In Bonds' case, Anderson is the ultimate protection

Updated: July 24, 2006, 2:29 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Next year's ESPYS should include a new category: Best Performance By An Outraged Lawyer On Courthouse Steps. I nominate Jeff Borris, a lawyer for Barry Bonds who simply can't understand why federal prosecutors keep picking on his poor little client.

"We should be paying tax dollars trying to locate bin Laden," said Borris to the minicams last week. "Isn't he Public Enemy No. 1?" (Memo to Bonds: I don't know what you're paying this guy, but if it's more than a dab of Atomic Balm, a wad of chaw and a handful of sunflower seeds, it's too much).

AP/Ben MargotGreg Anderson has already served one two-week stint in prison for refusing to appear in front of a grand jury.

Borris, Bonds and the rest of his legal team are nuts if they think the feds are going away. The Feds are Belushi in "Animal House": "Over? Did you say, 'over?' Nothing is over until WE decide it is!"

Borris can yammer on until his habeas needs a new corpus. Michael Rains, another Bonds attorney with a penchant for courthouse-step sound bites, can accuse the government all he wants of conducting an investigation that has morphed, he says, into "a persecution." The feds don't care. They're used to hearing indignant defense lawyers talk tough, although the thing about finding bin Laden was probably good for a few laughs.

Until Greg Anderson, Bonds' boyhood friend and former personal trainer, agrees to testify before a grand jury, the feds will keep reaching into their legal toolbox for more screws. Martha Stewart, who served time for, among other things, lying to federal investigators, can explain how that works.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys defend, prosecutors forge ahead, legal experts opine. That's fine. But if you take sandpaper to all the verbal posturing and lawyerese in this case, you're left with a simple question: Why won't Anderson talk?

Think about it. Bonds and his attorneys say the San Francisco Giants outfielder has done nothing wrong. Didn't lie to the grand jury. Didn't lie on his taxes. Didn't take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least, not "knowingly."

OK, let's pretend they're telling the truth. Let's pretend Bonds is the victim of a government and media conspiracy, that his head size and home run numbers grew exponentially because he drank gallons of milk and ate lots of Wheaties. Let's pretend he reported all of that memorabilia show cash. Gee, Barry is a swell guy.

So tell me, then, why won't Anderson talk? If Bonds has done no wrong, what is there for Anderson to protect?

Instead, Anderson, who was convicted in 2005 of laundering money and distributing steroids, won't say a peep. He already has done one two-week stint in prison for refusing to appear in front of a grand jury. And it appears he'll do more time -- much more time -- if he does a Sammy Sosa and forgets how to speak English when a new grand jury convenes.

"They can subpoena him every day for the rest of the year and it doesn't matter," Mark Geragos, Anderson's lawyer, told reporters. "He's not going to talk."

Defiance doesn't go over real big with the U.S. Attorney's office, especially when the feds are convinced Anderson knows who took what performance-enhancing drugs and when they took them. In short, they think the man whose personal training business was named, "Get Big Productions," can explain exactly how Bonds, and others, got so huge.

There are only so many reasons Anderson keeps pressing the mute button: (A) His grand jury testimony would implicate Bonds and, damn it, he's no snitch; (B) his testimony would be leaked to the media and, damn it, he doesn't want anybody to know he's a snitch; (C) he doesn't want to burn his boyhood friend; or (D) he's holding out for a deal.

I pick D, for Deal.

All deals are the product of leverage. The feds have jail. Anderson has silence. My guess is that at some point the U.S. Attorney's office will offer something in exchange for Anderson's testimony. My other guess is that Anderson will take it. Otherwise, he will spend months … a year … perhaps more than a year, in prison. And for what? To protect Bonds, whose attorney Rains began to distance his client ever so slightly from Anderson a few days ago?

Bonds initially said he thought substances given to him by Anderson in 2003 were flaxseed oil and anti-arthritic balm. But now Rains said Bonds was "suspicious" about whether they were performance enhancers. Expect more revisionist history in the coming months.

The feds can be ruthless, and I don't mean that in a good way, necessarily. They don't care whether Anderson does more prison time. They don't care that Bonds has 722 career home runs and is beloved in the Bay Area. This isn't about manners. This is about separating fact from fiction.

Bonds faces a federal trifecta: perjury, the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and tax evasion. If convicted, that means fines, jail time or both. So catching Hank Aaron or reaching the Hall of Fame is the least of his worries. Or should be. Even for the smug Bonds, it would be galactically stupid to underestimate the ferocity of the feds.

What's next? For now, we hear the blustery sounds of indignant defense lawyers on courthouse steps. What we don't hear is Anderson. That silence, more than anything, speaks loudest.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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