I don't know enough about baseball to rail about what an arrogant lout Barry Bonds is, as so many others in the news biz do. I don't follow baseball. I'm no fan. Still, I am appalled at last week's federal indictment of Bonds on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Of course, lying to federal authorities is wrong and poisonous to the criminal justice system, if Bonds lied. As for steroids, if Bonds took them -- and who thinks he didn't? -- he has devalued his home-run record and must live the rest of his life wondering if his body will break down because of his ambition.
My beef? I admire tenacious no-holds-barred prosecutors -- when they go after violent thugs, mobsters and would-be terrorists. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has gone overboard in wielding its awesome might for years -- acting on a tip received in August 2002 -- to prolong a case it could have wrapped up long ago. The feds have crossed the line from closing a righteous case to prosecutorial overkill.
The charges against Bonds concern grand-jury testimony four years ago, on Dec. 4, 2003. Under grant of immunity (unless he lied), Bonds asserted that he never knowingly used banned steroids. He said he thought his personal trainer was treating him with flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.
As the San Francisco Chronicle's Lance Williams reported, prosecutors say they have a "mountain of evidence" -- including doping calendars showing Bonds' drug regimen and payments seized in raids in September 2003. The indictment claims that Bonds tested positive for two anabolic steroids.
Which raises the big question: Why did the U.S. attorney take another four years to indict? If their case is so strong, what were they waiting for?
Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, pleaded guilty to steroid dealing and served three months in prison. Afterward, when Anderson refused to testify against Bonds, a federal judge found him in contempt and sent Anderson behind bars. Anderson's attorney says that he is not cooperating with the authorities, but he was released last week.
In March 2005, Bonds' former girlfriend Kimberly Bell testified that the slugger told her that he had taken banned steroids. Still, the feds did not move for two years.