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SI Update

Chronicle Reporters

FOR THEIR ROLE in exposing the BALCO scandal in the San Francisco Chronicle and in the bestseller Game of Shadows (excerpted in the March 13, 2006, SI), journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams got a thank-you from President George W. Bush, several awards and a prison sentence. In September they were given up to 18 months for refusing prosecutors' demands that they divulge the source who leaked them the grand-jury testimony of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, among others.

The prison sentence, which was immediately stayed pending appeal, became moot last week when Troy Ellerman (above, right), a 44 year-old lawyer who represented BALCO vice president James Valente, admitted he was the leaker. Ellerman pleaded guilty to four counts of obstruction of justice and agreed to a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. (A federal judge still has to okay the deal.) Prosecutors say Ellerman showed the testimony to Fainaru-Wada in the hope that the leak itself would undermine the case; at one point he sought to have his client's charges dropped because of "repeated government leaks."

Williams was relieved, saying, "It's great that we don't have to go to prison." But he also expressed dismay that the case went as far as it did and called for a federal shield law that would allow reporters to keep sources confidential.