MLB

Bonds trial amounts to witch hunt

FOXSports.com legal analyst Jeff Benz on the Bonds verdict.
FOXSports.com legal analyst Jeff Benz on the Bonds verdict.
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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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They ought to make T-shirts that read:

“My government spent three years, five months and $10 million and all they got was a silly little obstruction of justice conviction.’’

Barry Bonds

TAKE STOCK OF BONDS

From skinny rookie to baseball's home run king to convicted felon. See the slugger's life in pictures.

What a joke.

While they stumble their way through debates in Washington, D.C., over the economic perils of the country, the United States is wasting an estimated $10 million for its well-paid prosecutors to bungle a case against Barry Bonds and then try to claim a victory for failing to get a conviction on any of the four perjury charges.

The headlines read that Bonds was convicted, but that conviction is more worthy of an asterisk than the home run record Bonds set.

It almost seems as if the jury spent so much time listening to so much double talk that the 12 members felt like they had to agree on something just to prove they were listening.

So after one count of perjury was thrown out, the jury failed to reach a verdict on three other perjury charges, and settled on finding Bonds guilty of giving evasive and misleading answers.

Heck, he made a living out of that when he was playing baseball. Ask any member of the media who ever approached the sullen superstar. So this is suddenly news? Talk about a federal crime.

With the conviction, Bonds most likely will be handed down a sentence of community service and a fine. One would be hard-pressed to think Bonds would have to spend any time behind bars for the charge on which he was convicted.

But this whole thing does have the feel of a witch hunt about it, so anything is possible.

Understand, there is no defense for Bonds. Is there any breathing human being (other than Bonds, of course) who denies that he knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs in an effort to set baseball’s all-time home run record at 762, seven more than Hank Aaron hit in his career?

What also is fact is that Bonds feels no remorse for his actions.

Never has. Why start now?

This is a guy who at the age of 12 was such a nuisance that his father’s California Angels teammates asked then-Angels manager Dave Garcia to ban kids from the clubhouse so their kids wouldn't be exposed to the young Bonds.

In high school, he would sit in his van, listening to music, skipping his high school team’s batting practice. And when he was at Arizona State and was suspended from the team by coach Jim Brock, Mike Devereaux was his only teammate who voted in favor of reinstating Bonds to the team for the NCAA regional playoffs.

Bonds’ personality, however, has nothing to do with the headline-grabbing efforts of the prosecutors who wasted so much money putting together such a weak-kneed case against Bonds that the government had to settle for being thrown a bone by a jury looking for a way to justify its existence.

Let’s see, the prosecutors not only were unable to get Bonds’ personal trainer, Gary Anderson, to testify against them, but they had their own witnesses providing conflicting testimony.

There was Steve Hoskins on the witness stand testifying that he had more than 50 conversations with Dr. Arthur Ting, Bonds’ orthopedic surgeon, about Bonds using performance-enhancing drugs. And there was Ting denying he ever discussed Bonds and drugs with Hoskins.

Not only did that undermine Hoskins’ credibility, but it also left a cloud of doubt hovering over his sister Kathy, who was Bonds’ personal shopper and testified that she saw Anderson give Bonds a shot in his belly once.

Fact is, each of the prosecution’s witnesses easily could be written off as former associates of Bonds who had a vendetta against baseball’s home-run king.

The jurors who spoke after the verdict was reached admitted they did not have a great deal of faith in Bonds’ honesty, but they were just as dubious about the testimony of the government witnesses.

Barry Bonds

FALLS FROM GRACE

Plenty of athletes have committed epic career blunders. Check out the top sports star screwups.

And so now, with this papier-mâché conviction, there will be pundits who declare that Bonds has suffered the ultimate indignity and his name is mud, and his career has been exposed.

Puhleeze. Bonds did that to himself, long ago.

The only thing that came out of this multimillion dollar fiasco was that the federal prosecutors couldn’t prove what the public already knew.

And if that isn’t embarrassing enough, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag added the ultimate insult to taxpayers by letting it be known she and her cronies might waste more federal funds in the badgering of Bonds.

After a self-serving pat of herself on the back for the hollow conviction, Haag explained, “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.’’

Say, if any of those folks back in D.C. need any help in figuring out ways to whittle away at the budget, here’s a suggestion. Give Haag a call and tell her to zip it.

More than three years of time and $10 million of federal funds already have been wasted.

Enough.

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