Defense attorney admits to BALCO transcripts
agrees to plead guilty
Photo courtesy www.thehomerunguys.com
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
February 15, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A former lawyer for a Bay Area
Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) executive admitted in federal
court papers yesterday that he leaked grand jury transcripts of
testimony by Barry Bonds and other athletes to two San Francisco
Attorney Troy Ellerman, 44, of Woodland, Colo., made the admission
in a proposed plea agreement filed in federal court in San Francisco.
The pact calls for Ellerman to plead guilty to four felony counts
related to the leaking of confidential grand jury testimony in
the BALCO sports steroids case to reporters Lance Williams and
Mark Fainaru-Wada in 2004. No date has been set for the guilty
The admission appears to mean that the two reporters no longer
face the threat of going to prison for refusing to reveal their
source of the transcripts.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, said that after
the guilty plea has been entered, the Justice Department will
withdraw subpoenas that sought to force the two reporters and
the Chronicle to reveal their source.
Mrozek said that action is expected to end proceedings in which
the reporters were found in contempt of court and ordered to prison
for refusing to say who gave them the transcripts.
Williams and Fainaru-Wada had remained free while they appealed
the contempt order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.
Ellerman, who formerly practiced law in Sacramento, represented
BALCO Vice President James Valente, who pleaded guilty in 2005
to conspiring to distribute anabolic steroids to professional
athletes. Valente was sentenced to three years' probation.
Valente was one of four defendants indicted in the BALCO case
in 2004. The defendants, their lawyers and prosecutors were all
given copies of secret grand jury testimony by baseball stars
Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and sprinter Tim
All were subject to a protective order by U.S. District Judge
Susan Illston forbidding them to reveal the testimony.
After the Chronicle published excerpts of the testimony in 2004,
the attorneys, defendants and prosecutors all signed statements
saying they hadn't revealed the information.
Illston then asked the Justice Department to investigate the
leak and federal prosecutors convened a new grand jury that sought
to learn the two reporters' source.
Ellerman says in the plea agreement that he allowed Fainaru-Wada
to take verbatim notes on Montgomery's testimony in his law office
in June 2004 and allowed him to return in November 2004 for notes
on testimony by Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield.
The proposed plea agreement would require Ellerman to plead guilty
to four criminal charges filed in federal court by prosecutors.
The charges include two counts of contempt of court for disobeying
Illston's order, one count of falsely stating under oath that
he had "no idea who provided the information to the media''
and one count of obstruction of justice.
The obstruction count charges that Ellerman filed a motion for
dismissal of charges against Valente in October 2004 on the ground
of alleged "repeated government leaks of confidential information
to the media,'' when Ellerman knew that he himself was the source.
The leak probe was carried out by the U.S. attorney's office
in Los Angeles because federal prosecutors in San Francisco were
among those who had received the transcripts.
U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan of San Francisco said, "I've maintained
from the beginning that neither the agents nor the federal prosecutors
involved in the BALCO case were the source of any grand jury leaks.
I've always had the utmost confidence in this team's integrity.''
Mrozek, a public affairs officer for the Los Angeles office,
said a previously unknown witness approached the FBI this fall
and offered to help prove that Ellerman was the source of the
Mrozek said FBI agents pursued that lead and about three weeks
ago, Ellerman's attorney contacted prosecutors and said he was
prepared to admit disclosing the testimony and plead guilty to
criminal charges. The proposed plea agreement followed three weeks
The spokesman said he expects the case to be handled by White,
the same judge who found Williams and Fainaru-Wada in contempt
of court. Under the agreement, White has the discretion to decide
on a sentence ranging from probation to up to two years in prison.
The judge can reject the agreement if he disagrees with its terms,
in which case Ellerman would be entitled to withdraw from the
agreement, Mrozek said.
A spokesperson for the Chronicle was not immediately available
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