Bonds drops lawsuit against Game of Shadows authors

Monday, June 12, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds has dropped his lawsuit against two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who published a book claiming the Giants slugger used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds requested that San Francisco County Superior Court dismiss the lawsuit June 2, according to court records reviewed by the San Jose Mercury News. The suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning Bonds retains the right to refile it.

However, Bonds' attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson told the Chronicle for a story in today's editions that her office had mistakenly asked for the case to be dismissed “without prejudice.” She told the newspaper she planned to file a corrected request this week that would seek to have the suit dismissed “with prejudice.”

The Chronicle also reported today that Bonds' attorneys said yesterday “that they agreed to drop their lawsuit because they now consider it duplicative” of the federal investigation into how the reporters obtained the grand jury documents.

In March, Bonds sued Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, publisher Gotham books, the Chronicle and Sports Illustrated, which published an excerpt of the book, Game of Shadows.

Bonds' lawyers, suing under California's unfair competition law, argued that the authors should be blocked from making money on the book because it used illegally obtained grand jury testimony.

Transcripts of the testimony were leaked from a federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, where Bonds and several other major league players allegedly obtained performance-enhancing drugs.

During a March hearing, Bonds' lawyers unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order on all profits from the book. At the time, Judge James Warren said he thought the lawsuit had little chance of success and the authors had raised “serious First Amendment issues.”

A federal grand jury in San Francisco is now investigating whether Bonds lied under oath about using the performance-enhancing drug known as “the clear” during the grand jury testimony into the BALCO steroid-distribution ring.

A separate federal grand jury is probing who leaked Bonds' testimony to the Chronicle.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams have been have been subpoenaed to testify before that grand jury and to turn over their copies of grand jury transcripts from the 2003 BALCO investigation. They have been ordered to provide the identity of the person or persons who leaked the secret documents to them.

The Chronicle, which published the testimony in a series of stories beginning in late 2004, is challenging the subpoena, arguing that the First Amendment protects the reporters and their sources.

The reporters, who face possible jail time if they refuse, have said they won't reveal their sources.

Meanwhile, another of Bonds' attorneys says his client wants to cooperate with special investigator George Mitchell, but will only talk to him if he is assured the information won't be given to federal prosecutors.

Mitchell was appointed by Bud Selig, Major League Baseball commissioner, to head the probe into steroids in baseball.

“I'd like Barry to cooperate with Sen. Mitchell,” Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, told the New York Daily News for a June 10. “We believe Sen. Mitchell will be fair, thorough and impartial. But here's the problem: Anything that happens there can become fodder for the federal government and for another book that will make reporters rich.”

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