Free Barry Bonds

On the phone with Randy Grossman, San Diego criminal defense attorney, Major League Baseball agent, former KNSD 7/39 TV sports reporter, and member of the adjunct faculty (teaching sports law) at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. We've been talking about the Barry Bonds Sports Illustrated cover story. I wanted to know if Bonds was in legal jeopardy.

Grossman says, "Potentially, he could be charged with perjury, based on comments he made under oath to the grand jury. He could also be charged with possession of, or use of, steroids, if those steroids are classified as being illegal. There is such public scrutiny now, and an outcry, but remember, steroids were just banned in Major League Baseball in the last couple of years."

"But, they were illegal to possess."

"Correct," Grossman says, "some of them. I'm not convinced Mark McGwire was using steroids that were illegal to possess."

"But, Bonds was."

"That's what they say," Grossman says. "We don't know what he was using. You have two reporters, as I understand it, who covered the whole BALCO investigation, and their claims. But, putting on my defense attorney hat, those claims are allegations. My understanding is that [San Francisco Chronicle reporters] have documents and this and that. Certainly, a reasonable inference could be drawn that Barry engaged in these activities, but it's still the United States of America, and everybody is innocent until proven guilty. A lot of the things you read in a book or in a newspaper are things that may not make it into evidence before a jury.

I ask, "Did you read the story's companion piece, 'The Documentation'?"

"I did not. Was it compelling?"

"For any reasonable person, there is no question that Bonds has been using illegal steroids for years." Silence. "Of course, no question in the civilian world is different than no question in the legal world."

"Exactly," Grossman says. "Those documents have to make it into evidence. Who obtained those documents? Apparently, grand jury testimony was leaked to the papers."

"Direct feeder line from courtroom to pressroom." Haven't seen anything like it since O.J.

"I try cases like that," Grossman says. "Everybody goes back to the O.J. Simpson case. Everybody felt the guy was guilty, but the jury didn't hear everything that had been in the media. We have rules of evidence and certain things are admissible and certain things are not."

Barry should be dancing in the streets. "If Bonds came into your office and said, 'I've got a problem, what should I do?' What would you advise?"

"I think he's being advised properly. He shouldn't be discussing an investigation. He certainly doesn't want to dig the hole any deeper. Eighty percent of the people I represent, who get convicted of something, it's usually because of their own statements. But, he needs to do some type of damage control, whether it's from his agent or his attorney.

"There's an outcry now for Commissioner Selig to appoint an independent investigator like John Dowd." Former federal prosecutor John Dowd was appointed by then-commissioner of baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti to investigate Pete Rose's alleged gambling jones. "You need some type of investigator to find out what's really there."

I say, "Selig said he isn't going to do anything until he reads the book, which won't be published until the end of the month. Doesn't seem Bud is in much of a hurry."

Grossman says, "I feel badly for the commissioner. He's campaigned for years to get this World Baseball Classic together. That's all being upstaged by Barry Bonds. I think the commissioner was hoping this would take a backseat until after the World Baseball Classic because the more you talk about it, the more it stays in the public eye.

"According to these [Chronicle] authors, Bonds started [using] in 1998. Look how many MVP awards -- he has seven of them -- how many did he win before that? The 73 home runs, you still have to have the eye, the coordination, and everything else. I'd be the first one to tell you, representing Hall of Fame baseball players as I have, and they will tell you too, 'Drugs are wrong; steroids, whatever, it's not part of the game. These guys should be banned. It's bad for you, it's cheating, it's unfair.' But, Bonds is still a heck of a baseball player even before he did any of that stuff."

Whoa. "There were millions of dollars at stake. 'If I can take the home-run record, my earnings will increase by tens of millions over the length of my career.' That is theft."

"I think you're right, there, but I don't know with Barry...not that I know him that well. He made an incredible amount of money before breaking the home-run record. He had an incredible amount of fame before breaking the home-run record."

"But, he wanted more and he was willing to cheat to get it."

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