Feb. 3, 2009 is a day that 99-year-old spinster Sally Bate will always remember despite witnessing almost 10 decades of history. She saw soldiers return home from World War I, the Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, astronauts landing on the moon, the building and tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the Red Sox win five World Series, 9/11 and a black president…she has seen crew cuts, hippies and mullets, horses and buggies and cars breaking the sound barrier.
But she never had seen anything like this: She was getting her morning cup of tea ready when she glanced in the backyard of her modest two-bedroom home to see her dog, Chester, being restrained by federal agents while other agents were crammed into her pet’s doghouse.
It took a moment to dawn on her that she was the subject of a federal raid; no sooner had she realized this when her front door came crashing in and her living room was swarming with agents and local police brandishing guns with the canine unit in tow.
It was the culmination of a days-long investigation—and an embarrassing gaffe by the IRS and the DEA.
When queried, a red faced Jeff Novitzky of the IRS stammered that it was an honest mistake.
What had occurred was this—in the ongoing investigation into perjury charges against former San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, Novitzky had heard rumors of a backyard lab involving Barry Bonds and an associate of Bonds’ trainer and friend Greg Anderson.
However, Bate’s “association” with Anderson was that she was his nursery school teacher back in 1969.
Novitzky had tapes from wiretaps of Bate’s phone where she repeatedly referred to “Barry Bonds,” plus mentioning her “lab in the backyard,” a reference to “that big black S.O.B. gets bigger every time I see him” as well as a passing remark about “bettering Hank Aaron.” Once the link with Anderson was confirmed through local Board of Education records, the agent wasted little time in coordinating a raid of the woman’s home hoping to find evidence to convict Bonds of perjury and pressure Anderson into testifying against him at the upcoming March trial.
When interrogated, Bate had little recollection of Anderson save that he was “an odd kid” and she’d never seen any child try to get other children to try what he referred to as “Flintstones Injectables.” The feds realized their mistake when she told Novitzky that the wiretap in question was her complaining to her neighbor that Chester was ruining her yard since he would continually bury bones there.
Novitzky played the tape and Bate is heard saying “Oh mercy me, I’m still having problems with my lab in the backyard. Yeah, him—the big black S.O.B. gets bigger every time I see him, every day it‘s the same dad-blasted problem—bury bones, bury bones, bury bones.” When asked to explain the comment about “bettering Hank Aaron” a flustered Bate replied “My neighbor said she could smell that I was baking tarts and I told her I was because I had a butter-pecan hankerin‘.”
“It’s an honest mistake—all the pieces were there; Anderson, the lab, the big black S.O.B. the works!” said an initially shaken Novitzky. “How can anybody expect me to tell the difference whether somebody is saying ‘bury bones’ or ‘Barry Bonds’—dammit, I’m a federal agent and not a phonics professor.”
Bate is considering litigation after showing the press the cuts and contusions she received during the interrogation process while simultaneously claiming the dog was traumatized by the experience as well and complaining that those that raided her home not only completely ruined her front door but didn’t wipe their feet before they came in or let her get fully dressed before being questioned. “Land sakes, they wouldn‘t even let a body get a shawl on.”
Novitzky disputes her claims about the interrogation and that the canine was in any way affected, stating: “She’s a spinster for God’s sake, it’s probably the first time she’s ever been touched by a man so she’s probably a little confused when it finally occurred. Besides, if she sues, she ought to take some of that money and get the stupid thing neutered—my knee still hurts and who is going to pay for my dry cleaning bill? I also think she should take a good look at herself in the mirror—she admits involvement with Anderson which links her to Bonds and when you become entangled with those kinds of people bad things are going to happen to you. Ms. Bate ought to simply chalk it up to hard experience and take a lesson away from all this.”
The IRS agent appeared visibly pleased with the cheers of Bate’s neighbours and assembled media when the situation was put into that context.
Novitzky also urged perspective, maintaining that they should all bear in mind who really is responsible “I don’t know how Barry (Bonds) can live with himself knowing all the suffering he is causing by not coming clean—look at what this poor woman suffered because of him; her outward bruises will heal but the scars on her psyche never will and he’ll have to be held accountable for that. This whole mess could have been avoided had he confessed right from the beginning instead of costing the taxpayers tens of million of dollars.
“At the very least Bonds should get prison time, at least for that nasty personality. Society needs protected from big-headed liars. I haven’t ruled out getting the Department of Homeland Security involved—I view him as that big a threat to the well being of our great nation. Osama can wait,” he added to thunderous applause and spontaneous outbreaks of “God Bless America.”
However, the attorney for the Bate family was indignant with the federal agents, stating that even the Mafia spares the Whippets and Chow Chows.
While regretting the misunderstanding, Novitzky was confident that the public would understand that when doing God’s work, some collateral damage is to be expected: “Ms. Bate will sleep better at night knowing that if a ballplayer is nasty to the media, the government will hunt them down like dogs and spare no expense in putting them behind bars.”
Novitzky was escorted to his car on the shoulders of the local citizenry.
Bonds’ trial date for facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges is March 2.