Friday, July 21, 2006
[Note: The following is a corrected post in light of updated media reports] The investigation of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds will shift to a new grand jury so that prosecutors can continue to determine whether to indict him on perjury and tax evasion charges. The grand jury panel that had been hearing evidence against Bonds related to his 2003 grand jury testimony as part of the investigation of steroids distribution by Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative) expired on July 20 at the end of its 18-month term of service. By empaneling a new grand jury, prosecutors will not have to race any deadlines in deciding whether to seek charges. I suspect prosecutors decided to hold off for now rather than risk running afoul of the adage "act in haste, repent in leisure." Bonds is unlikely to even consider a plea offer, and the statute of limitations is not a concern, so it is better to wait until the case is clear -- one way or the other -- than to rush something through a grand jury on its last day and then have to clear up the mess later. That is especially the case with tax counts, which require approval from the Tax Division in Washington, D.C.
The downside to shifting to a new grand jury is that evidence heard by the prior panel must be presented again to the new set of grand juros, which includes reading transcripts to them, a process that can be deadly dull. A new grand jury allows prosecutors to subpoena Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, to appear once again. In June, Anderson refused to testify and the district court ordered him to jail on July 6 for civil contempt, but he only served the two weeks until the prior grand jury's term expired. His time on the outside may be fairly short, however, depending on when prosecutors subpoena him to testify, which most likely will trigger another refusal to testify and another trip to jail.
While Bonds has dodged an indictment at this time, and probably for the next few months, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated that its investigation has not ended. Pulling out a well-worn aphorism, an AP story (here) quotes Michael Rains, an attorney for Bonds, as saying, ""They don't even have enough to indict a ham sandwich, much less Barry Bonds." I'm not sure what a ham sandwich could do that would trigger federal charges, but it's probably not perjury or tax evasion. (ph)