Don't expect Bonds to seek a plea agreement
Barry Bonds testified to the grand jury in San Francisco in December of 2003. He has been indicted nearly four years later. What took so long?
While some law enforcement officials wanted to indict Bonds much earlier, others did not. When the BALCO investigation began, it was announced in Washington, D.C., by then Attorney General John Ashcroft. He wanted a fast and vigorous prosecution. But in San Francisco, at the time of Bonds' testimony before the grand jury, the U.S. Attorney was Kevin Ryan. Although Ryan filed charges against several people involved in the BALCO laboratory, he never filed charges against Bonds. All of the evidence described in the Bonds indictment was available to Ryan, but he did not seek an indictment. It is not the first time a local U.S. Attorney has avoided indicting a local hero. Federal prosecutors in Salt Lake City delayed prosecuting the local leaders of the Olympic committee on bribery charges resulting from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Last winter, President Bush obtained Ryan's resignation along with those of other U.S. Attorneys, which led to a partisan political battle. Although neither Bush nor Ryan ever discussed the Bonds investigation as a reason for Ryan's departure, numerous observers expected a Bonds indictment under the new leadership in the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco. Ashcroft's resignation also may have contributed to the delay. His replacement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, had other problems, and resigned in August, causing further delay. Finally, with Scott Schools serving as the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, and a new attorney general in Washington, Michael Mukasey, the indictment is a reality.
Are there any surprises in the indictment?
Most of the material in the indictment is familiar to anyone who has followed the BALCO investigation, but there is one surprise. The surprise is that, according to the indictment, during the criminal investigation evidence was obtained, including positive tests for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other professional athletes. When asked about it in front of the grand jury, Bonds denied a positive test. It will be one of the most difficult charges for Bonds to deny. He will be scientifically connected to a positive test with DNA and other techniques.
What evidence did the federal prosecutors show to the grand jurors to obtain the indictment, and what evidence will they use in the trial?
For more than a year, agents watched everything that happened at BALCO. They went through garbage and medical waste. They penetrated BALCO e-mail history and bank accounts. In a raid on the building, they confiscated a mountain of documents and records. Using these materials, they put together a narrative of Bonds' alleged drug use that they presented to the grand jury. When Bonds contradicted the records, the documents and the medical tests, the grand jury was able to charge him with perjury.
All of the other individuals charged in the BALCO investigation have entered pleas of guilty and made deals with the government. Would Bonds consider a plea of guilty and a settlement?
Not likely. He has been defiant in the face of a massive investigation. His answers to questions asked before the grand jury show an attitude of righteous indignation. He has enormous wealth and is able to battle federal prosecutors, the FBI and the IRS. Expect him to fight the charges to the end and hope for favorable treatment from jurors in San Francisco, where he remains a hero for many.
If convicted of the charges, would Bonds be sent to prison?
Bonds has a clean record. His only problems in court have been divorces. If he is convicted of all of the charges, he would face a year or two in federal prison. The law provides for a sentence of as long as 30 years, but it will never happen. The federal guidelines and the record of past sentences indicate only a year or two of incarceration.
Greg Anderson, Bonds's trainer, is being released from jail. What does this mean?
The answer is not entirely clear. It could mean one of two things -- or something we don't know yet. One possibility is that with the indictment of Bonds, there was no longer a legal basis for holding Anderson. Another possibility is that federal prosecutors somehow persuaded Anderson to testify against Bonds. But Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, says the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury that indicted Bonds.
Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who has been reporting on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry for 18 years, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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