Friday, June 20, 2008

Executive Power

Fainaru-Wada and Quinn are reporting that the feds have been putting the screws to Greg Anderson's wife in an effort to coerce him into testifying against Barry Bonds:

For more than a year, Barry Bonds' personal trainer sat inside a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., refusing to testify about his knowledge of performance-enhancing drug use by his superstar client. Finally, on Nov. 15, 2007 -- the day Bonds was initially indicted on perjury charges -- Greg Anderson was set free, seemingly ending a major squeeze play by local prosecutors.

Instead, even as Anderson was released, the government made a move on another member of his family. Within days of the trainer's release, his wife, Nicole Gestas, received a letter from federal prosecutors informing her that she is the target of a grand jury investigation, four people with knowledge of the BALCO steroids case told ESPN.

The sources asked not to be quoted by name because of the ongoing investigation. Since the initial target letter went out, two of the sources, both lawyers, say they have learned that the government's interest in Gestas stems from tax-related issues. The Internal Revenue Service has been the lead investigative agency in the BALCO case, and the sources said they believe the pressure on Gestas -- and possibly other family members -- is directed at finally getting Anderson to cooperate against Bonds.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a renegade, a wannabe militia member or even all that much of an anti-establishment guy. I pay my taxes. I put my hand over my heart when I say the pledge. Sure, I have my radical moments, but for the most part I'm just your average shlubby white suburban guy who is usually content enough with the bread and circuses to not really complain about the government.

That said, the level of overreaching, coercion, and out-and-out intimidation I have seen from federal agents in recent years has been shocking, both in this case and in many others. Is it legitimate for the feds to exert pressure on someone in order to get someone else to do something else? Sure, in the abstract. It's actually pretty effective law enforcement. But such tactics are easily abused, and in the instance of Anderson, Gestas, and Bonds, I believe power is being abused.

The resources put into the Bonds prosecution have been staggering and the amount of gusto put into going after him has been extreme. Greg Anderson -- at worst a low-level drug peddler -- was incarcerated for over a year, and now his family is under the microscope. While I will not join with those who categorically oppose the Bonds prosecution -- perjury before a grand jury is a problem and should be deterred -- notions of deterrence have long since been abandoned in this case.

While some may say that the pressure is justified if, indeed, Gestas has tax problems, I submit to you that all of us, on some level, would be in trouble if an IRS agent armed with virtually unchecked power decided to make our lives his priority. And make no mistake, they are making Gestas a priority here. I have been a part of these kinds of offshoot investigations (i.e. clients subjected to federal scrutiny as agents try to build a case against someone else), and you'd be surprised at just how intense the spotlight becomes. IRS agents are human, and they don't like dead ends. When they find some fertile ground in the form of a third party witness, the primary target of the investigation is virtually forgotten and the subsidiary case quickly becomes the main focus.

If Barry Bonds lied to the grand jury, he should be punished for it. I do not believe, however, that the witnesses against him -- and their families -- should be punished on orders of magnitude more.


tadthebad said...

Here, here. It SEEMS as though the Feds have lost their focus. However, the side of me that is always suspicious of the governement fears that said focus is getting sharper with each day.

Pete Toms said...

Amen Craig, amen.

I think the IRS have her / they by the....How do you explain $60,000 in cash in a safe in your kitchen and roids & syringes in your fridge?

I digress but anybody following the story of the steroid dealer who was cooperating with an NFL investigation and turned up dead? His girlfriend dead at the scene also? I think it was ruled a suicide although he was shot in the groin and the head? What the...? But Bonds is the villian....oy, don't get me started.

Peter said...

I guess I'm a little more radical than you, Craig, not because of where we are but where I think we're headed.

On the whole, I see the state encroaching on our civil liberties and privacy at an alarming rate, all in the name of law and order... and I think this fits right into that pattern.

David said...

The fact that the Feds are wasting precious resources on Barry Bonds is proof enough that any semblance of prosecutorial discretion long ago was tossed out the window.

The simple fact is that there are federal prosecutors who are willing to waste our tax dollars on cases that are high profile, not high importance.

Squeezing the spouse of a witness is unfortunately not surprising, and is emblematic of a prosecutor who has lost all sense of justice.

This is not to indict all federal prosecutors, but as a defense attorney, I have seen enough of this nonsense to know that justice is a concept not always well-grasped.

Anonymous said...

A friendly game I enjoy with CPAs is to pick the most common "mistakes" people make on their return. For example, if you bought your house with a $200,000 mortgage, paid it down to $150,000 and then refi'd to $300,000, what amount of interest could you deduct with out being a tax cheat? People get it wrong all the time.

Another one is: do you declare all the "use" taxes for items ordered off the internet, purchased out of state or picked up at the swap meet? If you don't, and you sign your state tax return, you have perjured yourself (states may vary).

With so many laws now, any one of us could be pressured by the federal government with jail time.

I've always fantasized about running for office with a single plank: I will only repeal laws, never enact new ones.