SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Government lawyers urged a federal appeals court to jail two newspaper reporters who have refused to testify about who leaked them secret grand jury testimony from a steroids investigation.

In written arguments Friday, federal prosecutors told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams should be imprisoned for up to 18 months for not revealing the source of the transcripts.

The prosecutors asked the San Francisco-based court to uphold a judge’s contempt orders against Fainaru-Wada and Williams, arguing that reporters do not have special privileges that allow them to keep evidence from a grand jury.

Chronicle lawyers have argued that making journalists identify their sources would hurt their ability to report on government wrongdoing.

The government filing came a day after reported that Troy Ellerman, a lawyer who worked for BALCO founder Victor Conte and co-defendant James Valente, is being investigated by the FBI as the source of the leaked testimony. Conte and Valente were among four men who pleaded guilty to distributing performance-enhancing drugs to elite athletes.

In a series of articles published in 2004, Fainaru-Wada and Williams quoted from grand jury transcripts in which baseball player Jason Giambi and track star Tim Montgomery admitted taking steroids. San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who is being investigated by a grand jury for possible perjury, testified that he thought the substances he was using were legal.

The appeals court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

AP-ES-12-23-06 1432EST

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