Monday, November 24, 2008

Bonds Goes 5 for 14

Though the replay official may change one of those hits to a foul ball:

Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s homerun record holder, won dismissal of five of 14 charges accusing him of lying about taking steroids. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ruled today that the charges were redundant, vague or couldn’t lead to a conviction. She refused Bonds’s request to throw out four other perjury charges and a charge that he obstructed justice. The government may recharge Bonds on one count, the judge’s order says, which would leave him facing 10 counts of perjury.

For what it's worth, I went and read the decision. It breaks down like this:

  • Counts 6, 7, and 8 -- in which Barry is accused of lying for saying that he never knew of Anderson giving him PEDs -- were ruled to be redundant, in that he is basically being charged three times for lying in response to essentially the same question. The government can't do that, and so the government gets to choose which two of those three counts it wants to drop;

  • In count number two, Bonds was asked if he had ever taken "anything like steroids" or, to take the government's explanation for it, "anything like steroids that could have led to a positive steroid test." The court found this question ambiguous and thus dismissed the count because, according to the court, "[t]he characteristics that make a substance 'like' a steroid defy ready definition";

  • Count 14 may represent Barry Bonds' finest hour as a grand jury witness. Here, Barry was asked about whether he got flax seed oil in January 2002. Barry's glorious answer was as follows:

    A: Not that I can recall. Like I say, I could be wrong. But I’m – I’m – going
    from my recollection it was, like, in the 2002 time and 2003 season.

    The court dismissed the count regarding this answer because it was ambiguous. Repeat: it wasn't a bad question that got the charge tossed, it was Barry's farkakte answer. OK, to be fair, it was really because the prosecutors weren't smart enough at the time to try to pin Barry down, which the court correctly notes is their job. Still, I love the idea that Barry's lawyers got a count dismissed by saying that their own client made no sense.

    So that's that. Nothing really game-changing here from a legal perspective. Barry's lawyers made several arguments that the questions and answers in play were vague and ambiguous, and for the most part, the court said that issue was up to the jury to decide. Still, the court did note a handful of poorly-constructed questions and possibly non-responsive answers. If it did, the jury may very well too. Unlike the court, however, the jury does not give anyone else the benefit of the doubt on the matter.

    I've said in the past that I think Barry skates, and I'm still leaning in that direction. On the other hand, some smart people I know with a bit of inside information regarding the greater steroid investigation world are telling me that Barry is toast for a number of reasons. They may very well be right.

    All that said, I suppose facing nine or ten counts is better than 15.

    Dr. Danger, Esq. said...

    "On the other hand, some smart people I know with a bit of inside information regarding the greater steroid investigation world are telling me that Barry is toast for a number of reasons"

    If the case is limited to the specific answers he gave to specific questions, what kind of smoking gun could be out there that would lead anyone to believe that Barry is toast with regards to this specific case?

    Craig Calcaterra said...

    I don't think anyone is talking about a smoking gun. I think it's more an experience-based assessment based on the overall caliber of government witness vs. how poorly Barry could be expected to do in his own defense against a backdrop of the jury pool Barry's case might be presented to.

    I have a view that the questions and answers are weak enough for him to get by, but others I've spoken to view it differently. Given that the feds in the BALCO case have basically convicted everone else, I am more than prepared to admit that I am being too optimistic and that the people I talk to may be right.

    Larry (Boston) said...

    OK, I gotta say, this has got to be the first time I've ever heard someone from West Virginia use the word "farkakte". I LOVE it!

    For those not familiar with it......

    Farkakte (Yid., פֿאַרקאַקטע) – an adjective whose usage resembles English goddamn; literally, 'crapped' or 'becrapped', cf. German "verkackte(r)"