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Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret. Last week, the cat apparently got a little too far out of the bag when Barry Bonds testified about his relationship with the vitamin supplement company BALCO. T.J. Quinn, a reporter for the New York Daily News, wrote that he overheard several questions and answers while staking out the 17th floor hallway in the Phillip Burton Federal Building, waiting for witnesses to walk by. On Thursday, Chief Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ordered Quinn and everyone else to keep their distance, or be held in contempt of court. “Any attempt to listen in on the grand jury proceedings or in any other way interfere or violate the secrecy of the proceedings is punishable by contempt,” Patel wrote in her order. Patel then promised to drag any violators into her courtroom. On Thursday, the antechamber to the grand jury room was roped off, and a guard was stationed behind the rope to shoo away any would-be eavesdroppers. The grand jury is reportedly investigating Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and possibly its connection to Tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, a previously unknown “designer steroid.” An attorney for BALCO owner Victor Conte has said he believes his client is a target of the grand jury. Another target is believed to be Greg Anderson, Bonds’ personal trainer. “The testimony was secret,” Quinn wrote in his story, “but officials apparently were unaware that some of Bonds’ answers could be overheard from a hallway outside the grand jury room.” The U.S. attorney’s office has denied that the testimony could be heard. Quinn did not return a message at his Daily News office. Patel did not return a phone call seeking comment either. “Any security matter regarding the building, we just don’t discuss,” said Jason Wong, public information officer for the U.S. Marshals Service. Nor would Wong say what would happen if anyone crossed the rope, but he jokingly suggested that a reporter could easily find out by trying. Reporters have been staking out the grand jury room since it began taking testimony early last month. Athletes and lawyers enter the grand jury room through an entrance near the elevators. The area now roped off is a second entrance, located around a corner. “I’d be surprised, if not shocked, if reporters could have sneaked around in the hallway and heard testimony,” said Bonds’ lawyer, Michael Rains of Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson. “I was angry beyond belief when I heard this account, obviously because of the secrecy issue.” As for the story itself, Rains said Quinn has “no idea what he’s talking about.”

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