Sunday, January 18, 2009

Barry Bonds Didn't Sin Afterall

Jonathan Littman at Yahoo! Sports writes the first part of a series which will dive into the 30,000 pages of testimony from the BALCO case. The conclusion of this first article in this series, apparently the perjury case against Barry Bonds does not hold as much water as we have been led to believe.

I am not incredibly knowledgeable in regards to the justice system and perjury charges; however I have found it interesting that congress found 19 cases in which Bonds lied however are only charging him with 4 acts of perjury. While Bonds simply needs to be found guilty of one of these charges, I would think that the more charges against an individual the greater chance of one sticking.

The problem, which Littman discusses, is that it is looking more and more likely that Bond did not knowingly lie to congress. At the time, the Clear, the substance Bonds did not deny taking, was not classified as an illegal steroid. This, according to Littman, could be enough for Bonds’ lawyers to have his charges dropped due to the assumption that an individual may refer to steroids as an illegal substance.

From the Littman article,
Bonds’ attorneys could argue that even if he took the Clear, he wasn’t lying when he responded by saying "Not that I know of."

"It’s reasonable to think that the person answering a question about steroids would think they were asking about an illegal steroid," said Charles La Bella, a former U. S. attorney and chief of the criminal division for the Southern District of California who now practices criminal defense in San Diego.

"[A jury] wants unambiguous terms."

More than two months after Bonds testified, the government dropped clues that it was aware that the Clear was legal – and not a steroid.
While this is not evidence to the Bonds apologists that Bonds did not take steroids, this can be place in the "Bonds did nothing wrong" file.

Furthermore, Littman asserts,
The government believes it has tripped Bonds, but whether he falls will be determined in court. The fact that the key drug he is accused of taking was legal and not recognized as a steroid under federal law could complicate the case, experts say.

"I don’t understand why the government would seek an indictment after obtaining Catlin’s expert testimony that the Clear was not a steroid," Cannon said. "Why come up with an indictment based on an ambiguous definition?"
One needs to keep in mind that no matter the outcome of this trial, Bonds is not being tried based on whether he has or has not taken steroids. Rather, Bonds is being investigated in his part with the BALCO investigation.

According to Littman,
Neither Conte nor Anderson was charged with distributing THG. In fact, nobody in the seven-year BALCO investigation has been charged with possession or trafficking of the drug. Less than $2,000 of drugs was found in the highly publicized raid of the Burlingame, Calif., laboratory in 2003.
With this in mind, I find it interesting that congress is spending as much time and money on such a minor issue. This will certainly go down as an embarrassment to congress if (and when) the charges are subsequently dropped. That the media has fed into this being a larger case then it actually is seems to be more associated with Bonds and pinning him as the bad guy then it does with solving the steroid issue.

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