Well, it’s only been four years since this thing started. From the looks of things, there is no new information here to explain why there wasn’t an indictment many years ago. My sense is that this is a “well, we’ve got to do something” move. Unless Greg Anderson talks—and why would he crack now?—I think the perjury case against Bonds is weak. His release is somewhat suspicious, but Anderson’s lawyer says his client hasn’t changed his mind about not testifying.
Here is what the lawyers think about the case.
Todd Zywicki (from July, 2006):
But without Anderson’s testimony, the direct evidence seems thin (assuming that the book reports all the evidence)….
In short, Bonds let Anderson handle everything, from protocol, to purchase, to shots, and to workouts. Clearly Bonds asked no questions about what Anderson was doing and simply trusted him to handle everything. Equally clearly Bonds knew what Anderson was giving him, especially in light of the physical side effects of the drugs. So common sense seems to suggest that he perjured himself, but a close sifting of the evidence that we know about the evidence seems much less clear. But he seems to have created an almost perfect intermediary in Anderson who could protect him. Every chain of evidence in the case seems to end at Anderson. Although common sense then connects Anderson to Bonds, I can’t recall any specific, provable fact that provides that final link….
Without Anderson’s testimony, I have serious doubts about whether the feds will be able to get Bonds on perjury (although tax evasion should be easier).
4. Assuming there is a trial, how would the perjury charge play out?
Perjury is to knowingly lie under oath and typically about a matter material to an investigation or case. To prove guilt, the prosecution must establish more than just Bonds lying under oath. It must show that he knowingly lied, meaning his lie must not have been a mistaken belief or a misunderstanding. For that reason, Bonds could argue that he misunderstood the question or the context in which it was asked, which led to an inadvertent lie. He could also argue that he understood the question, but genuinely thought he was telling the truth, such as stating that he believed he was taking a legal performance enhancer, but which in fact was flax seed oil or human growth hormone. All he would need to do is place reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind.
The prosecution, however, would likely use the testimony of witnesses to establish that Bonds knowingly lied. For instance, Bond’s ex-mistress, Kimberly Bell, told the grand jury that Bonds admitted to knowingly used steroids. But in his defense, Bonds could argue that, given his now difficult relationship with her, Bell cannot be trusted and that his admission to her has been exaggerated or mischaracterized, and thus better constitutes hearsay, a statement made outside of the courtroom that is usually deemed inadmissible because of its lack of reliability.
5. What about the obstruction of justice charge?
Obstruction of justice captures different types of misconduct during a legal proceeding. Basically, if a defendant knowingly tries to impair a proceeding in any material and unacceptable way, such as lying about a material matter under oath, the defendant can be found guilty of the charge. Bonds would likely offer similar defenses to those described above for perjury.
I am not a criminal lawyer by trade, but my criminal law experience suggests to me that this is a face-saving indictment designed to allow the investigators and the US Attorney say they did their job. They got the indictment (note: a U.S. Attorney can get an indictment on anyone for just about anything). If and when Bonds walks, they will blame a Bonds friendly San Francisco jury pool, and it will be done.
Make no mistake: I think Bonds took steroids, and I tend to think that, generally speaking, he has lied about it. This indictment, on these particular questions, however, look very, very weak.
I’m just happy to get the ball rolling on this. Has it really been this long? I’ll be happy when we finally put the criminal part of this case to bed.
How will this harm Bonds? It’s possible his baseball career could be over, but I’m not counting on it. My guess is that Bonds would prefer to play rather than sit at home and think about this. He’s too good for some team not to take a chance on. Sports fans are very forgiving, especially if you are good. Imagine a scenario where David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez both go down in spring training. Do you think Red Sox fans would complain if the team picked up Bonds? I think the only thing that gets in his way is pride. He might not get a contract that he thinks he deserves, and choose to sit out on principle. Thus, he could end up joining a team in mid-season when someone gets desperate.