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Get ready, kids: Barry Bonds’ trial is right around the corner

Jan 21, 2011, 4:57 PM EDT

Barry Bonds suit

It seems like years ago that Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury. Oh, wait, it was years ago. Three-and-a-half to be exact.  But though the wheels of justice grind slowly, boy do they grind, and they’ve almost delivered us to Barry Bonds’ trial, which gets underway on March 21st.

But first, some preliminary rulings, a few of which came today:  the prosecution will — over Bonds’ objections — be able to call other ballplayers who trained with Greg Anderson, including Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Bobby Estalella.  They will not, however, be able to introduce a boatload of documentary evidence they claim proves that Barry Bonds knowlingly used PEDs.  The reason: as has long been the case, Greg Anderson is still not testifying, therefore the documents — which he created — cannot be authenticated, and are thus inadmissible hearsay.

I’ll obviously be following the trial as closely as the Internet will allow — oh, please don’t send me on an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco, my NBC overlords! Don’t throw me into that brier patch — but for now I’ll refresh you on my overall take of things so as to avoid confusion going forward:

Barry Bonds took the Cream and the Clear. It’s been painstakingly researched and written about. He admitted under oath that, yeah, there was probably stuff that he took that he subsequently learned were something other than flaxseed oil. There isn’t a truly reasonable debate to be had along the lines of “did he take PEDs,” and that question really has no bearing on this trial whatsoever, so don’t take my criticism of the current prosecution as a denial of the bleedin’ obvious;

Steroids or not, I don’t think the prosecution had a good perjury case from the moment Bonds was indicted.  As I’ve written before, the relevant question is whether Barry Bonds knew he was taking steroids prior to December 4, 2003. Or, more to the point, a case about whether the government can prove that he knew he was taking steroids prior to December 4, 2003.  On that point, I think it’s a weak case because the government’s questions during the grand jury proceedings were terribly vague, Bonds’ answers were boringly circuitous, and the government didn’t do much to try to nail him down. I explained all of that here a couple of years ago.

Do I think Bonds lied under oath?  Having read the entirety of his testimony I think he was probably trying to do his best to avoid having to. And I think that, because of the sloppy questioning, he avoided the sorts of unequivocal falsehoods that are usually the subject of perjury prosecutions.  Most of the time a case with these broad, compound  questions and these circular answers doesn’t get charged. It’s too borderline.  But this is a celebrity here, and this was a Novitzky investigation, so they’re going for broke. And they’re doing it without the one witness — Greg Anderson — who can make their case.

Overall I think this is a wasteful prosecution, and it was made wasteful because of government sloppiness and the lack of a true law enforcement imperative at work, which led to prosecutors handling the grand jury proceedings as if there were unimportant. All of the BALCO people who were the targets of that grand jury have been tried, convicted and have served their time and are going on with their lives. This is a seven-year-old hangover, and such things are a recipe for a misuse of the justice system and bad justice issuing therefrom.

Under those circumstances, I don’t think Bonds should be prosecuted. Even as it is, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to certain that the prosecution can get a conviction.  But hey, that’s why they play the game!

  1. BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    Just my opinion….Bonds AVOIDED lying under oath as carefully as possible. And… would not be surprised if he’s put more than a couple million bucks aside for Greg Anderson to take the fall.
    But none of us (least of whom me) know conclusively. I’m just doin’ the math.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:24 PM

      BC – Agree 100% with everything you said.

      Craig – Like you said that’s why they play the game.

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Will it be fair and speedy? Oh wait, never mind.

  3. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I agree 100% with you Craig. It may be interesting to note that 3 months was the longest sentence handed out in the investigation. It is tough for me as taxpayer to justify spending millions on this kind of crime.

    • BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM

      If its California tax money, fine, they’re bankrupt anyway and 2900 miles from me. If its Federal tax money, c’mon people. What the (expletive) good is coming of spending 70 bajillion dollars to go through it? At this point I DON’T CARE. And who the (expletive) does?

      • Old Gator - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:16 PM

        Tell you what. Apropos the spending of Federal money, I would have preferred not going into Iraq and prosecuting Bonds anyway. But at least the upshot of it all is that we now know that Bush was lying.

  4. clydeserra - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    You are right Craig. I have been on this train for years too, the questions in the grand jury room were awful. I cannot imagine why this case is still being pursued. Mr. Bonds answered vague and compound questions.

    I think bonds is lucky this was a grand jury, because the questions would have been objected to, giving the AUSA a chance to clean them up.

  5. dodger88 - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I have not followed much beyond the headlines so why is Greg Anderson not testifying?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:29 PM

      It’s never been clear. His official stance — through his lawyer — is that he believed his original deal with prosecutors was that he wouldn’t have to testify any more than he originally did, they breached it and now they’re vindictively going after him, so screw them.

      Some say it’s loyalty to his childhood friend, Bonds.

      Some say that he’s worried that his testimony against Bonds would contradict his own testimony from other cases, getting himself in hot water. Of course, given that he’s already done more time for contempt than he’d ever get for perjury, that’s less plausible as time goes on.

      Many believe Bonds is paying him off. It’s quite a charge — borderline libelous — and it’s one that I have a hard time buying, simply because the government is really, really good at tracking money, and if Bonds was sending Anderson money, they’d know, whether he did it now or if he does it later.

      Really, we have no idea what the truth is, or if there is even one reason. We may never know.

      • BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:43 PM

        I obviously have no knowledge or insight into it, but I think Bonds is going to pay off Anderson with a boatload of cash once this thing is put to rest. Bonds has enough coin to stash $4mil or so in a shoebox. Anderson keeps his mouth shut, waits it out, then he’s set for life. Why wouldn’t that happen?? Win-win for Bonds and Anderson.
        That being said, I think Bonds has done a great job keeping his mouth shut and staying under radar (can you take a lesson, Roger Clemens?). I don’t think Bonds will get popped for anything. Doesn’t mean I think he was clean, but legally, things seem to be in his favor.

  6. thekcubrats - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    Calc, you are a funny man, but that has got to be the funniest punchline you’ve ever appended to a blog post. Total spit-take. Too bad the single-entendre types pining for that shiny scalp missed it.

  7. Walk - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    As far as i can tell the prosecution has already won, no need for a trial. Bonds has lost money to his lawyers, likely in excess of an possible fine, his own time and peace of mind and security. Being a peace officer myself i know these trial take a toll on everyone involved. where was i, oh yes, bonds was forced out of baseball earlier than he wanted, his reputation is trashed, i can go on but just like this trial i just cant see why i should. There is a fine line between prosecution and persecution and it has been crossed here, the leaking of the selected names from the “list” is the most glaring part.

  8. browngoat25 - Jan 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Craig, have you been to today? Here is a highlight (and I apologize if this is considered baiting):

    “A report in The New York Times on Saturday about the Barry Bonds perjury case said that prosecutors said that Bonds’ former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, “would testify to seeing physical changes in Bonds that are indicative of steroid use, including acne on his back and shoulders…”

    If acne is good enough for Federal prosecutors, it’s good enough for me no matter how much Piazza and his supporters scream and whine at my mention of Piazza and the acne that covered his back until it miraculously disappeared when baseball began testing for steroids in 2003 and 2004.

    No one has accused Piazza of perjury, but he better be careful with what he says if he ever has to testify under oath.”

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