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Bonds Trial Update: Things get personal

Mar 29, 2011, 8:20 AM EST

Kimberly Bell

Yesterday was oversharing time at the Barry Bonds trial with the witness who, if Greg Anderson had testified, may never have been called: Bonds’ ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell.  She testified that Bonds admitted to steroid use prior to his grand jury testimony and, as promised, provided all manner of intimate detail about the life and sexual times of Barry Bonds.

Bell, who met Bonds in 1994, said that Bonds started taking steroids because he noted that they worked for guys like Mark McGwire. As far as motives go, this matches up pretty well with what we learned in “Game of Shadows”: a late 1990s realization that, despite all Bonds had accomplished at that point in his baseball career — and they were likely Hall of Fame accomplishments already — he wanted more.

But Bell wasn’t called to talk about Bonds’ lust for glory. She was called to to talk turkey about Bonds’ physical and mental state. And that she did, testifying that Bonds suffered from shrunken testicles, acne, bloating, hair loss and impotence, all of which can be symptoms of steroid use. She said he was “aggressive, irritable, agitated and very impatient,” and said that he had once threatened to cut her head off, cut out her breast implants and to burn her friggin’ house down.

For as salacious as this all was, it wasn’t new: Bell had talked about most of this stuff in an article that accompanied her Playboy photo spread in 2007, and as the defense’s cross examination of Bell revealed, she had on several occasions tried to sell her story to book publishers and filmmakers.  Which doesn’t make her testimony false, of course, but could certainly undermine her credibility. Juries care about the motivation of witnesses. Indeed, they may do so too much at times, overlooking undisputed facts to which they testified and fixating on the question of witness bias, real or imagined.

More importantly, I question whether Bell’s most critical testimony — that Bonds told her prior to 2003 that he took steroids — is enough to convince the jury that Bonds perjured himself on the point.*  As I’ve noted time and again, the questions put to Bonds before the grand jury of the general “did you ever take steroids” variety were vague and open or, conversely, were often premised on multiple sub-questions relating to specific drugs, specific times and places, etc. It’s possible, therefore, that a jury could conclude that, say, Bonds did take steroids in 1999, but did not lie about taking Whateveriztol 323 via injection from Greg Anderson in October 2001.

Of the several reports I’ve read from yesterday’s testimony, I see nothing which suggests that Bell got into the kind of detail necessary to completely nail down the entirety of the perjury allegations.  But she certainly nailed the “Barry Bonds is a gigantic ass” theme which the prosecution has been itching to inject in this trial. A theme that — like a witness’ motivation — is something to which juries often respond, even if it’s totally beside the point in light of the particular charges against the defendant. Bonds is not on trial for being an awful person. He’s on trial for lying to a grand jury, and the bulk of Bell’s testimony had little to do with that.

All of that said: if Bell is believed beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be enough to prompt the jury to convict him.  That’s a big if, though, and there is still a lot of trial left.

*As is always the case with my opinions about the overarching effectiveness of any testimony in this trial, I offer the disclaimer that I wasn’t in court and am basing this on multiple news accounts of the testimony. How things actually played before the jury in real time may lead to a dramatically different conclusion.

  1. Steve A - Mar 29, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I find it incredibly biased that ESPN is using one of the authors of “Game of Shadows” as its trial analyst. How can Mark Fainaru-Wada offer any legitimate analysis, seeing how he has made significant money trashing Bonds?

    I don’t think Bonds is necessarily innocent, but to have such biased coverage is irresponsible in my opinion.

    • easports82 - Mar 29, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      I don’t think it really matters. Casual viewers of ESPN have been following this anyways and have already formed their opinions. If CNN/Fox/MSNBC were covering the trial and brought him in, I could see your point.

      This has always appeared as a campaign of “Bonds is a jackass”, which, if you go off the media coverage, he is. This whole thing has been a farce from the beginning and it’ll be a great day when Bonds, Clemens, and everyone else being dragged through this crap finally get to move on with their lives. I’m tired of hearing about these guys and of the government wasting money going after people that MLB/NFL/any other organization doesn’t care to investigate themselves.

      • kellyb9 - Mar 29, 2011 at 9:34 AM

        It’s very easy to dismiss this as a complete waste of time (which it pretty much is), but if the MLB made a concerted effort to investigate this when it was happening, it may not have been necessary for congress to investigate it now. Also, many of them were stupid enough to perjure themselves in front of congress… so there’s always that.

      • guileless22 - Mar 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM

        Clemens asked to testify before Congress. He dragged himself into the legal process.

  2. BC - Mar 29, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    A lot of baseball players are bleepholes. Randy Johnson is a prime example. Being a bleephole doesn’t make you a steroid user. So if they can’t prove the steroid use – especiallly with Anderson in jail, why is our time and money being wasted with Bonds? Drop it. The whole world is against the guy already. What is it that they think they can accomplish. Move on. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 29, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      Wait and see if he’s found guilty over this. The appeals should cost us millions more, chasing a a man for using drugs.

  3. purdueman - Mar 29, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Flaxseed oil can be taken by capsule; using it doesn’t require sticking a syringe in your buttocks! The most damning evidence of all though is the way that Barroid’s head blew up to the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon while playing for the Giants in his mid-30’s. He didn’t knowing use steroids and Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman!!! LOL!!! I hope they hang him!

  4. xmatt0926x - Mar 29, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    I have zero doubt that Bonds is the lousy creep of a human being that he has always been accused of being over the years and I wish nothing but trouble for him, but I wish they would cut him loose just so we wouldn’t have to hear his name again. He and Clemens are representative of baseballs sad past and they need to just go away like Sosa and the other losers who threw away their legacy. You have a lousy guy in Bonds and just as lousy people making up the witness list against him. All of this being handled by a government who just might possibly have bigger fish to fry in the world. It’s all an amazing joke.

  5. lilevil74 - Mar 29, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    MLB was in the dumps until when? When McGwire and Sosa were chasing the record. It was exciting! Maybe Bonds saw these guy getting a lot of positive attention and decided to try it for himself. Maybe he did it to prolong his career. If I were making 20 Million plus a year and could take something to continue to make that kind of money, I would. And I think most would. The government has WASTED many millions of dollars chasing irrelevance. Meanwhile, MLB has sat back and tried to act innocent. MLB turned the cheek. MLB knew what was going on and did absolutely nothing about it. RATINGS AND REVENUE WERE THROUGH THE ROOF!!!!! This is not Barry Bonds’ fault. Say what you will about the man. But he was one of the BEST selective, pure hitters to ever play the game. Steroids don’t teach you how to swing (Ask Jose Canseco). In ending my rambling, do you want to know the true sad part of this entire, waste of time ordeal? Many MLB players admitted to CHEATING. Many MLB players admitted to LIEING. And yet they are still playing the game. Meanwhile, Pete Rose is still banned. TALK ABOUT HYPOCRISY!

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