The trial for Barry Bonds' freedom is underway. Sovereignty is all he has left, really – that and his blood money. He pawned his name, dignity and legacy to chase a home-run record that drips with stink, and now that baseball has rid itself of him, he is the federal courts' problem.
Judge Susan Illston got another heady swallow Wednesday when she unsealed documents that outlined the prosecution's evidence and defense's attempts to suppress it as Bonds' trial on perjury and obstruction charges surges forward. Though the real fun begins Thursday – when Illston begins considering what to include and exclude – the sneak preview was a backstabbing, secret-tape-recording, legalese-laden, hearsay-dominated, steroid-filled bonanza.
Another circus for the freak.
Like Bonds could do it any other way. His hubris and narcissism, the same cocktail that drove him to pump his body full of performance-enhancing drugs, shone through that day on the grand-jury stand when the government alleges he lied about receiving steroids and human growth hormone from his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. And barring some miracle antidote, it will do the same over the course of the trial, because Barry Bonds – the same man who once dared the government to come after him – changes for no one.
Documents made public in the Barry Bonds perjury case:
The government's case against Bonds: 60-page PDF
Bonds' response to government allegations and evidence: 35-page PDF
Table of Bonds' drug tests: 71-page PDF
Bonds' blood analysis; Jim Valente testimony:
Come they have, with a pile of evidence that could illustrate Bonds knew exactly what he was ingesting. The government alleges Bonds' urine tested positive three times in 2000 and 2001 for the injectable steroid methenelone, with two of those tests showing traces of nandrolone. There are calendars outlining his alleged doping regimen; a covertly recorded conversation between Anderson and Bonds’ spurned business partner, Steve Hoskins; and handwritten notes from Anderson. It's not a thin case.
It is one hamstrung by Anderson's continued refusal to testify against Bonds, despite the government's bullying tactics. If that's not enough to torpedo the government's case, Bonds' lawyers are working every last angle to ensure the jury doesn't see a molecule of the evidence.
No one, the defense's argument goes, can vouch for the calendars' accuracy, and even so, they are just hearsay. The conversation with Hoskins was only hearsay, and just in case it wasn't, at no time does Anderson refer directly to Bonds. The notes: hearsay as well. And the tests are inadmissible, the defense claims, because James Valente,the BALCO vice president who delivered Bonds' urine and blood samples, did not work for the lab that handled them, and thus it's – you guessed it – hearsay that doesn't pass the threshold of admissibility.
One time, Valente told a grand jury, Anderson asked him to intentionally mislabel a blood sample of Bonds'.
"Barry," Valente explained, "wanted, you know, some privacy."
Remember, all Bonds needs is reasonable doubt and he can skate without turning his salutation into a compound adjective: home-run king and convicted felon.
Already, the prosecution's case is difficult. Without Anderson, who twice went to prison for declining to testify against Bonds, the government comes in significantly weaker. And the government apparently knows it. A week ago, 20 FBI and IRS agents raided the house of his mother-in-law, Madeleine Gestas. The alleged issue: tax troubles.
Can't say two dozen federal alphabets will kick down Tom Daschle's door anytime soon.
This is a dirty game. Though the government has one of sports' great villains in its scope – the big, bad steroid monster who overtook baseball's most sacred record – it will gouge eyes and pull hair. The defense, likewise, has all kinds of rabbits if its attempts to suppress the evidence fail: the revelation that one of the steroids Bonds allegedly ingested, the Clear, was actually legal at the time. Or the investigation into the methods of Jeff Novitzky, the lead agent on the BALCO case.
Of material ultimately is the simple question: Did Bonds lie to the grand jury? Did he lie when the prosecutor asked if he took steroids provided by Anderson and he responded, "Not that I know of." And when the prosecutor asked if Bonds obtained HGH from Anderson and he replied, "No." Or during Bonds' testimony that he thought the steroids the Cream and the Clear were arthritis balm and flaxseed oil, he claimed he had taken them "not until 2003."
The government's job – proving negatives to be false – is Brobdingnagian indeed. The burden for guilt is far higher than that for the public, which indicted, tried and crucified Bonds long before he passed Henry Aaron on the all-time homer list. For all the BALCO investigation's impact – it truly blew the lid off baseball's steroid era – its legacy is up for grabs.
Bonds is the white whale, on trial to prove a point that no one is above the law, not even one of the best baseball players – pre- and post-steroids – in history. It took three incarnations of the indictment, grand-jury hearings and a fair bit of hubris, too, to get Bonds this close to a new uniform.
Gone is everything of yesteryear, the cheers and boos, the home runs and strikeouts, the good and the bad of Bonds. He sacrificed everything so he could have 73 and 762, the two numbers no one else can claim, and it's got him here, wearing expensive suits and listening to people he doesn't know debating the future.
His future. His freedom.