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Saturday, August 27, 2011

N.Y. Times: Conviction of Bonds on Obstruction Charge Is Upheld by Judge

United States District Court Judge Susan Illston, who presided over Bonds’s trial that ended in April, ruled after hearing arguments from prosecutors and Bonds’s lawyers on Thursday regarding the charge. ...

Bonds’s lawyers had argued that Bonds was improperly convicted for obstructing justice when he rambled for 75 seconds during his grand jury testimony, which was related to a federal investigation of performance-enhancing drug use among elite athletes. He also gave an evasive but not false statement to a question he eventually answered, his lawyers said.

bobm Posted: August 27, 2011 at 04:19 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants, steroids

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   1. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: August 27, 2011 at 12:57 PM (#3910199)
This is an awful ruling:
In oral arguments Thursday, Bonds’s lawyers said that he was improperly convicted for obstructing justice when he rambled for 75 seconds during his grand jury testimony about whether he was ever injected by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. He answered the question — saying no — later in his testimony, and the jury did not convict him on that point, the defense said, so Bonds should be acquitted. But United States District Court Judge Susan Illston said it did not matter that Bonds eventually answered the question. In her ruling, she wrote that the question was material to the investigation and that “the defendant endeavored to obstruct the grand jury by not answering it when first asked.”

She added, “An evasive answer about an issue material to the grand jury is not necessarily rendered immaterial by the later provision of a direct answer, even if that direct answer is true.”


Yes, not necessarily, but it should be immaterial given the direct answer and that the jury did not convict on the underlying charge relating to the question. If this rule, holds a witness that ramble at all in answering a GJ question are subject to risk of conviction based on a materiality judgment. It's technical silliness, star chamber-like nonsense and it should chill testimony because no one should ever feel comfortable again about elaborating or providing background information in response to a question.

If the prosecution doesn't like the rambling they and the court are free to say: "Give me a yes or no." That should be sufficient to protect the integrity of the GJ proceedings.

Ugh. Perhaps, the 9th Circuit will show some common sense and reverse.
   2. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:08 PM (#3910202)
So, IOW, Bonds is guilty of obstructing justice during the time that elapsed between the rambling, evasive answer and the subsequent direct and truthful answer? I shudder to think of the irreparable harm that the criminal justice system must have suffered during those agonizing moments.
   3. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:18 PM (#3910207)
This is an awful ruling:

Oh please, you guys are deranged. There was absolutely no chance whatsoever that this judgment was going to be overturned.

Let's all say it together in unison: convicted felon.
   4. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:27 PM (#3910209)
Oh, I agree that there was no way that Ilston was going to overturn the verdict, and so I guess she was sort of forced into the kind of convoluted reasoning that she used. But what I want to know is what "you guys" are going to say in unison when it's overturned on appeal.
   5. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:36 PM (#3910211)
Look, I don't care if it is Barry Bonds, Leona Helmsley, Bill Clinton, or Dick Cheney, if the precedent is upheld that one could face jail time for rambling a couple of minutes before giving a truthful, direct answer, that will cause far more damage to the criminal justice system than a million "Barry-like" obstructions.
   6. EddieA Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:50 PM (#3910213)
There must be more to the ruling than is in the Times article. Because taken on its face, it essentially short-circuits the felony to "testifying before a grand jury", because inevitably somewhere in the questioning a witness will add to a yes/no answer. This new crime would be consistent with what the press did in this case.
   7. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:51 PM (#3910214)
But what I want to know is what "you guys" are going to say in unison when it's overturned on appeal.

You're still living in a delusional Bonds butt-boy bubble; it's not going to be overturned. The fact that you don't like the ruling simply isn't sufficient legal grounds for it to be overturned.
   8. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:17 PM (#3910224)
The fact that you don't like the ruling simply isn't sufficient legal grounds for it to be overturned.

1) You mistake me for someone who gives a ####.

2) Speaking as a layman, not a lawyer, I just happen to think the verdict will be overturned because a) it's preposterous on it's face, and b) there is a long history of precedent for well-heeled, high-profile defendants being convicted of charges like this only to have the verdicts overturned on appeal.
   9. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: August 27, 2011 at 05:30 PM (#3910321)
You mistake me for someone who gives a ####.

Yeah, right. You might possibly be able to get that B.S. over on some of your buddies, but not on me.

it's preposterous on it's face

An opinion that Judge Ilston, who was deeply skeptical of the prosecution from the get-go, obviously didn't agree with. If anything, she bent over backwards to give the defense the benefit of the doubt throughout the entire trial. Not a good sign for you guys.

there is a long history of precedent for well-heeled, high-profile defendants being convicted of charges like this only to have the verdicts overturned on appeal.

Some argument there. "Other convictions have been overturned, therefore I think think one will be as well." This is nothing but your own wishful thinking.
   10. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 27, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3910330)
Whatever, dude. But just thinking in terms of perjury/obstruction of justice cases that make the news (usually politicians, of course), I can't recall one where the trial judge ever overturned a verdict, but it's quite easy to think of many where the convictions were reversed on appeal. My layman's perspective on this is that it has little to do with the merits of any of the cases, and much to do with the fact that good defense lawyers can almost always find some error that the trial judge made and convince an appellate court to reverse because of that error.

And it's not an argument. Like I said, IANAL. I'm not qualified to make a legal argument. I am, however, eminently qualified to have an opinion on the ridiculousness of the notion that hemming and hawing for a few seconds before you give a truthful answer is obstruction of justice. It's likely the same opinion that you would be expressing if we were talking about Scooter Libbey instead of Barry Bonds.
   11. Sam M. Posted: August 27, 2011 at 09:03 PM (#3910453)
I believe that, if I were Judge Illston -- and knowing what I know right now about the case (which is considerably less than she does, so take this with many grains of salt) -- my ruling would have been to hold the motion in abeyance. I agree with her that the giving of a "straight" answer later doesn't necessarily preclude a finding that a dissembling one can constitute obstruction, but I think it is certainly relevant whether the later answer is legally found to be truthful or false. It's true (as the defense argued) that the jury didn't convict him on the charge that his later statement that Anderson never injected him was false. But it didn't acquit him, either. So I think it would have been prudent for Illston to wait to see whether the government seeks to retry Bonds on that charge, and further to make clear to the government that its decision (and possibly the outcome of that retrial) would have an impact on the decision on the motion regarding the obstruction charge. It might not be determinative, but it would be material, at least for me.
   12. Greg K Posted: August 27, 2011 at 09:33 PM (#3910472)
It's technical silliness, star chamber-like nonsense

My knowledge of all things legal ends at around 1650, is "Star Chamber" still a common phrase in legal circles? That's kinda cool.
   13. Endless Trash Posted: August 27, 2011 at 09:44 PM (#3910482)
Ah yes, in the trials involving Barry Bonds I often think it's Bonds who is the one wasting time...
   14. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 27, 2011 at 09:58 PM (#3910493)
good defense lawyers can almost always find some error that the trial judge made and convince an appellate court to reverse because of that error.

As a criminal-defense lawyer (trials and appeals), I certainly wish this were true. But it isn't.
   15. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 27, 2011 at 10:17 PM (#3910508)
My layman's perspective on this is that it has little to do with the merits of any of the cases, and much to do with the fact that good defense lawyers can almost always find some error that the trial judge made and convince an appellate court to reverse because of that error.


Not so; the standard of review by the appellate courts just doesn't allow for this.
   16. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 27, 2011 at 11:13 PM (#3910537)
You're still living in a delusional Bonds butt-boy bubble; it's not going to be overturned..


I haven't heard such an erudite legal argument since the Scopes trial. I believe then, as now, it was an argument made by a monkey.
   17. Bob Tufts Posted: August 27, 2011 at 11:29 PM (#3910550)
The grand jury testimony that got Bonds in trouble:

"Son, we live in a world that has outfield walls, and those walls have to be breached by men with bats. Who's gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep and you curse the steroids. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That while tragic, steroids probably saved baseball. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, helped save the game.

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me to clear that wall, you need me at the plate. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very entertainment that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a glove, get on the mound and stand opposed. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."
   18. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 28, 2011 at 02:20 AM (#3910632)
good defense lawyers can almost always find some error that the trial judge made and convince an appellate court to reverse because of that error.

As a criminal-defense lawyer (trials and appeals), I certainly wish this were true. But it isn't.
Indeed. It's never an abuse of discretion, and in the rare case that it is, it's harmless error.

In any case, it was pretty unlikely that the judge was going to overturn the verdict, because it was based on her own rulings and jury instructions. If she thought that this particular response by Bonds was insufficient to constitute obstruction, she would have struck down that charge in the first place. (As she did for several others along the way.) It was always going to be the 9th Circuit that would decide this.

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