As the Barry Bonds perjury trial approaches on March 21, the federal prosecutors have done some house-cleaning on the official indictment as they have elected to drop six of the eleven charges. The prosecutors removed six counts of making false statements that focus primarily on Bonds’ testimony about “the cream” and “the clear.”
The charges against Bonds still focus on his lying and obstructing justice. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk at MSNBC.com made some reasoned inferences as to why the prosecution dropped the charges:
I’m guessing that a big reason the government is dropping questions about the cream and the clear from the indictment is that they don’t want Bonds’ defense team to kill them about the “were the cream and the clear illegal at the time” angle, whether such an attack would be legitimate or not. For example, the defense could argue that the questions were based on a false premise which thus confused Bonds and rendered his testimony perfectly kosher.
It makes a lot of sense to remove the charges that could allow the defense to use some misdirection. A person can lie under oath about legal matters. The remaining counts include falsely denying that Anderson ever injected him with any drug, had given him human growth hormone, or had administered any oils or creams before 2003. Even if those substances were not banned at the time, the prosecution only needs to prove the falsely denying and not the legality of the issues.
The dichotomy of opinions on this subject is really quite interesting. In the two links above, Rob Neyer and Craig Calcaterra have decidedly different thoughts on where this is headed:
My lawyer friends have taught me a few things during the Steroid Era, one of which is that federal prosecutors rarely take a case to trial unless they’re exceptionally sure they can win.. Doesn’t mean they never lose. They do, sometimes.
Of course anything might happen between now and the end of the trial. But I still think Bonds is going to do some time, though probably less than a year, for lying to a federal grand jury.
Overall this doesn’t change the nature of the prosecution. Bonds is still accused of lying and obstructing justice and the case against him is still a monumentally weak and wasteful one.