Friday, November 16, 2007
Barry Bonds indicted
Barry Lamar Bonds (born July 24, 1964 in Riverside, California) is an American left fielder who is a free agent of Major League Baseball. He is the son of former major league All-Star Bobby Bonds, the godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, and a distant cousin of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. He debuted in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and joined the San Francisco Giants in 1993, where he stayed through 2007. Giants management has stated that he will not be with the team for the 2008 season, and Bonds filed for free agency following the 2007 World Series.
Bonds holds the all-time Major League Baseball home run record with 762, after surpassing Hank Aaron's career mark of 755 in a game against the Washington Nationals on August 7, 2007. He is also the all-time career leader in both walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). He holds numerous other records, including the single-season Major League record for home runs (73), set in 2001, and a record seven Most Valuable Player awards.
Since 2003, Bonds has been a key figure in the BALCO scandal. He was under investigation by a federal grand jury regarding his testimony in the BALCO case, and was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges on November 15, 2007. The indictment alleges that Bonds lied while under oath about his use of steroids.
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Barry Bonds Indicted
Home Run King facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges
Baseball star Barry Bonds faces perjury charges, 30 years in prison
US baseball home run king Barry Bonds was indicted for lying to investigators about using steroids, justice officials said after making charges that can send Bonds to prison for 30 years.
The controversial slugger faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges for statements made during a grand jury hearing into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) scandal, the California Department of Justice said Thursday.
Without detailing the evidence they plan to present, justice officials for the first time declared that Bonds has tested positive for anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances.
That could lead to Bonds being stripped of the US home run milestone he set earlier this year, although Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig gave no hint about that prospect in a statement.
"I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely," Selig said. "It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known.
"We will continue to work diligently to eradicate the use of all illegal performance-enhancing substances from the game."
The 43-year-old outfielder broke Major League Baseball's all-time homer mark 100 days ago, hitting his 756th homer to pass Hank Aaron before finishing on 762 after a chase that saw Bonds jeered everywhere but his home ballpark here.
Critics said the milestone was tainted because of the doping allegations hanging over Bonds and the San Francisco Giants would not offer Bonds a contract for next season, leaving him a free agent when the indictments came.
"This is a very sad day," the Giants said in a statement. "For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era.
"These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
Bonds now faces four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to investigators in the BALCO case.
Bonds will have a plea hearing on December 7, when potentially a trial date will be set for a 2008 legal case that could become the blockbuster trial BALCO never had thanks to plea deals for those deepest involved the case.
"Bonds is charged with knowingly and wilfully making false material statements, regarding his use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances while under oath," the state Justice Department said.
The maximum sentence for perjury is five years on each charge while the maximum term for obstruction of justice is 10 years.
An interesting dynamic of a trial would be how a jury of San Franciscans would regard Bonds, who was a hero to some and villain to many.
Bonds had immunity from prosecution for everything except perjury when he testified to the BALCO grand jury on December 4, 2003. He allegedly lied to investigators several times by denying he took performance-enhancing drugs.
The BALCO scandal has already implicated several top athletes in baseball and track including US sprint stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and baseball stars Jason Giambi and Garry Sheffield.
Bonds, who has denied knowingly taking steroids, also set a single-season mark of 73 homers in 2001, before the major leagues began testing for steroids.
"There has been an effort to get Barry for a long time," Bonds attorney Michael Rains said. "I'm curious to see what evidence they have now that they didn't have before.
"It goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these charges in court."
The bad news for Bonds came as Alex Rodriguez, who has 518 career homers and is expected to challenge Bonds' homer mark in the coming decade, agreed to the outline of a 10-year deal to remain with the New York Yankees.
Also Thursday, long-time Bonds trainer Greg Anderson -- one of five men convicted in the BALCO scandal -- was ordered by a federal judge to be released from prison.
Anderson had served his BALCO sentence but was being kept behind bars for 13 months for refusing to testify against Bonds to the grand jury which had been investigating the player for lying to the BALCO grand jury.
Mark Geragos, Anderson's attorney, said his client had not cooperated with authorities but was released after charges were filed because his testimony was not needed to produce enough evidence to bring charges.
In the book "Game of Shadows," written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Bonds is reported to have started using performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, becoming jealous of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire chasing the one-season all-time homer mark that Bonds himself would later eclipse.
Barry Bonds Indicted in Steroids Probe
San Francisco Giants Slugger Barry Bonds Charged Thursday With Perjury, Obstructing Justice
Barry Bonds, baseball's home run king, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could face prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment, culminating a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes, charged Bonds with four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Shortly after the indictment was handed up, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released after spending most of the past year in prison for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment said.
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that this milestone was stained by steroids.
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said.
Bonds finished the year with 762 homers, seven more than Aaron, and is currently a free agent. In 2001, he set the season record with 73 home runs.
Late in the season, the San Francisco Giants told the seven-time National League MVP they didn't want him back next year.
Bonds could not immediately be reached for comment. One of his attorneys, John Burris, didn't know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press and said he would call Bonds to notify him.
"I'm surprised," Burris said, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Bonds' defense attorney, Mike Rains, declined comment because he hadn't seen a copy of the indictment.
"However, it goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these unsupported charges in court," Rains said. "We will no doubt have more specific comments in the very near future once we have had the opportunity to actually see this indictment that took so long to generate."
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.
Bonds has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids.
The White House quickly weighed in on the indictment.
"The president is very disappointed to hear this," Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said. "As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
Bush, who once owned the Texas Rangers, called Bonds to congratulate him in August when the Giants' outfielder broke the home run mark. "You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record," Bush said at the time.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating drug use in baseball, declined comment. So did Hall of Fame vice president Jeff Idelson.
Bonds was charged in the indictment with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson. Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury that indicted Bonds.
"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
Prosecutors promised Bonds they wouldn't charge him with any drug-related counts if he testified truthfully. But according to the indictment, Bonds repeatedly denied taking any steroids or performance-enhancing drugs despite evidence to the contrary.
For instance, investigators seized a so-called "doping calendar" labeled "BB" during a raid of Anderson's house.
"He could know other BBs," Bonds replied when shown the calendar during his testimony.
Asked directly if Anderson supplied him with steroids, Bonds answered: "Not that I know of." Bonds even denied taking steroids when he was shown documents revealing a positive steroids test for a player named Barry B.
Bonds said at the end of the 2003 season, Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover. Anderson also gave him something he called "flax seed oil," Bonds said.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson -- which the indictment alleges was a lie because the doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds became the highest-profile figure caught up in the government investigation, launched in 2002, with the raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) - the Burlingame-based supplements lab that was the center of a steroids distribution ring.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he'd bulked up to more than 240 pounds -- his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year.
Bonds indicted on perjury, obstruction charges
HR king could face prison instead of Hall of Fame for lying to grand jury
The home run king wasn’t home free after all.
Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could go to prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment came just three months after the San Francisco Giants star broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record, and it culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
But for all the speculation and accusations that clouded his pursuit of Aaron, Bonds was never identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids, and personal trainer Greg Anderson spent most of the last year in jail for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
Then came the indictment — four counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice; a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison — and Bonds’ lawyers seemed caught off guard.
The 10-page report mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds’ December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
“I’m surprised,” said one of his lawyers, John Burris, “but there’s been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I’m curious what evidence they have now they didn’t have before.”
Burris said he didn’t know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would call Bonds to notify him.
Anderson was released from prison after the indictment was handed up and refused comment as he walked out.
Anderson was ordered released from prison shortly after the indictment was handed up, but his attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn’t cooperate with the grand jury.
“This indictment came out of left field,” Geragos said. “Frankly, I’m aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn’t go forward without him.”
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.
Defense attorney Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction. At an evening news conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of “unethical misconduct” and declined to take questions.
“Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn’t know if waterboarding is torture and can’t tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other,” Rains said.
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds became the career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that the milestone was stained by steroids.
“This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period,” Bonds said.
But while San Franciscans cheered his every swing and fans elsewhere scorned every homer, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on its report.
“During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes,” the indictment said.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
The Giants, the players’ union and even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
“This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law,” the Giants said.
Union head Donald Fehr said he was “saddened” to learn of the indictment, but cautioned that “every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: “The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball.”
Barry Bonds hits Homerun 722
Bonds could still play despite indictment
We don't know if Barry Bonds will be convicted. We don't know if Barry Bonds will go to prison. We don't know if Barry Bonds will get to the Hall of Fame.
Here's something we do know: His indictment Thursday may not keep baseball's greatest home run hitter off the field next season.
The charges against Bonds in a steroids investigation certainly darken the shadow over the game's most storied record. They definitely give fans a further reason to shout about drugs.
As for hurting his job prospects? Not likely.
Be it a top-name slugger — say, Jason Giambi — or a middle reliever — as in, Guillermo Mota — the taint of scandal has hardly ever stopped anyone from playing. Especially if they keep producing.
Sammy Sosa got another chance. So did Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Dave Parker and Keith Hernandez. Even Steve Howe got another try after being suspended seven times, including once for life.
About the only one who never made it back was Rafael Palmeiro. He tested positive, but did something far worse in many players' eyes — he implicated a teammate.
At 43, Bonds can still play. He hit 28 home runs last season and reached base 48% of the time, the best mark in the majors.
With those numbers, the indictment won't make him a pariah. Instead, it's more likely to merely lower his price.
"It stinks for him, you know," former Giants teammate Steve Kline said. "I don't feel happy for it. It's bad for baseball. The witch hunt was out there for a long time. They were trying to get him on anything. I feel bad for Barry and his family."
Sure, the San Francisco Giants told Bonds late in the season that they didn't want him back next year. Go add to your 762 home runs somewhere else, they said.
But in a way, being a free agent now could help Bonds. A lot. Consider this: If no team bids on him, the players' union could well file a costly collusion grievance against all 30 clubs.
"I'm not a legal expert or a legal analyst, but there's a big bull's-eye on Barry Bonds just for the fact that he is as good as he is," Mets star David Wright said Thursday night.
"He's one of the premier players to ever play the game. Obviously, everywhere Barry Bonds goes there's going to be criticism. I'm a big fan of Barry. I have Barry's autograph," he said.
Bonds made $19.3 million this year with a contract that included a provision that would've allowed the Giants to terminate it had he been indicted. Clearly, any team that signs him for next season would put in protection against Bonds missing time for court appearances or prison.
Because of baseball's complex rules and arbitration decisions, commissioner Bud Selig's options are far more limited than the NFL's Roger Goodell, who's had to deal with Michael Vick's federal indictment on dogfighting charges.
The NFL told Vick to stay away from the Atlanta Falcons training camp before he even suspended him. That doesn't work in baseball — either a player is suspended or he's not.
If Selig does penalize Bonds, the union would have a decent chance to overturn it. Going back to a 1980 case involving future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, it generally takes a conviction, not just an indictment, for discipline to hold up.
Bonds is set to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7. A trial would likely be months away.
So that leaves any team free to sign him, particularly any AL club that needs a designated hitter.
Like many fans, 91-year-old Julia Ruth Stevens hopes it gets sorted out soon so the focus gets back to the field. She's Babe Ruth's daughter, by the way.
"I don't think anything like this is good for baseball," she said. "It casts a shadow. I hope it will all be ironed out and taken care of before spring training starts so people will just forget about it and we can just play ball."
Mixed reaction to Bonds' indictment in Bay Area
The Giants weren't gleeful on Thursday, in part no doubt because their history with Barry Bonds, besides sometimes being acrimonious, controversial and wearying was one of the most lucrative ever to go on the books in professional sports.
To that end, the news that Bonds had been indicted by a federal grand jury was met with a muted official response from his former longtime employer, the organization collectively intoning, "We look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
And behind the scenes?
Nobody's walking around dancing on his grave," said one team official. "But there are some people very happy that he's not ours to deal with right now."
Indeed, privately there was an almost palpable sense of relief in the Giants' front offices -- not that Bonds now faces criminal charges of perjury and obstruction related to his grand jury testimony in the BALCO case, but that the San Francisco club no longer must answer to every twist of the story. The team's decision not to entertain a new contract for Bonds, baseball's all-time home run leader, was made barely two months before the indictment that now has Bonds on track for a court appearance on Dec. 7.
In reality, though, the Giants lived with the prospect of a Bonds indictment for the last several years of the player's 15-season tenure with the club. Moreover, the slugger's entire chase of Henry Aaron's career home run record went down a path strewn with allegations, leaked courtroom testimony and the book "Game of Shadows," which painted a devastating portrait of Bonds as a drug cheat and a liar.
In an interview in his office early in the 2007 season, Giants owner Peter Magowan made reference to the possibility that Bonds could be indicted at any point during the year -- one reason, the owner said, that the club was trying to move forcefully to a new team model based on pitching and defense. Bonds, at that point, was perceived as both a physical and a legal risk. But the upside lay in the obvious: his continued pursuit of Aaron's record, part of a dramatic arc of crowd-drawing performances in San Francisco that many believe gave the franchise the confidence to open AT&T Park seven years ago as a privately financed venture.
The value of Bonds in that equation is almost impossible to calculate, though his salary soared to $20 million annually at one point and was set at just below $16 million for 2007, this despite a recent history of injury and the looming federal investigation. The Giants, meanwhile, have drawn more than three million customers to AT&T Park in each of their eight seasons there, in large measure because Bonds was for most of those seasons a fixture -- and lightning rod -- in the lineup.
Once Bonds passed Aaron's 755-homer total last summer, though, there appeared little question that the foundering Giants would sever their relationship with him. As several members of the organization privately noted, the slugger's presence had by 2007 come to divide even loyal Giants fans into strong anti- and pro-Bonds factions, and many felt that the team's recent efforts to build around Bonds had hampered the club's long-term prospects.
Thursday, as news of Bonds' indictment spread rapidly around the Bay Area, the reactions from fans were predictably just as mixed, with heated rhetoric filling radio airwaves and the "comment" section of SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site. ("Witch hunt," one poster simply declared, while another wrote, "If only Bonds* would have done the right thing all along, we wouldn't have had to be bombarded with all this crap.")
In their official statement, the Giants appeared to put as much distance between themselves and Bonds as safely possible: "This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
Magowan did not personally comment on the player who represented his first superstar signing, after an ownership group led by Magowan spared the Giants from a move to Tampa-St. Petersburg in 1992. Clearly, the man Magowan chose as the face of the club ultimately led the Giants through periods of both torment and celebration.
How Bonds will be recalled in San Francisco remains an open question. But the more immediate issue might be what kind of jury reception will await him in San Francisco, should he choose to go to fight the federal charges.
"Any time you have a jury in the equation, you don't know," said Howard Frank, a San Diego-based criminal defense attorney who has represented professional athletes. "And the one thing you can say is that, in San Francisco -- as opposed to L.A. or New York or somewhere else -- Barry has probably his best chance of getting some jurors who are sympathetic."