This wasn’t supposed to happen in Barack Obama’s America. We were told that these sorts of prosecutions wouldn’t be the priority of an Eric Holder Justice Department. But just as Guantánamo Bay detention centers and military tribunals have remained in place, the perjury witch hunt trial of Major League Baseball’s home run king, Barry Lamar Bonds, continued unabated and has now reached a predictably ugly conclusion.
After seven years, and millions of dollars in court costs, Bonds has been found guilty of obstruction of justice. As for the all-important three perjury charges, the jury couldn’t agree whether Bonds lied to a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) when he swore under oath that he never knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. Without corroborating evidence from Bonds’s trainer and lifelong friend Greg Anderson, the jury was deadlocked and the Judge declared a mistrial on all perjury charges. But the obstruction of justice conviction makes Bonds a convicted felon, and sets him up for a May 20 hearing where he could get as many as ten years behind bars.
What did Bonds do to “obstruct justice”? According to one juror, “Steve,” the obstruction of justice charge was reached because, “The whole grand jury testimony was a series of evasive answers. There were pointed questions that were asked two or three or four different ways that never got clearly answered. That’s how we came to that.” Wow. Apparently, a “series of evasive answers” lines you up for a ten-year sentence behind bars. By that standard, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby should be breaking rocks in Leavenworth for their performance at the Valerie Plame trial.
As BALCO founder Victor Conte—who is no friend of Bonds—said to USA Today, “This verdict absolutely makes no sense to me. Of all of these counts, the one that makes the least sense to me is the obstruction charge. Tell me how there was obstruction of justice. This is all about the selected persecution of Barry Bonds. This is not fair. I was the heavy in this. I accepted full responsibility and the consequences and went to prison. How is that obstruction? Doesn’t make sense.”
It doesn’t. After all the public money, drama, and hysterics, this is what we’re left with. He was “evasive.” Keep in mind that we live in a country where the US Department of Justice has not pursued one person for the investment banking fraud that cratered the US economy in 2008. Not one indictment has been issued to a single Bush official on charges of ordering torture or lying to provoke an invasion of Iraq. Instead, we get farcical reality television like the US vs. Barry Bonds.