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Prosecutors drop six of the 11 charges against Barry Bonds

Feb 11, 2011, 6:15 AM EST

Barry Bonds suit

You know the sign of a righteous prosecution advanced by confident prosecutors? Dropping half the charges on a several-years-old indictment relating to a seven-year-old incident on the eve of trial:

Among the charges eliminated from earlier indictments were claims that Bonds perjured himself by denying that he received testosterone from his trainer, Greg Anderson, and that Anderson supplied him with certain lotions – known as “the cream” and “the clear” – before 2003.

I read the entirety of Bonds’ grand jury testimony when it was released and some of Agent Jeff Novitzky’s, and the stuff about Anderson supplying Bonds the cream and the clear may have been the most muddled part about it. Novitzky had mistakenly — Falsely? You be the judge! — told the grand jury that the cream and the clear were actually considered controlled substances at the time, when they were not.  Likewise, a lot of the government’s loose and sloppy questioning of Bonds at the time was premised on them being illegal substances.  Bonds’ answers on this were all over the place. When asked if he was given the cream he’d say stuff like “well, we were at the ballpark …” and kind of fart around for ten minutes after that.

I’m guessing that a big reason the government is dropping questions about the cream and the clear from the indictment is that they don’t want Bonds’ defense team to kill them about the “were the cream and the clear illegal at the time” angle, whether such an attack would be legitimate or not.  For example, the defense could argue that the questions were based on a false premise which thus confused Bonds and rendered his testimony perfectly kosher.

Or — though it is beside the point because one can perjure themselves about perfectly legal activities — they might just bark loudly all trial long about how “what Bonds took wasn’t even illegal at the time! What a waste this is!”  Which, while kind of irrelevant, may be more effective.  Now that those things are out of the indictment, they’re not going to be able to refer to them much.

Overall this doesn’t change the nature of the prosecution. Bonds is still accused of lying and obstructing justice and the case against him is still a monumentally weak and wasteful one.  If they get a conviction, it will likely be over one of the more innocuous and inexplicable lies Bonds told under oath such as saying “not that I know of” when asked “did you ever use a syringe.”  Dumb question. Bizarre denial. Pretty meaningless even in the context of a wasteful and pointless grand jury investigation back in 2003.

Your tax dollars at work, citizen.

  1. Jonny 5 - Feb 11, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    “Your tax dollars at work, citizen.”

    You just had to go there didn’t you?

  2. evanhartford - Feb 11, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Craig, do you think Bonds lied under oath? You’ve spent countless hours writing posts, threads and opinion pieces on this case. You’ve spent a lot of time trying to discredit the prosecution’s case. Yet, I’m not sure if you’ve considered the real question. Is Bonds guilty? I think your background has given you an inherent bias. You still view the world through a legal prism. It isn’t about justice or right from wrong. Its about whether or not someone can prove it.

    That’s my problem with your arguments. They are so far removed from how regular people view this case. May I remind the counsel that we are NOT in a courtroom. We are in the court of public opinion. Thanks to Bonds dismissive attitude, disdain for the press and based upon the pile of circumstantial evidence, the court finds the defendant GUILTY. The punishment is a one-way ticket straight to Shoeless Joe Jacksonville.

    In all seriousness, I could care less if they find Bonds guilty or innocent. As far as I’m concerned, justice is being served.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Actually, Bonds and the prosecutors are in a courtroom. Or they’re about to be. Talking about whether the prosecution can prove its case — and whether the case is a worthy one to have been brought in the first place — is absolutely appropriate then. And that’s the case no matter what you think about Bonds: the threat posed by law enforcement abusing its discretion for political or PR ends, which is what has clearly happened in the Bonds case, is far greater than anything Bonds has done to society.

      As for your question: the link above to my assessment of the Bonds testimony from a few years ago makes it clear: yes, I think there is no question that Bonds was trying to be evasive in his grand jury testimony and I do believe that he lied about some things under oath.

      But you can’t separate his dishonesty from the fact that he was asked a lot of vague, compound and ambiguous questions. When it comes to a perjury prosecution that is extremely important. More damage is done to the integrity of the legal system by prosecuting a shaky-ass perjury case than in letting a probable perjurer go.

      As for your final statement: I pray for your sake that you never find yourself a hated or unpopular figure. Because if that happens, your logic dictates that someone can throw you in jail for it regardless of the actual evidence against you. That’s pretty scary shit, my friend.

      • evanhartford - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        Most high level prosecutors are as much political figures as they are lawyers. Their actions are dictated more by the will of the people than by the letter of the law (Andrew Cuomo vs the Banks etc). Most people don’t like Bonds and combined with his public persona, this makes him a very easy target for prosecution.

        And thats really it. You’re right. The questions were vague and a conviction seems distant. Were this Joe Shmo from Staten Island, the case would have been closed a long time ago. But public figures are ALWAYS more scrutinized than private citizens. They have to deal with legal issues on a daily basis. That’s one of the few disadvantages of being worshipped by legions of fans and paid gazillions of dollars.

        And that gets to your last point. If you told me that I could be a major league ball player, making millions of dollars a year and the “price” was a lack of privacy and increased public/legal scrutiny, I’d sign up before you even finished reading off the disclaimers. All of these guys KNOW they signed up for this. I don’t feel sorry for any of them and neither does anyone else.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:36 AM

        “Most high level prosecutors are as much political figures as they are lawyers.”

        Which is terrifying, frankly.

        And I’m sorry, but there’s a difference between signing up for public scrutiny on the one hand and being prosecuted criminally because you’re an unpopular easy target on the other.

      • tpetter - Feb 11, 2011 at 4:33 PM

        I question anyone’s case when they have to resort to vulgarities.

    • Jonny 5 - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:11 AM

      My whole problem (as if you care) with this case is the fact that if this were Jerry Bonds busted for using steroids down at the local Golds Gym, with the exact same evidence present, there would have been no original case. Everything would have been tossed due to lack of evidence. Yet here we are 7 years later, and congress is involved? Really? For a suspected drug user with very little in terms of evidence. The taxpayers are being soaked with these MLB related drug cases. Enough is enough already.

    • randomdigits - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      As a regular person I wonder why Bonds is being harrased for years for testimony that was pretty close to what Sheffield said and no one is bothering him.

      Bond’s trainer has spent more time incarcirated for this case then many violent crimminals serve.

      The case is pretty obviously a vendetta against Bonds and a waste of public resources.

    • jkcalhoun - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      Regular people are not of one mind on this case.

      Others have covered what I would have said, so I only want to ask, is disdain for the press really a punishable offense in the society of regular people? If so, I will establish my citizenship among the irregulars.

  3. genericcommenter - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Every single person commits crimes every single day. It is perfectly reasonable to judge not only if someone broke a law but if the law is a good one..and whether tax dollars should be spent on the prosecution.

    I think most reasonable people should see this is a weak and wasteful case that is a political show, regardless of feeling for Bonds.

    Personally, this whole thing has made me like Bonds the player and person much MORE. And I find people who support using government force to punish people they dislike to be despicable human beings.

    • Cran Boy - Feb 11, 2011 at 1:25 PM

      Now, hang on. This morning, I cleaned up after my dog, drove under the speed limit to work (traffic), and have been working on a project here all day. Unless you’re going to say that reading this blog on a company computer over my lunch hour is theft of honest services, I defy you to tell me the crime I’ve committed. (Though I agree with your sentiment. The prosecution’s pursuit of innocent people unrelated to this case, like Anderson’s family members, is Putinesque. Somebody ought to be disbarred.)

      Question for Craig: It is the nature of prosecutors to ask vague, elliptical questions during depositions in hopes of eliciting damning information from confused witnesses. Does Bonds’s kinda sorta less-than-perfect answers suggest a lack of good coaching by his attorneys?

      • clydeserra - Feb 11, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        Did you put your seatbelt on before or after you started your car?
        Did you change lanes in traffic in a way that made another car break?
        Did you stay exclusively on your side of the road on all streets and parking areas?
        In traffic, did you accelerate only to have to break inordinately hard?
        Are all the programs on you work computer fully licensed?
        Are you using a company computer? Electricity? to read and comment?

  4. metalhead65 - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    does not not matter if he gets away with it in court. any sane rational person knows he did it and then lied about it. offer all the excuses you want still does not change the fact he went from being a great player who never hit over 50 homers to showing up looking like a wwe charachter and hitting 80 or whatever.I don’t care who else was doing it he did it to no matter how many times he denies it or how you want to spin it for him.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      Great: Bonds is a jerk and he used PEDs and he probably lied about it.

      Now please tell me what any of that has to do with a prosecution that (a) has nothing to do with Bonds’ popularity; (b) is not about whether or not Bonds actually took PEDs; and (c) has scant if any evidence that he lied about it, primarily because the prosecutors did a crappy job at the grand jury.

      Or do you think it’s cool to try to throw people in jail simply because they’re assholes?

  5. Walk - Feb 11, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Craig, as a lawyer is this a normal tactic? By that i mean a large number of charges which a person has to prepare to defend, spend time and money on then drop them at or near the trial. It seems to me this was done on purpose to try and hide the direction of the prosecution to some extent and is just as dishonest as any perjury, in fact i find it hypocritical to see this in a perjury case. I have spent twelve years in law enforcement and have testified at numerous trials but i cant ever remember the da dropping charges like this other than as part of a plea.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 11, 2011 at 2:05 PM

      My criminal law experience is fairly minimal, so I don’t know if it’s common. I do know, though, that no defense attorney will ever make your argument because, hey, the charge has been dropped. That’s better than having not wasted one’s time preparing to fight it.

      It happens with civil counts all the time, though in those cases the judge will sometimes hold the plaintiff to their claim, or sanction them somehow if they’re seen to be messing around. The stakes (money vs. freedom) are way lower in that context.

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