Deal Reached Between Reporters, Feds in Bonds Steroid Probe

Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters are appealing a judge's order to tell a federal grand jury who leaked them secret testimony from Barry Bonds and other elite athletes ensnared in the government's steroid probe.

Reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada worked out a deal Tuesday with the government that they could appeal U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White's Aug. 15 order before authorities seek sanctions against the two, including jail.

The pair have said they would go to jail rather than comply with the grand jury's subpoena and reveal their source or sources. They are asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to toss White's order.

The two reporters published a series of articles and a book based partly on transcripts of the testimony Bonds, Jason Giambi and others gave to a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a Burlingame-based nutritional supplement company exposed as a steroid ring.

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Authorities want to charge whoever unlawfully leaked the transcripts, and told Judge White the reporters are the only ones who know who did.

The criminal conduct being investigated in the Bonds leak case includes possible perjury and obstruction of justice by government officials, defendants in the BALCO probe and their attorneys. All had access to the leaked documents, but have sworn they weren't the source of Williams and Fainaru-Wada's reporting.

In his order, White said his hands were tied by a 1972 Supreme Court precedent that said no one, journalists included, was above the law and may refuse to testify before a federal grand jury.