Charges Against Barry Bonds Reduced

If you read just the headline, you might figure this is a major win for Barry Bonds. Yes, it's true that the number of charges has been reduced. Howard Mintz in the Mercury-News:

Federal prosecutors, in a new indictment unveiled Thursday, reduced the overall number of charges against Bonds from 11 to five -- slashing six counts of making false statements to a federal grand jury in December 2003 about using steroids as he chased baseball's all-time home run records.

The latest indictment now charges Bonds with four counts of lying to the grand jury, and one count of obstructing justice. The former San Francisco Giants slugger is scheduled to go on trial March 21.

But while fewer charges is better than more, it's probably just slightly better than the same.

My lawyer friends have taught me a few things during the Steroid Era, one of which is that federal prosecutors rarely take a case to trial unless they're exceptionally sure they can win.. Doesn't mean they never lose. They do, sometimes. But this looks to me like they've merely decided to focus their -- and the jury's -- attentions on the charges they're awfully sure they can make stick.

Again, Mintz:

Nevertheless, the new indictment includes the crux of the government's central allegation: that Bonds lied when repeatedly asked about steroid use, and whether he was supplied with performance-enhancing drugs by Anderson.

All the counts now relate specifically to Anderson and Bonds' answers to questions about getting steroids from him. For example, one straightforward charge is that Bonds, when asked if Anderson ever gave him a steroid, replied, "Not that I know of."

If Bonds is convicted, the punishment would be the same whether he's found guilty of five counts or a dozen, so the prosecutors risk very little by reducing the number. Of course anything might happen between now and the end of the trial. But I still think Bonds is going to do some time, though probably less than a year, for lying to a federal grand jury. The thought of which I don't relish, but they do have most of those laws for a reason.

 

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