Fallout from the Barry Bonds’ verdict

Home run king Barry Bonds smiles as his lawyer Alan Ruby speaks to the media at the Federal Building in San Francisco on April 13, 2011 A jury convicted Bonds on obstruction of justice charges but hung on the perjury charges . UPI/Terry Schmitt

Here’s what columnists around the country are saying about the Barry Bonds’ guilty verdict.

Judging Bonds Has Only Just Begun (Tyler Kepner, New York Times)
Barry Bonds’s statistics cannot be erased. Bonds did not get away with his actions in federal court, where he was convicted of a count of obstruction of justice Wednesday. But in his era Bonds was allowed to stay on the field and hit 762 home runs and win seven Most Valuable Player awards. Fans can judge those accomplishments however they want, but they did happen, and they are as historically valid as the 714 homers Babe Ruth hit without ever facing an African-American pitcher. Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday that he had already studied the integrity of baseball’s records, with help from Jerome Holtzman, the Chicago writer who was baseball’s official historian.

Exploring the sheer absurdity of the Bonds verdict (Craig Calcaterra, Hardball Talk)
Having slept on it, here’s one more thought about the Bonds verdict that simply blows my mind. Yesterday when I reacted to the verdict, I noted the absurdity of Bonds being convicted on his rambling answer in “Statement C” as listed in Count 5 of the indictment. That “Statement C” was Bonds saying, in response to a question about receiving injections, that Greg Anderson was a friend of his and that Bonds was a child of a celebrity. It was four brief beside-the-point statements. And, importantly, Bonds did eventually say unequivocally that, no, he didn’t receive injections. Take that for what it’s worth, but it was a clear answer to a clear question.

Bonds’ Legal “Dream Team” Loses Big (Randy Shaw, BeyondChron)
After Greg Anderson refused to testify and the trial judge excluded key evidence, few gave the U.S. Attorney’s office much of a chance to convict Barry Bonds on any of the charges. Add to this the high-cost legal dream team working for Bonds—which included such criminal defense superstars as Alan Ruby, Chris Arguedas, and Dennis Riordan—-and the question was not whether if Bonds would be acquitted, but how long the jury would deliberate. Well, jurors often surprise with their common sense. They saw Bonds the way the general public does, and convicted him of obstruction and came within a single holdout juror of a perjury conviction. If anyone is feeling sorry for Bonds, they aren’t talking about it.

In the end, Barry Bonds hurt himself (Lester Munson, ESPN)
The unanimous verdict that Bonds was guilty of obstruction of justice is a major triumph for federal agent Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella. It is also a bit of an upset. The members of the federal team started the trial with two strikes against them. Greg Anderson, Bonds’ personal trainer, refused to testify for the government. If he had testified, its case against Bonds likely would have been overwhelming. But his refusal to testify and his willingness to go to jail to help Bonds left Novitzky and the prosecutors with major obstacles. Without Anderson to identify the positive drug tests, the drug calendars, the syringes and the vials of steroids that the Novitzky-led agents had seized in their lightning raid on Anderson’s house, a powerful case for the prosecutors became a difficult, almost impossible case.

Confused Verdict Means Bonds Will Walk (Jeff Neuman, Real Clear Sports)
The government agreed in the case that the instructions to the jury for the obstruction charge would indicate that it must “agree unanimously as to which statement or statements constitute obstruction of justice.” This is essential if the verdict is to be truly unanimous; if six jurors believe one statement to be an obstruction, while the other six select a different statement, they are not in unanimous agreement. (I am grateful to the legal blogger Jack Townsend for this explanation; his blog often features clear writing and thinking on otherwise impenetrable subjects.) So if the jury couldn’t come to a unanimous vote on any of the perjury counts, on what basis did it reach its conclusion about obstruction of justice? The verdict reeks of compromise, especially with jurors acknowledging that the deadlock on the perjury charge about injections involved an 11-1 vote favoring conviction.

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Barry Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice, jury hung on other three counts

Former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds arrives at the Phillip Burton Federal Building for his perjury trial as jurors resume deliberation in San Francisco, California April 11, 2011. The former home run king, Bonds, is facing four charges for allegedly lying under oath to a federal grand jury in 2003 about the use of performing-enhancing anabolic steroids. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT BASEBALL SOCIETY)

A jury found Barry Bonds guilty of one federal charge of obstruction of justice, but a mistrial was declared on the remaining three counts of making false declarations to a grand jury. It’s unclear as of this writing whether there will be another trial to settle those remaining counts.

According to ESPN.com, Bonds sat “stone-faced” through the verdict, displaying no emotion. His legal team then asked that the guilty verdict be thrown out, although U.S. District Judge Susan Illston did not rule on that request. A hearing for that case will be held on May 20.

The question I have is how can the jury believe that Bonds was guilty of obstruction of justice but unsure that he lied under oath about taking steroids, taking HGH and/or receiving injections of any kind? I’m not a lawyer and my intelligence is questionable at best, but how can you nail him on obstruction of justice but not on the three perjury charges of lying to a grand jury? It seems like if you can nail him on that, you can nail him on anything.

Then again, maybe the jury believes that he’s lying about something, so they nail him on obstruction of justice. But they can’t prove that he’s lying specifically about taking steroids, HGH and/or being injected with anything, so that’s where the hung in “hung jury” comes in.

Either way, it feels like a large amount of the taxpayers’ money just went flying out the window. Was justice served here? Did Barry Bonds “get what was coming to him” like some wanted? Does anyone even care anymore?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The biggest punishment that this guy will ever endure is not being allowed induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Steroids and why they matter in baseball

I’ve found it rather interesting that in the midst of Barry Bonds’ perjury trial and the news that Manny Ramirez abruptly retired instead of dealing with a 100-game suspension for another positive PED test (his second in three years), that some people have developed a rather nonchalant attitude towards steroids as it pertains to the game of baseball.

Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or in sports forums, people continue to utter the statement: “What’s the big deal? It’s only steroids. I like home runs! Steroids make the game more exciting!”

Honestly, I have rationalized at least part of this argument in the past. I couldn’t care less if someone wanted to take steroids – including athletes. Do you know what the yearly average is for deaths caused by steroids? Three. As in: three people. For comparison sake, tobacco kills 5.4 million people per year, which is a shade more than three.

That’s not to say I condone the use of steroids. When the day comes where I have children of my own, I’m going to make sure they understand how dangerous steroid use is. The potential side effects of misusing steroids are well known and if a doctor does not prescribe them, the risk just isn’t worth the reward in my eyes. We’re talking about highly dangerous stuff here, especially for those who don’t know what they’re doing.

But if a groan man wants to sink hundreds of dollars into drugs that will make him bigger, stronger or heal faster, then whatever. It doesn’t affect me and quite frankly, this country is dealing with way more pressing issues at the moment.

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Bonds trial wrapping up without him seeing the witness stand

Former San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds arrives for his criminal trial at Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California March 28, 2011. The Bonds case is one of the last strands in a lengthy investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Doping revelations have tarnished the reputation of baseball, known as America’s national pastime. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL CRIME LAW SOCIETY)

Three years after he was first indicated, Barry Bonds’ perjury trial is finally nearing its conclusion.

Charged with three counts of lying to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice, Bonds’ trial has lasted nearly three weeks. And as the jury is set to dilberate, it’s interesting that Bonds’ defense team rested their case on Wednesday without calling any witnesses – not even Bonds.

Now, that could be viewed in a couple of different ways. Maybe his defense team feels so confident about their case that they don’t need to put Bonds on the stand. Maybe they don’t want him to contradict anything that anyone else has said up to this point, or screw the pooch when he’s cross-examined by the prosecution.

Or maybe because if they put him on the stand, they know he would have to lie under oath. Or explain to a jury why he allowed someone to inject something into his body that he wasn’t 100% clear (no pun intended) about what it was or what it was intended to do. Or why he never stopped taking the substance when his head grew to the size of a grapefruit and he looked like the Incredible Hulk.

Yeah, I wouldn’t have put Bonds on the stand either.

As I wrote on Wednesday, I firmly believe that he’ll avoid jail time. If Tammy Thomas received house arrest and probation for similar charges in her BALCO scandal, then Barry freaking Bonds isn’t going to prison over his. In the end, I imagine that people will view this as a big waste of time and money.

Judge bars secret recording in Barry Bonds’ perjury trial

Former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds leaves the federal courthouse after his criminal trial at Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California March 29, 2011. The former home run king is facing four counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for allegedly lying under oath to a federal grand jury in 2003 about the use of performance-enhancing anabolic steroids. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT BASEBALL)

ESPN.com is reporting that a federal judge has barred the jury in the Barry Bonds’ perjury trial from hearing a newly discovered tape recording that prosecutors say would bolster their case that the former slugger knowingly used steroids.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled the recording inadmissible because “it’s barely intelligible” and what can be heard is irrelevant.

The tape was a conversation between Bonds’ orthopedic surgeon Dr. Arthur Ting and his former business partner, Steve Hoskins. Hoskins secretly recorded the conversation in 2003.

Prosecutors had hoped to use the tape to win back some of the momentum they lost when Ting severely damaged Hoskins’ credibility.

Ting last week flatly denied Hoskins’ testimony that the pair had about 50 conversations about Bonds and steroids. Ting said the two never discussed that topic.

I love it. There’s a ton of the taxpayers’ money being spent on this trial and the result will likely be that Bonds will have to serve six months probation and no jail time. (Or something to that effect.)

I believe it was the late, great Alonzo Harris from the movie “Training Day” that said: It’s not what you know – it’s what you can prove. The defense in this trial has already stated that Bonds took steroids. Everyone and their brother knows he took steroids. What the defense is trying to prove is that he didn’t knowingly take steroids, and that’s going to be hard to disprove. (Especially when the prosecution is relying on Watergate-like secret tapes that are being barred from use in court.)

Like I said: Probation, no jail time. Book it.

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