The Barry Bonds trial and the ten year BALCO investigation more or less came to a close Friday afternoon as Judge Susan Illston sentenced Barry Bonds for his conviction on an obstruction of justice charge. There will be an appeal of the sentence, but for all intents and purposes, this long saga has come to an end.
Eight months after a jury found Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice and was deadlocked on three counts of perjury, the US government attorneys and Barry Bonds' attorneys convened one last time in Courtroom 10 of the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. In a case that was marred by bickering between the two sides, it was fitting that there was one last contentious moment to close the trial.
Prior to this final hearing, the United States Probation Office submitted a pre-sentence report with an assessment of the facts of the case and a suggested sentence of 15-21 months probation with a short period of house arrest, community service and a fine. Both sides filed their own subsequent sentencing memoranda with their suggested sentence. Bonds' attorneys agreed with the pre-sentence report while the government attorneys asked for 15 months in prison.
Judge Susan Illston provided both sides with an opportunity to present a final statement as to the sentence before she made her ruling. Bonds' attorneys declined the opportunity, other than to request a chance for rebuttal if the government had a statement to make. And of course, the government had plenty to say.
Unfortunately, none of what the government said was particularly applicable. AUSA Matthew Parrella addressed Judge Illston and proceeded to discuss why the government believed Bonds deserved to spend time in prison. Their argument focused on the serious nature of his crime and the fact that he was not repentant. They specifically focused on the intentional nature of his crimes and the plotted-out nature of them.
Of course, the crime for which he was sentenced involved nothing related to intentional evasiveness or lying. He was cleared of the more intentional charges. Whether that makes him innocent or guilty in the eyes of the American public is besides the point, and Judge Illston specifically stated that. Whatever anybody thinks of Bonds in a baseball context or just as a human being had nothing to do with the sentence she was going to impose. She was imposing a sentence based on the charge for which he was convicted.
The government's insistence on rehashing irrelevant details followed the pattern of the entire trial in which they seemed to believe that if one says something enough, eventually it has to be true. Given that the BALCO investigation began a decade ago and the subsequent prosecutions have lasted over four years, it is not surprising that the government has acted they way that they have, even as the case comes to a close. A decade after Trevor Graham first made the USADA aware of "the clear" and the investigations began, it has all ended with a whimper.
At the end of the day, three people were convicted in the BALCO investigations and all three received nothing more than probation and modest amounts house arrest. Given the time and resources used, it is hard to imagine it was worth it. Aside from the defense attorneys being able to bill thousands of hours, it is difficult to see any real winners after the last decade.