|Barry Bonds, Giants part ways, but BALCO steroids saga limps on into its fifth year|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 03 October 2007 12:04|
Yet the federal steroids probe in which he plays a starring role lingers on into its fifth year.
Bonds' former personal trainer is still languishing in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury considering perjury and other charges against the slugger. And the panel hasn't even met in two months, even though prosecutors extended its term in July by at least three months and as many as six months.
His lawyer and others speculate that the decision on whether to indict Bonds could be stalled by the management mess at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington.
Most of the department's top managers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have left in recent months in the wake of a political tempest created by the firings of eight federal prosecutors, including San Francisco U.S. attorney and chief Bonds prosecutor Kevin Ryan.
San Francisco lawyer Joseph Russoniello, who long ago cleared an FBI background check, is expected to replace Ryan, but President Bush has delayed making an announcement. In the meantime, career prosecutor Scott Schools continues to serve as interim U.S. attorney.
``All that has undoubtedly created some communications problems that may have slowed down a final decision,'' said Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains. ``We find ourselves in a holding pattern.''
Schools declined to comment Wednesday on the status of the Bonds investigation, which followed Bonds' 2003 testimony in the BALCO investigation.
According to grand jury transcripts obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds said he thought two substances given to him by trainer Greg Anderson were flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm. Authorities suspect those items were actually ``the clear'' and ``the cream,'' two performance-enhancing drugs linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
Two grand juries have spent the past three years trying to determine whether Bonds was lying under oath. And Anderson has spent a total of about a year in federal prison as authorities try to compel him to testify against Bonds, a childhood friend.
Anderson will remain locked up until he talks, the grand jury's term expires or the judge who sent him to prison decides to set him free.
``Greg is going to spend his third Christmas in prison,'' said Anderson's attorney, Paula Canny.
Anderson previously served three months in prison during the winter of 2005 after pleading guilty to illegally selling steroids. Canny said her client will never talk, and she's not optimistic that the judge will turn him loose anytime soon.
Another vital prosecution witness is Kimberly Bell, Bonds' former mistress. She told the BALCO grand jury in 2003 that Bonds told her he took steroids and that the slugger and Anderson would disappear into a locked bedroom on occasional mornings during spring training in 1999.
``On top of that, I saw all the effects,'' Bell said.
The 37-year-old Bell said it was obvious Bonds was doing steroids - his head grew bigger, he developed acne and his testicles shrank.
``There was a dramatic shift in his personality,'' Bell said. She declined to say if she has been called before the grand jury conducting the perjury probe.
Bell did say she's declined to help Major League Baseball's steroids investigator, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
``I haven't seen the purpose in it,'' said Bell, who said she feared a further erosion of her privacy if she cooperated. ``The government investigation is the one that counts.''
But Rains said Bell's value as a witness might diminish somewhat when the latest issue of Playboy hits the stands Friday.
Bell appears nude, wears panties emblazoned with Bonds' No. 25 and recounts her 2003 grand jury testimony in an accompanying article.
Bell declined to say how much she was paid for the Playboy deal, which was brokered by her agent, David Hans Schmidt. He hanged himself last week in Phoenix, where he was under house arrest after agreeing last month to plead guilty in a plot to extort more than $1 million from Tom Cruise for the actor's stolen wedding photos.
``I think it is something that can be used to impeach her credibility,'' Rains said of Bell's Playboy deal. ``It is probably just one more piece of impeaching information for someone who has already filled three banker's boxes in my office with impeaching information.''
Rains said Bell is miffed that Bonds didn't pay her the nearly $200,000 she demanded when their 10-year relationship ended in 2003. Bell said she was asking Bonds to keep a promise to buy her house in Arizona, but Rains said the demand amounted to extortion.
He said he's confident Bell's credibility is damaged enough to make her a tough witness to believe.
``They have tried to turn over every possible stone to prove a perjury case against Barry,'' Rains said. 'They don't have it. The government needs to move on to stalk someone else.''