Prosecutors in the Barry Bonds perjury trial stunned the court Monday by revealing the discovery of a long-missing secret recording of Bonds' orthopedic surgeon, who last week denied having discussed Bonds' use of steroids.
But U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who by late afternoon had reviewed the tape, said she "mostly" heard statements that were "almost entirely inadmissible or irrelevant."
Steve Hoskins, a key prosecution witness, secretly taped Dr. Arthur Ting in September 2003, after federal agents raided a Bay Area laboratory that provided professional athletes with illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Hoskins, who previously worked for the former San Francisco Giants' slugger, had testified that he and Ting discussed Bonds' use of steroids multiple times. But Ting, orthopedist to Bonds and other professional athletes, took the stand on Thursday and denied that those conversations had occurred.
Prosecutors indicated they wanted to admit the tape — which they said Hoskins discovered on Sunday, nearly eight years after he made it — to show that Hoskins had talked with Ting about steroids. That could shore up Hoskins' credibility with the jury.
Hoskins, a personal assistant to Bonds before they had a falling out in March 2003, testified that Bonds began using steroids in 1999 and often complained of soreness from injections of banned drugs. Hoskins said he saw Bonds go into a bedroom with his personal trainer and the trainer emerge with a syringe in his hand.
Rough transcripts of the Ting tape made by both the defense and the prosecution were not made public. But Illston said Hoskins seemed to be doing most of the talking.
"I can hear very little of what Dr. Ting says," the judge said. She added that she did not believe the tape would offer critical evidence in the case.
Prosecutors said Hoskins made the tape during a visit to Ting's office for treatment of an injury.
Hoskins had testified earlier that he had taped Ting but could not find the recording. Hoskins also secretly taped Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, talking about how he gave injections of banned drugs.
Parts of that tape have been played for the jury.
Hoskins was a family friend of Bonds who ferried his equipment to the ballpark, made his appointments and worked with Bonds in a sports memorabilia business.
After a dispute with Bonds over money, Hoskins became a star witness in the government's perjury case against the home run king.
The tape, coupled with the illness of a juror, brought the swiftly moving trial to an abrupt halt. The prosecution had been expected to rest Monday, the third week of trial.
Illston said she had been concerned about "the timing of all of this and getting this on the last day of the government's case." But she said her review of the recording indicated that it would not change the direction of the trial.
Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron for lifetime home runs in 2007, the same year he was indicted on charges of lying to a 2003 federal grand jury when he said he had not knowingly used performance enhancing drugs. Bonds, 46, has not played baseball since then and now lives in Beverly Hills.
Prosecutors said they hope to have a complete transcript of the Ting tape Tuesday, when testimony is expected to resume.