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4 BALCO defendants target leaks, search

SAN FRANCISCO — Defendants charged with distributing illegal steroids to some of the nation's best-known athletes were subjected to illegal searches and coerced by federal investigators, defense lawyers said Friday.

The four defendants are connected to BALCO, a nutritional supplement lab at the center of a scandal that has rippled through the ranks of the nation's professional and Olympic athletes.

Attorneys for two of the defendants said they will seek to dismiss the federal indictments against their clients. Friday was the deadline to file motions in the case.

Alleged leaks by government officials and misconduct by the lead investigator are sufficient grounds for dismissal, said the attorney for one defendant, personal trainer Greg Anderson.

"It has come to the point now where so many leaks are continuing where our client can't even get a fair trial," attorney Anna Ling said. "Stuff that's even false is coming out."

Anderson was the trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who was among dozens of athletes called to testify before the grand jury in November and December of 2003.

A motion for dismissal also would be filed on behalf of Victor Conte, founder of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, said one of his attorneys, Robert Holley. Such motions are common in criminal cases.

Conte, Anderson and two other men, BALCO vice president James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny, are charged with distributing steroids, including the previously undetectable THG, to top athletes. Charges also include possession of human growth hormone, misbranding drugs with intent to defraud and money laundering.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for Valente and Korchemny did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Ling said she also would seek to suppress evidence and the statements investigators said her client made.

Anderson was detained illegally in his house and was not advised of his right to have an attorney present or to keep quiet, she said. He was told that if he didn't tell investigators the truth, "it will be worse for you," Ling said.

Anderson also maintains that he never incriminated himself or other athletes, contrary to a report by federal investigators, Ling said.

The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco said it would not comment on the defense claims.

Ling also cites alleged misconduct by Internal Revenue Service agent Jeff Novitzky in filing search warrant affidavits, questioning of defendants and other matters related to the case.

One affidavit for a search warrant obtained by Novitzky details dozens of checks written to Conte by current NFL and major league baseball players, as well as one from an Olympic gold medalist. Novitzky's superiors issued a statement supporting him.

"This is a matter for the courts to settle," said Kenneth Hines, assistant special agent in charge of the IRS's criminal investigation division in San Francisco. "As for special agent Novitzky, we are certain of his integrity and his professionalism."

Federal prosecutors will be given a chance to respond to the motions before a hearing scheduled for Dec. 1.