Sunday, April 17, 2011

It Depends What You Mean By Guilty

A federal jury found Barry Bonds--the greatest player of this, and perhaps any, era--guilty of obstructing justice by being evasive during his 2003 grand jury testimony.  A mistrial was declared on the remaining three counts.  Nevertheless, pending appeal, he is now a felon.

One juror, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name, Jessica, said she believed Mr. Bonds was "intentionally evasive" when he answered yes-and-no questions about steroid use with long, rambling responses about his childhood and other tangential matters.
"The whole grand jury testimony was a series of evasive answers," said another juror who gave his name as Steve.
When questioned about using a substance that wasn't banned by baseball at the time, Bonds should have availed himself of tried-and-true, historically sanctioned forms of perjury, such as "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is,' is."

Barring that, he might have resorted to the defense that "everybody does it," which would have been truer in the case of baseball players taking steroids than it was of husbands committing adultery.  His wife (if she's still talking to him) could have gone on TV to blame the entire affair on a "vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband from the day he announced his" intention to bulk up.  As an ultimate evasion, he could have blamed George Bush.

Noman realizes that steroid use among professional athletes is no laughing matter, unlike adultery and finger-wagging denials in the White House.  He also realizes that the world of sports, unlike the world of politics, requires the most punctilious honesty.  Barry should have accused himself on the witness stand.

Mr. Bonds may not be sentenced for a month or more. McGregor Scott, a former U.S. attorney in Sacramento who is now a criminal defense lawyer, said even though Mr. Bonds faces up to 10 years in prison, his sentence will likely be less than six months. "He could get probation," Mr. Scott said.
It was unclear how the verdict would affect the legacy of Mr. Bonds, who holds baseball's lifetime and single-season home-run records. He has already acknowledged taking a designer steroid and testosterone cream, though he said he didn't know what they were at the time he took them.

Barry can take solace from the knowledge that another professional athlete, linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges (in return for having murder charges dropped) in a case involving the stabbing deaths of two men in a fight after a Super Bowl party in 2000. In the following year's Super Bowl, Lewis was named the most valuable player.  Noman is certain that the incident won't be mentioned at Lewis's football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  The fate of Bond's candidacy to baseball's august institution is uncertain even though he stood head and shoulders above any and all of his contemporaries--or perhaps Noman should say, fellow juicers.

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