Taking the stand in the Bonds trial yesterday was Steven Hoskins, a childhood friend of Barry Bonds who grew up to be something of a fixer and lackey. Hoskins would pay Bonds’ bills, make sure his baseball equipment was in order and pay off Bonds’ girlfriends with a wad of cash he kept in a safe in his office. You know, the usual stuff.
The real reason for his testimony, however, was for one of the things he did that wasn’t part of his job description: he secretly recorded Bonds’ steroids dealer so that he could either (a) play the tape to Bonds’ dying father in an effort to dissuade Bonds from continuing to use drugs; or (b) blackmail Bonds so that Bonds wouldn’t pursue charges against Hoskins after he found out that Hoskins had been forging Bonds’ name on baseball memorabilia and contracts and stuff.
Of course, whether it’s (a) or (b) depends on whether you’re a prosecutor or a defense lawyer.
The tape was played in court yesterday, and as we’ve previously noted, its contents are probably only damaging if one already believes the overall narrative that Bonds knew what he was taking. That’s because it contains no mention of Bonds’ knowledge of anything, only Greg Anderson’s admission that they were, in fact, undetectable illicit drugs. The tape will bolster the view of those who think Bonds lied via other evidence that comes in, but it will do nothing to convince someone that Bonds lied, it seems.
Hoskins was subjected to some pretty withering cross-examination on his reasons for making the tape, which occurred after he and Bonds had their falling out over the memorabilia sales. Bonds had already gone to the government at that point and had asked that Hoskins be investigated. It was the strong implication of Bonds lawyer Allen Ruby that Hoskins made the tape to have something to use against Bonds, either to get back at him for going to the feds or to prevent him from pursuing the charges. The investigation was eventually dropped. Ruby contends that it was done so in exchange for Hoskins helping the government in its case against Bonds.
Judging on reports from the courtoom — which, granted, aren’t always ideal — the cross examination of Hoskins seemed pretty damaging. Bonds’ lawyers had Hoskins testy and confused at times. He mixed up dates. He contradicted previous statements he had made out of court in which he said he’d seen Bonds get injected with drugs (yesterday he only said that he saw Anderson enter Bonds bedroom with syringes). To the extent that the jury buys Hoskins as a shifty guy trying to make money off Bonds, they may very well question his reasons for making the tape, buying in to the blackmail notion Ruby was trying to plant.
There was one exchange — passed along by Gwen Knapp of the Chronicle — that struck me: Ruby asks Hoskins if he ever threatened Bonds. Hoskins said no. Ruby said “You sure about that?” Hoskins was defiant in his denial. Then he asked to take a break, which the judge agreed to.
We were taught to never ask a witness if they’re sure about their answer unless we had stone-cold evidence that we could burn them later. Because if not, you as the lawyer look desperate and you end up making the witness look more credible. If you have something that later shows the witness to have been incomplete or something less than truthful in his answer, however, it can be devastating.
Ruby doesn’t strike me as a desperate or sloppy lawyer. Hoskins’ cross-examination continues today. I’m eager to see if Hoskins is truly sure about his answer.