If Barry Bonds’ sentencing, scheduled at 2 p.m. ET on Friday, hinged on fame, baseball’s all-time home run champ would be in serious danger of serving some jail time.
Lesser BALCO figures sentenced on charges similar to Bonds’ single count of obstruction — from elite cyclist Tammy Thomas to former defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield — received no time behind bars and federal probation officials are only recommending probation and home confinement for Bonds.
Judge Susan Illston, however, isn’t bound by her past sentencing decisions, and one follower of the eight-year-long investigation thinks there’s at least the possibility Bonds could see time behind bars.
“There’s a very good chance,” said Peter Keane, dean emeritus of the Golden Gate University Law School. “There’s such a big distinction when it comes to Bonds. She has to set some kind of example for a guy some still look up to as a great hero.”
Bonds was convicted on a single count of obstruction of justice in April as a jury at his trial in federal court in San Francisco failed to reach a verdict on three perjury counts; prosecutors decided against pursuing a new trial on those charges.
Thomas was found guilty of multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, while former track coach Trevor Graham was convicted of a single count of lying to investigators in the first two BALCO trials. Neither received jail time as Illston opted instead of combination of home confinement and probation. Stubblefield, who took a plea deal, received only probation.
“Thomas’ conviction prevented her from becoming a lawyer since you can’t have a federal felony conviction and practice law,” Keane said. “Graham came from a hardscrabble background. Both are having a hard time even making a living because of their involvement in BALCO.
Contrast that to Bonds who is a millionaire living in comfort. What’s his punishment? That fact he’s not going to the Hall of Fame?”
BALCO founder Victor Conte (four months) and Bonds’ friend and former personal trainer Greg Anderson (three months) were the only figures who served jail time solely for their connection to BALCO, both for distribution of steroids. (Anderson also served several months in jail for contempt as he refused to testify against Bonds.) Former track star Marion Jones received six months in prison, although the conviction was in New York and more tied to her involvement in a check-writing scam.
“Barry Bonds is an usual person and sentencing can be a little hard to predict,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond (Va.) School of Law. “Still, there’s doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason she has to change her approach.”
Federal prosecutors are asking for a 15-month prison term for Bonds, but Conte told FOXSports.com Illston will likely opt for the probation and house arrest route.
“I’m guessing he’ll get six months of home detention and two years probation,” Conte said. “
Conte said Bonds won’t be confined totally to his house if he gets a period of home confinement. When he received four month of home detention on top of his jail time, Conte was allowed work privileges that allowed him to attend to his sports supplement business, SNAC, six days a week. Those on home confinement are also often allowed to attend church for a few hours on Sunday.
“I don’t know what Bonds considers work, but he could work on his foundation and visit kids in hospitals,” Conte said. “I think he’ll make the best use of his time.”