Attorney pleads guilty to leaking BALCO facts

By Paul Elias The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A Colorado lawyer who admitted in court papers that he leaked secret grand jury documents in a federal steroids probe to reporters made an initial court appearance yesterday on obstruction of justice charges.

Troy Ellerman pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court, but prosecutors said it was a formality and they expected he would plead guilty later in the day.

“That’s what we anticipate,” prosecutor Douglas Miller said.

Ellerman can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined $250,000. Ellerman could also lose his license to practice law.

Ellerman’s appearance came the day after federal prosecutors announced he agreed to plead guilty to obstructing justice in a deal that would prevent two San Francisco Chronicle reporters from going to jail for refusing to divulge their source.

In court papers filed Wednesday, Ellerman said he allowed the Chronicle’s Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada to view transcripts of the grand jury testimony of baseball stars Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and sprinter Tim Montgomery.

Eve Burton, general counsel for Hearst Corp., which owns the Chronicle, would not confirm or deny that Ellerman was the source of the leaked documents. The reporters also declined to discuss their source.