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Thursday, January 29, 2009
20 Agents?If the case against Barry Bonds was as good as everyone says it is, why are the feds scorching the Earth in order to try and get the testimony of someone they've know ain't talking for years?
FBI and IRS agents raided the home of Greg Anderson’s mother-in-law Wednesday in what Anderson’s attorney said was a tactic to ratchet up the pressure on his client to testify for the government in the upcoming Barry Bonds perjury trial. Mark Geragos, Anderson’s attorney, said 20 IRS and FBI agents raided the Redwood City, Calif., home of Madeleine Gestas, the mother of Greg Anderson’s wife . . .
Bonds did steroids. I think he probably also lied about it. That doesn't change the fact that the way in which the feds have handled this case represents a serious misallocation of scarce prosecutorial resources at best, an abuse of prosecutorial power at worst.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 7:45am
The Common Man said...
Eww. This story makes me feel queasy. Worse yet, it’s making me start to feel bad for people who willingly associate with Barry Bonds. And twenty agents? Aren’t there better uses for that many people? Like investigating alien abductions or government conspiracies (everything I know about the FBI, I learned from watching X-Files)? Someone tell the Obama administration that we’ve identified a wasteful and ineffective government program ready for the chopping block. Craig, how long is this prosecutor going to be able to continue his case? Does his “term” as a federal prosecutor ever expire?
Posted 01/29 at 09:45 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
U.S Attorneys typically serve at the pleasure of the president and tend to be replaced when a new administration comes in. That said, it’s not typical to see pending cases—especially cases close to trial as is this one—dropped upon a change of command unless there is a clear political shift on the underlying issue that renders the prosecution anathema to the new presidents policies. I don’t think that applies here inasmuch as Obama has not, much to my chagrin, pledged to stop the War on Drugs.
As for a continuance: they get granted all of the time for any number of reasons, but the closer you get to trial, the less likely it is that the case will be kicked. Also, requests for continuances tend to be better received if it’s, you know, for a good reason. Like say, there are 100,000 pagaes of documents still to be reviewed and it’s not physically possible to do it in time. Or because the key witness will be out of the country for his long-planned wedding or something.
If I was the judge and the prosecutor came to me and said that he needed more time because he can’t convince a witness who has done more than a year in prison for contempt to testify, I’d tell him to either try his case or drop it.
Posted 01/29 at 09:51 AM
Agreed, TCM: time for Obama to get out that scalpel.
Posted 01/29 at 10:46 AM
I hope the feds go after some of these Wall Street folks with the same vigor.
Posted 01/29 at 03:12 PM
Jack Marshall said...
I don’t understand your theory. Until Bonds is proven guilty in a court and punished, he will stand as an example that you can cheat, lie, cover up, and make millions, break records, and suffer no adverse consequences whatsoever. Until he is nailed, a substantial number of misguided fans will defend him as a victim. Lying to a grand jury is a serious offense. Impeding a federal investigation is a serious offense. High-profile celebrity drug-users are poison to the culture. Were you this indignant over Scooter Libby?
I’m a former prosecutor. If there was no probable cause for the raid, then it was illegal and unethical. But if there was independent probable cause for the raid, and it seems there was, the fact that its potential use to pressure a witness may have tipped the scales in favor of doing it doesn’t bother me at all, and I don’t see why it bothers you. The reason this matter is protracted is that Bonds keeps lying and his drug dealer/trainer/buddy refuses to testify.
Your solution is to let them get away with it. I don’t see it.
Posted 01/30 at 12:38 PM
“I hope the feds go after some of these Wall Street folks with the same vigor. “
No kidding. We basically print money to save these failing banks, then the banks go on to give out some of the largest bonuses in their history, while not lending the money out as they were supposed to do. And we still care about a guy that might have lied about taking steroids in order to hit a few more HRs…...hello? Do we have any priorities?
I’d like to know the final number on government spending for this steroids witch hunt that has been going on for what, 5 years now? How hard is it to just tell MLB to implement a testing program or we revoke the anti-trust exemption, and just let it go. The whole thing was circus from day 1.
Posted 01/30 at 02:59 PM
Craig Calcaterra said...
“Until Bonds is proven guilty in a court and punished, he will stand as an example that you can cheat, lie, cover up, and make millions, break records, and suffer no adverse consequences whatsoever.”
I wasn’t aware that he was on trial for using drugs or breaking baseball’s rules. I certainly hope the U.S. Attorney isn’t using this prosecution for those purposes, because I find that to be a misuse of scarce prosecutorial resources.
As for the lying and covering up, I wasn’t aware that that had been judged already. We all have our opinions about that—I think he probably did lie under oath, but it’s possible that he was as dumb as his defense claims he was—but I have a hard time calling for damnation before a jury has had a chance to weight the evidence.
“Until he is nailed, a substantial number of misguided fans will defend him as a victim. Lying to a grand jury is a serious offense. Impeding a federal investigation is a serious offense. High-profile celebrity drug-users are poison to the culture. Were you this indignant over Scooter Libby?”
I don’t think he’s a victim. If anyone is, I think Greg Anderson’s family and whoever else IRS and FBI special agents are harassing are in order to persuade people to testify are victims. And I don’t disagree with you that lying to a grand jury is a serious offense. I just don’t believe that it is an offense so serious that it justifies a $50M+ (and growing) prosecution and the use of 20 agents to raid a middle aged lady’s home in order to accomplish the job. Indeed, to the extent Bonds’ prosecution is so expensive and so exceptional, it blunts the deterrent effect that the government could reasonably claim is the point of all of this (see my latest post for my argument about that). If deterrents aren’t the point, what is?
“I’m a former prosecutor. If there was no probable cause for the raid, then it was illegal and unethical. But if there was independent probable cause for the raid, and it seems there was, the fact that its potential use to pressure a witness may have tipped the scales in favor of doing it doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t see why it bothers you.”
I don’t have a law enforcement background, but I have worked with the criminal justice system enough to where I believe that it’s possible to reach the limits of prosecutorial discretion before you reach the land of ethical violations. Certainly as an ethicist you understand the notion that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Tell me honestly: if Anderson’s mother-in-law was your run of the mill tax cheat, would there be a raid involving 20 agents filling a U-Haul with documents? Of course there wouldn’t. There would be an audit, a subpoena, and eventually a nice friendly prosecution. I have a serious problem, however, with law enforcement making an example out of someone in order to intimidate someone else, and that is exactly what this was deigned to do. Call me naive, but I would hope that the idea of government officials auditing and raiding people in retaliation for something else died out with Hoover and Nixon.
“The reason this matter is protracted is that Bonds keeps lying and his drug dealer/trainer/buddy refuses to testify.”
If Bonds lied (and like I said, I think he probably did) he did so in the course of the grand jury testimony many years ago. What additional lies are you referring to? Certainly you don’t mean his refusal to admit he lied since then, right? As for Anderson, he has done over a year in jail. Maybe he has been ill-advised by counsel. Maybe Barry Bonds has promised him millions in exchange for his silence. I have no idea (if the latter and there is proof, that should be prosecuted too, but the way, but we really don’t know anything about that).
When you’re the prosecutor, however, a witness is either available or unavailable. If he is unavailable for illegitimate reasons (i.e. ignoring a subpoena) he should be punished within the context of the law, as Anderson has and as he probably will be again when he refuses to testify at trial. What should not happen, however, is for the government to engage in an intimidation campaign against friends and family members.
Maybe my opinion of all of this would be different if we were talking about a RICO case or a terrorist case or something. If the stakes were higher, that would probably justify greater force being brought to bear.
But the stakes aren’t that high. No matter how much you hate Barry Bonds and want to turn this into a referendum on performance enhancing drugs, this is a simple perjury case, and I would hope and expect that my tax dollars and the police power of the state were being used in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the charged offense.
Posted 01/30 at 07:55 PM
Jack Marshall said...
Yes, Bonds hasn’t been judged in court. In the court of common sense, based on the evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, he has been judged guilty of using PED’s. You said so yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with coming to an obvious conclusion.
He will be tried for perjury, in connection with obstructing a federal investigation. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to call this a simple perjury prosecution, any more than the prosecution of Scooter Libby or Martha Stewart were. The prosecution of Al Capone was not a simple tax prosecution either. I do believe that Bonds is being prosecuted in part because of his alleged drug use. I do not necessarily agree with that prosecutorial tactic (going after someone for one offense because you can’t prove another), but it has a long tradition.
I have a basic problem with the argument that if an offender makes it sufficiently burdensome to prosecute, then the prosecutor is obliged to drop the case, That was one of the core arguments against the Whitewater investigation too. I think that is unsupportable. Bonds and Anderson are the reason this matter has dragged out, and to say that if you have enough resources and can spend enough to make your prosecution costly, the prosecution is obligated to stop, is to make crime a rich man’s playground.
The published comments of Bonds’ lawyer were cleverly phrased to allow him to credibly deny it, but when he said, “I sure hope Barry takes care of him (Anderson),” that was a pretty clear indication of what was going on.
I do not hate Barry Bonds. I do hate the set of values he stands for, the cynicism he has created, and fact that he has successfully achieved his selfish goals through dishonesty. As long as he continues to maintain his charade as a clean, put-upon hitter who did not use PED’s to succeed, he is in the midst of a continuous lie, a harmful and divisive one. Do I expect him to admit the truth? Of course not. It would still be the right thing to do.
Posted 01/30 at 08:56 PM
Craig Calcaterra said...
The indictment was brought in late 2007, and it was a bad indictment that had to be redone twice. That’s the prosecution’s fault, and they brought the bad indictment after having three years or so to put it together. I don’t see what Bonds has done to drag this out at all. Yes, we can suspect that Bonds is behind Anderson’s refusal to testify, but those are some pretty serious charges, and I’m not prepared to lodge them against Bonds absent something more than the application of Occam’s Razor.
As to your main point, I don’t think the government should have simply dropped its case against Bonds. Indeed, I’m fine with them bringing it in theory. I’m simply dubious that a prosecution regarding a couple of hours worth of testimony required the level of investigation that has gone into it, and I disapprove of the heavy handed tactics being used to try and get Anderson to testify.
Posted 01/30 at 09:15 PM
Jack Marshall said...
Craig, I do admire your objectivity. Undoubtedly, the degree of resources being devoted to nailing Bonds is excessive, and you have it exactly correc: it doesn’t amount to a Rule 3.8 violation, but that doesn’t make it right. I admit that my focus is Bonds. He doesn’t deserve any sympathy if an excessive effort nails him for perjury he is eventually proven to have committed. And personally, I’ll be very glad to see, if it comes to that, a legal verdict that says, once and for all, Barry Bonds used PEDs,knew it, and has been lying all along. And I think that verdict will have many good results. Enough to justify the prosecutorial excess? Probably not.
But even when we legitimately condemn the means to achieve a result, one can still be happy with that result.
Posted 01/31 at 04:25 PM