By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008
Track coach Trevor Graham was convicted in federal court in San Francisco yesterday on one count of lying to agents in a federal steroids probe, but a 12-person jury could not reach a verdict on two other counts, providing federal prosecutors with only a partial victory.
Jurors found Graham, the former coach of jailed sprinter Marion Jones, guilty of lying when he told federal investigators four years ago that he had not spoken to an admitted steroids dealer since 1997. Prosecutors produced phone records that showed nearly 100 calls from Graham's cellphone to the phone of Angel "Memo" Heredia, the dealer, between 1998 and 2000.
Graham became the ninth person and second track and field coach convicted in connection with the drug investigation involving the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco), a company in Burlingame, Calif., that distributed steroids and other drugs to professional and Olympic athletes. But the deadlock on two of three counts provided the first hiccup in a six-year-old federal investigation that has resulted in seven plea bargains and only two cases that reached trial.
The jury could not reach consensus on the two counts that went to the heart of whether Graham was involved in dealing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.
Jurors disagreed about whether Graham set athletes up with drugs he obtained from Heredia or referred them to Heredia, and whether he lied willfully when he said he had never met Heredia in person -- despite photos Heredia produced of him and Graham that Heredia claimed came from a 1996 meeting to discuss drugs at his house in Laredo, Tex.
Jury foreman and Oakland, Calif., business owner Frank Stapleton, 59, said he was the lone holdout for conviction on the second count and one of two on the first. In a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Stapleton said he believed the government had sought to make an example of Graham and was willing "to do a deal with a true devil" -- meaning Heredia -- to win its case.
Stapleton said he found the government's athlete witnesses unconvincing and was particularly disturbed by Heredia's testimony that he personally addressed FedEx shipment receipts to Graham even though the handwriting did not resemble his own.
"The athletes themselves, they just struck me as either they have an ax to grind or were just outright lying," Stapleton said. "The main witness of course, Angel Guillermo 'Memo' Heredia, he was just so outrageous in terms of what he said. He lied to us under oath. It was so clear."
Stapleton, who noted that other jurors disagreed with him, said he was also troubled by the fact that Jeff Novitzky, the lead federal investigator in the Balco case, and a colleague did not tape-record the interview with Graham and wrote up their notes nine days after it occurred. He also wondered why Novitzky and a colleague did not inform Graham of accusations made against him by others during the interview.
"It was like they wanted to catch him," he said. "It got me questioning the government themselves."
Reached by phone, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella declined to comment on whether the government would seek a retrial on the other two charges. Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Finigan also declined to comment in an e-mail.
Graham faces as many as five years in prison, but federal sentencing guidelines suggest he likely will receive much less, probably between zero and six months. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 5.
The trial, which included six days of arguments and two of jury deliberation, contained few of the fireworks predicted by Graham and Heredia, who never revealed what both claimed was an extensive client list filled with superstar athletes from around the world.
Graham, who had sent in a syringe full of steroids to anti-doping investigators to help kick off the Balco probe in 2003, had suggested before the trial that he would try to expose the extent of Heredia's drug dealing to show Heredia had motivation to retaliate against him for sending in the syringe. Graham, however, called no witnesses and did not testify.
The only athletes mentioned in court were the half-dozen or so alleged to connect Heredia to Graham between 1996 and 2001.
The most noteworthy disclosures came from Antonio Pettigrew, a relay gold medal winner at the 2000 Summer Games, who admitted using human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO) at Graham's behest beginning in 1997. Pettigrew's name appeared on FedEx receipts and a Western Union wire transfer from July 2000 produced by Heredia.
Pettigrew could face charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and eventually be stripped of his Olympic gold medal.
Graham's trial provided a look at a few witnesses -- namely, Novitzky -- expected to be called in the case against baseball slugger Barry Bonds, who was indicted last fall on 14 charges of lying in front of a federal grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice. Bonds's case is expected to go to trial next year.