case.
Soon after the grand jury reported to the federal courthouse here to begin what was to be the final day of its probe, the U.S. Attorney's office issued a statement saying it "is not seeking an indictment (Thursday) in connection with the ongoing steroids-related investigation.
"Much has been accomplished to date, and we will continue to move forward actively in this investigation - including continuing to seek the truthful testimony of witnesses whose testimony the grand jury is entitled to hear," reads the statement from Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan.
Mark Geragos, attorney for Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson, told The Associated Press his client would be released later in the day from federal prison, where Anderson was sent more than two weeks ago after he refused to testify to the grand jury.
The judge said Anderson was to be held until he agreed to testify against Bonds or the grand jury's term expired. With the grand jury apparently being extended beyond Thursday, it is unclear whether Anderson still will be released.
Prosecutors might seek to put more pressure on Anderson, who likely holds the key to whether perjury charges could stick against Bonds.
He testified in 2003 that he thought substances given to him by Anderson were arthritis balm and flaxseed oil. Authorities suspected the San Francisco Giants slugger was lying and that those items were "the clear" and "the cream" - two performance-enhancing drugs tied to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, the lab exposed as a steroids supplier to top athletes in baseball, track and other sports.
"Obviously, they think they need Greg to prove perjury," Geragos said Wednesday.
Allegations of steroid use long have plagued Bonds, who passed Babe Ruth in May to become second only to Hank Aaron on the career home run list. They intensified in late 2003, when he testified before the original BALCO grand jury, which took testimony from about two dozen athletes.
Without the trainer's help, prosecutors still could indict Bonds on charges alleging he failed to pay taxes on money made through sales of autographs and other memorabilia. There is also the chance Bonds might be indicted on perjury charges without Anderson's testimony.
"I don't think Barry has violated any laws. Under our system, if the government is going to point a finger at him, the government better be well prepared to," Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, said. "I will do everything in my power to make sure that Barry gets a tenacious and effective defense."
Anderson was one of five men convicted in the steroids scandal surrounding BALCO. He was sentenced to three months behind bars and three months of home confinement in October after pleading guilty to money laundering and steroid distribution.
He was found in contempt of court and jailed again July 5 for refusing to testify in the Bonds probe.
Federal prosecutors say they need Anderson, in part, to interpret calendars that seem to spell out Bonds' schedule for using performance-enhancing drugs. The calendars were seized by investigators from Anderson's home in 2003.