The Real Barry Bonds Outrage

I wasn't going to blog this morning about yesterday's five-count indictment of Barry Bonds. But then I read this outrageous quote from Bonds' attorney, Mike Rains: "Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other."

"Barry Bonds" and "waterboarding" are two subjects that do not belong together in this or any other universe. Shame on Rains for trying to link the two.

Bonds isn't in trouble because the Justice Department has nothing better to do than ferret out weasels who allegedly lie under oath about taking a legal product like steroids. He isn't in trouble because Alberto Gonzales and David Addington wrote secret memos declaring that government officials could evade the spirit of the laws in trying to save our nation from disaster.

Bonds is in trouble for the same reasons that people like Martha Stewart and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby once were: He thought he was smart enough to fool the feds and he wasn't. I have no idea whether he is guilty or whether he'll be convicted. But you don't have to be a legal analyst to understand that Bonds made things worse for himself with his testimony in December 2003. He is no more persecuted than the thousands of other people who each year in this country are charged with perjury and obstruction -- and you could argue that he's certainly less persecuted than another iconic black athlete, O.J. Simpson.

The indictment against Bonds is very detailed. And apparently the feds did not need to rely upon Greg Anderson, Bonds' former trainer, to make whatever case they have against Bonds. Anderson, who was in prison for contempt, was released from jail yesterday after the indictment was made public and his attorney, the ubiquitous Mark Geragos, said only that Anderson didn't squeal on Bonds in return for his freedom. That means, perhaps, that this case against Bonds was ready to go months ago but was only delivered now, after the baseball season and just before the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving, Barry Bonds.

If he's convicted, he'll likely go to prison. And his trial -- if we get that far -- figures to be one for the ages, given the potential witness list of players and managers, etc.

As I cover the case, I hope you'll forgive me if I place it into the proper context and perspective. No one died as a result of Bonds's alleged lies. No one was injured. The foundations of our government were not rocked to their core. National security was not affected. No one was drowned in a "simulated death." As a player, Bonds' career finally had slowed. As a defendant, he's likely to be far more entertaining and productive.

By Andrew Cohen |  November 16, 2007; 7:22 AM ET
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Bonds should probably think twice about the consequences of proceeding to trial. However, the DOJ may not be too keen on seeking a plea bargain if they truly possess the amount of evidence that they claim. The prosecutors hold all the cards in this case and Bonds doesn't have the benefit of being a small potato that can squeal on someone for a short sentence. He has been the target for a long, long time. Look at Vick, the prosecutors weren't interested in talking plea until they had the cooperation of the other defendants and could bargain on their own terms.

Posted by: JML | November 16, 2007 09:18 AM

Mr. Cohen takes the stance that Barry Bond's perjury and obstruction of justice are not harmful to our society and government. In his own words: "The foundations of our government were not rocked to their core."

But good citizenship, honesty and the ability to expose crimes and deceptions is at the very core of a democratic society. An open, democratic society depends upon the power of investigation and adherence to oath to realize justice and expose violations of law.

So allowing a celebrity, a power broker or any other citizen to hide their wrong doing and obscure the proper enforcement of law by lying does shake the social and ethical foundation of democratic citizenship, the foundation of our particpatory democracy, rocking the very core of our government.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | November 16, 2007 11:35 AM

Hey! Hasn't Barry Bonds been indicted on the same charges Scooter Libby was indicted (and convicted) on? How come the Barry Bonds indictment isn't considered a partisan witch hunt? I mean, it seems like the same thing....

Oh, I forgot. He's not part of the Bush Administration, so the law *does* apply to him.

Posted by: lisatann | November 16, 2007 12:59 PM

I agree that the two shouldn't be mixed, but this still confirms me worst fear, "Political persecution defense" may become acceptable as a result of Gonzo's circus.
Frankly, the fact that prosecutors waited until end of season and the announcement of all MVPs, Cy Youngs, etc, shows that they wanted to make sure not to taint any end-of-season deliberations about those awards.

Posted by: William Smith | November 16, 2007 01:39 PM

The main thing the government has to prove is that he lied. They have to find someone who knew that he used the steroidal cream and knew what it was.That seems like a hard case to prove(he said , she said). If they had this info why keep his trainer locked up.I understand that lying to the grand jury is wrong and the government wants to make an example of a high profile individual on an insignficant problem. I know the legends of baseball are turning in their graves about this since he is the only player in baseball to ever have done this. We are spending thousands of dollars maybe millions on this case. I like baseball but overall I don't care. I wish we could use these funds on our troops, or a better justice system, or on our education system. This is a waste of time and taxpayer money. There are thousands of unsolved crimes that effect the victims or their families more. Spend the money there. Or are we going to continue spending money on cases that make a person hit a ball 10 feet further or make them run 1/10 of a second faster. They are games for a reason. Do not make our justice system a game.

Posted by: R.A.Greene | November 16, 2007 01:52 PM

#25 - the epitome of the Arrogant Athlete. Given that he's bigger, his fall will be harder.

Let Justice be done!

Posted by: DC | November 16, 2007 02:31 PM

Classic Blame the Messenger ploy.

Constitutionalist: will you support clemency for Bonds like you did for Scooter? They both lied to a Grand Jury. Bonds lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs so that he could get some of that fan adoration McGuire and Sosa got in 1998. Scooter lied to protect his boss, who had outed a covert CIA agent working on keeping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

Posted by: Nellie | November 16, 2007 03:57 PM

I don't know about anybody else, but I haven't seen any evidence yet. So it's a little early to predict the outcome of the case.

The growth in size of BB, much like other sluggers, is suspicious, but not conclusive.

I do have to wonder that, if a nice guy had broken the record, would he be receiving the same scrutiny. Then again, perhaps the prosecutor has persuasive evidence. But we won't know that for awhile.

Posted by: pacman | November 16, 2007 04:11 PM

Lying under oath isn't that serious. So say the liars.

Posted by: Partner | November 16, 2007 10:02 PM

In light of the fact that the illegal steroid formulation Bonds is charged with using was nicknamed "The Clear," and with a nod to the ironic campaign centred on actress/shoplifter Wynona Ryder, I have this to say:


Posted by: Bukko in Australia | November 17, 2007 05:56 AM

Andrew, you are too quick to dismiss the complaints of a defence lawyer.

I think that the connection between waterboarding is relevant. He is saying that he has little confidence in the DOJ and waterboarding is one outstanding example of how its powers can be misused.

I do not have much confidence in the DOJ and why should I? Afterall, it has been in a very political way. What defence would its lawyers put up:'I was only tasking orders'.

The DOJ has lost the trust of many people who rightfully challenge the wisdom of its decisions because they have been politicised. many of us expect it to use its discretion unwisely and unfairly.

Posted by: Robert James | November 17, 2007 06:02 AM

Mr. James, It's the trust of the people in this country which matters. Most people I know have enough trust in the prosecutors in this matter.

Posted by: DC | November 17, 2007 02:42 PM

F*** Barry Bonds.

Posted by: Mike | November 17, 2007 07:06 PM

Bonds will walk as the Feds have no case against him. In fact, the charges will probably be dismissed.

Posted by: Mostly Right | November 18, 2007 03:56 AM

You are obviously blinded by some sort of partisan paranoia, but that is no reason to slander me by misrepresentation. I NEVER endorsed clemency for Libby. I am very consistent in the belief that people need to take responsibility for their actions. And even more so in the belief that perjury and obstruction of justice undermine our legal system.

Even if the sentence as in the Libbey case was excessively harsh. (See my posting on crack cocaine earlier this month.) I think it is liberals like yourself who apply selective enforcement, forgiving President Clinton's perjury but not Libby's

I doubt you are capable of it, but you owe me an apology.

Posted by: Constititionalist | November 18, 2007 10:44 AM

Absent as always are the unindicted co-conspirators, the drug dealers (and major political contributors) known as the Pharmaceutical industry. Given the widespread illegal availability of anabolic steroids, which 40% of high school students claim easy access to, I posit the following. Either those in medical need of anabolic steroids are denied them due to the supply being misdirected to fuel the illegal demand, or the pharmaceutical companies are creating a supply that contemplates the illegal demand. I suppose it is possible that they are simply stupid business people and created a supply that far ourstrips demand; does anyone believe that? Have we heard of patients crying out for anabolic steroids that are unavailable?

Dismissing the illegal use of these legal drugs on the ground of their legality is equally specious. There are medical uses for morphine, cocaine and amphetamines as well.

But then, we are no more likely to jail these drug dealers, whose connections with our politicians are well documented, than fellow perjurer Lewis Libby.

OxyContin, anyone?

Posted by: Jack | November 18, 2007 04:36 PM

Hitting a baseball may or not be easier if one is taking steroids. Michael Jordan couldn't hit one and he was in great shape. This is a matter for professional baseball, not Federal Jails. Don't we have more important things to do? What is next? Indicting TO because he said to a Redskin defender, I'm going right, when he went left?

We know steroids are bad for teenagers. Education is key.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin RealtyWht | November 19, 2007 03:44 AM


If I did not remember correctly your posts from 6 months ago and wrongly attributed the clemency position to you, I apologize. There is more than enough hypocrisy in this world without my trying to gin some up that isn't there.

Now, hopefully you will read this, since the blog entry is now several days old. If I see you on a more recent post, I'll mention that I posted a retraction here.

Posted by: Nellie | November 19, 2007 12:45 PM

The person who does deserve a apology is Greg Anderson, who evidently was kept in jail for contempt of the grand jury long after the Justice department had secured the evidence they used to indict. And the person who needs to be tried with Bonds is Bud Selig, who was fully aware of what Bonds (and many others) was doing, yet preferred to maintain the revenue stream.

Posted by: Larry | November 20, 2007 12:18 AM

No apology is due Greg Anderson. He doesn't get to decide he can withhold evidence because the government did or did not have enough evidence to indict, which is not the same as evidence needed at trial.

And Andrew, I also thought the Rains comment was a little strange, except that he was playing to a San Francisco jury pool. Associating the prosecution with the Administration and its foibles might not be such a bad public relations strategy. I'm not so sure it's as silly as you suggest. The federal court in San Francisco is not like other places.

Posted by: ExAUSA | November 20, 2007 04:52 PM

As manager of the Texas Rangers baseball team, Arbusto George, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, counted on steroids to give his team an unfair advantage. As Commander in Chief, AWOL George had other tools to give the Bush Friends and Family Plan an unfair advantage; domestic surveillance (and much more) of his political opponents, Fredo, redistricting, Jeb, and various unorthodox approaches to duck hunting.
In his state of the union speech a while back, he outlined a bold new policy vision - he was going to oppose steroids. This flip-flop stunned his audience who had never seen such visionary thinking in Our Leader before.

Posted by: Singing Senator | November 25, 2007 02:50 PM

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