The Confusing Verdict in the Barry Bonds Steroids-Perjury Trial

The Confusing Verdict in the Barry Bonds Steroids-Perjury Trial
By Millard Baker

A federal jury found Barry Bonds guilty of a single count of obstruction of justice but was unable to reach a decision on three other charges facing the former baseball slugger in the case of the United States of America v. Barry Lamar Bonds. Bonds was essentially cleared of three perjury charges after a hung jury resulted in a mistrial on those charges; the government has the option of retrying Bonds on those charges.

The verdict was somewhat confusing to many journalists who wondered how the jury determined Bonds was guilty of obstruction if it wasn’t convinced he was guilty of perjury. Bonds’ appellate attorneys have filed a motion requesting that Judge Susan Illston set aside the jury verdict but this is unlikely to happen. Judge Illston presided over the perjury trial of cyclist Tammy Thomas in which she was found guilty in a legally inconsistent verdict; Illston refused to set aside the verdict in the Thomas case.

The consensus seems to be that there were no winners after the confusing verdict was read. Barry Bonds was the face of the government’s 6-year, $55-million BALCO steroid witch-hunt and the government failed to prove that Bonds knowingly used steroids or received injections of human growth hormone. Clearly, the verdict was unsatisfactory to federal prosecutors.

Barry Bonds was not a winner and told reporters afterward that there was nothing to celebrate. Bonds most likely will not receive jail time, but he will still receive a felony conviction that will always remain on his record.

Even though Bonds was NOT found guilty of perjury, most people will happily remain ignorant of that fact. All they will remember is that he was “guilty”. In the days and weeks that follow, you will inevitably hear people talk about Bonds being found guilty of lying about steroids. This is not true but good luck trying to explain the legal details of the jury verdict to the average baseball fan.

The government failed to prove that Barry Bonds knowingly received steroids from Greg Anderson.
The government failed to prove that Barry Bonds received an injection from anyone other than his doctor.
The government failed to prove that Barry Bonds received human growth hormone from Greg Anderson.

Nonetheless, the government (and anti-doping crusaders) will try to spin this a major victory for the prosecution and for anti-steroid advocates. They will likely try to suggest that the case proves that Bonds lied about steroids. The irony is that this in itself will be a lie.

For those who really want to know how and why Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice, you should know it has very little to do with steroids. George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated said it best when he said Bonds was essentially found guilty of being Barry Lamar Bonds.

The only verdict jurors rendered was to find that Bonds obstructed justice by providing an evasive answer to one question. In short, they found Bonds guilty of rambling, of dancing around a question, of being (for anyone who has ever interviewed him can attest) Barry Lamar Bonds.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports was mystified that the jury seemingly based their guilty-on-obstruction verdict on Barry Bonds rambling discussion about being a celebrity child! He felt such a verdict made no sense when jurors were unable to agree that Bonds committed perjury.

It’s being reported that the basis of the obstruction conviction was the jury finding that Bonds obstructed justice with respect to his “Statement C” as listed in Count 5. The underlined part of the following is “Statement C”

Q: Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?

A: I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t – we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want – don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends, you come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean? …

Q: Right.

A: That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that – you know, that – I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see…

That is the answer that, according to the jury, obstructed justice. This despite the fact that the government lawyers questioning him had every opportunity to follow up, to clarify and to tell Barry Bonds that he wasn’t answering their question. An opportunity that they didn’t take, presumably because at the time they didn’t think that the answer Bonds gave was particularly problematic.

So: Bonds saying that he was a “celebrity child” who didn’t get into anyone’s business obstructed justice and brought down a prosecution over seven years in the making.

You cool with that?

Anyone who celebrates the guilty verdict should ask themselves if this is really justice served?

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