Verdict in, but Bonds case not over
Sentencing, possible appeals and retrials loom after trial
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Barry Bonds trial was supposed to be the culmination of the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which introduced the acronym BALCO and the terms "the clear" and "the cream" into the American sports vocabulary over the last several years.
That investigation began in 2002 with Internal Revenue Service agent Jeff Novitzky digging through a dumpster behind the lab's headquarters in Burlingame, Calif., a few miles south of San Francisco. Building a case that BALCO was using its legitimate marketing of mineral supplements to launder money acquired from illegally distributing steroids, Novitzky would lead a raid of the lab and trainer Greg Anderson's residence, sending the case in late 2003 to a grand jury. There, more than two dozen world-class athletes -- including Bonds, other baseball players and several Olympians -- testified about their involvement with BALCO.
Almost nine years later, Bonds was on the courthouse steps outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building after a jury convicted him of obstruction of justice but could not come to a consensus on any of the three charges of giving false statements to the BALCO grand jury. Bonds -- whose conquests of the single-season and career home run records capped a 22-year career as a baseball superstar -- is the last person being charged, and it appeared the end of the trial would bring some closure to the BALCO case.
But Wednesday's verdict isn't the end of the story.
A hearing before Judge Susan Illston is set for May 20, at which time a date for sentencing may be set. In the coming weeks, Bonds' legal team is likely to build its appeal to have the conviction overturned, the government will determine whether it wants to retry any of the three charges that wound up in a mistrial, and the process of determining sentencing for Bonds on the obstruction charge will begin.
Indeed, Bonds was very close to another conviction. There was an 11-1 vote for conviction in Count Two, which alleged that Bonds lied when he said no one other than his doctor ever injected him -- Kathy Hoskins' eyewitness account of Anderson injecting Bonds disputed that.
Now, the government must weigh whether it's worth the time and money to go after that or the other charges. Count One (use of steroids) came back 9-3 in favor of acquittal, and Count Three (use of human-growth hormone) came back 8-4 in favor of acquittal.
"We will decide whether to seek a retrial of the defendant on the remaining counts as soon as possible and will inform the Court and counsel as soon as we make our decision," U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement.
Clearly, there remains work to be done in the case of USA vs. Barry Lamar Bonds.
Defense attorney Allen Ruby, standing next to Bonds and co-counsel Cris Arguedas, said as much to the media gathered outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon.
"Barry has wanted very much to address you directly, but as you saw the case isn't over," Ruby told the media. "There still is a court hearing coming up on May 20, and as (defense team member) Dennis Riordan explained (in court after the verdict was read), there are very important legal issues that need to be addressed in connection with the verdict. So Cris and I have asked Barry to please continue his dignified silence until this case is over."
Bonds kept silent for the most part, saying softly that he loves San Francisco, saying he's not playing again, saying there's nothing to celebrate and waving a salute to a school bus full of children that passed by the chaotic post-trial scene outside the courthouse.
In the coming weeks, Bonds' defense team is expected to address what it perceives as an inconsistency of the obstruction conviction vs. the mistrial on the three counts upon which the obstruction charge was based. Ruby was quick to point out that when it came to the counts that alleged Bonds knowingly used steroids, needles or human-growth hormone, "there was no finding adverse to Barry Bonds."
The one finding that is adverse to Bonds was the one thing the eight women and four men impaneled on the jury could agree upon: Bonds was evasive, and intentionally so, in giving his answer to a yes or no question about whether Anderson had ever injected him -- talking about fishing and friendship and being a celebrity child as baseball star Bobby Bonds' son.
While Bonds did not testify at trial, jurors were swayed in part by testimony from other baseball players -- Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Randy Velarde -- who admitted to using steroids and to knowing that what they were receiving from Anderson were "the clear" (a synthetic steroid, THG) and "the cream" (testosterone cream designed to avoid detection), not flaxseed oil and arthritis balm, as Bonds had testified to the grand jury.
A juror named Steve, a self-described Giants fan who said he doesn't want his daughter competing against others using performance-enhancing drugs, compared the four players who testified in the trial to the defendant.
"I believe all the players that testified on the stand and came clean are the true heroes," said Steve, who like other jurors did not give his last name. "They finally said, 'Yeah, we took steroids all along and now we're coming clean. We're telling it the way it is.' I believe that there's one man that just couldn't do it because of who he is."
The conviction obviously is not something that casts a favorable light on Bonds' legacy, which includes his place atop the all-time homers list with 762, a record seven Most Valuable Player Awards and the distinction of being the only player ever to hit more than 500 homers and steal more than 500 bases.
If in fact Bonds is sentenced to the obstruction conviction, it's highly unlikely he'd serve prison time. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggest 15-21 months. More to the point, Judge Illston sentenced cyclist Tammy Thomas, convicted of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of giving false testimony to the BALCO grand jury, to six months of home confinement.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.