Appeals court to reconsider Barry Bonds’ obstruction of justice conviction

51 Comments

Barry Bonds has already done his time — if you can call 30 days in his mansion “time” — but he is still seeking to have his conviction for obstruction of justice arising out of the BALCO investigation overturned. He just got an assist in that regard from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has agreed to re-hear his appeal.

Originally a three-judge panel rejected his appeal, but appellants have a right for an en banc rehearing — in which the entire panel of judges determine whether to reconsider — and a majority of the 28-judge panel granted his petition. That vacates last September’s decision against Bonds and gives the entire panel a chance to weigh-in.

At specific issue is whether it’s OK for prosecutors to get an obstruction of justice conviction based on statements that were not held to be perjury. Which is what happened in this case. You may recall that Bonds, under oath gave a long, rambling answer about whether he had ever been injected with drugs, famously going on about how he was “a celebrity child” before finally answering in the negative. The prosecution basically double-charged Bonds for that statement, first with perjury and then with obstruction. The jury decided that was not perjury and acquitted him on that count. They did, however, hold that it was obstruction. The 9th Circuit apparently wants to reconsider whether that’s kosher.

As we noted at length at the time of the conviction, the idea that Bonds’ answer, however rambling it was, constituted obstruction of justice, is a joke. Bonds may have riffed for a few moments, but soon after he directly answered a yes-or-no question with a “no.” A “no” that the jury decided was not a lie. There aren’t many criminal cases in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence in which a testifying target of a grand jury investigation did not, at least for a moment, try to fudge his way out answering a question. One of the first things you’re taught in law school is that it’s your job as the lawyer to rein the witness in and get him to answer. The prosecutor eventually did that here. And then the prosecutor decided to literally make a federal case out of the fact that a witness rambled for a minute, calling it obstruction of justice. The jury, it’s worth noting, thought it was a joke too, but they felt their hands were tied.

Good for the Ninth Circuit for reconsidering a conviction which was clearly bogus and a charge which was designed as nothing more than a face-saving throw-in for a prosecution that was doomed from the very moment it became clear that the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence to go forward but decided to do so anyway.

The rehearing will take place in September. If it’s successful for Bonds, he’ll have beaten every charge thrown his way. At least as far as the law is concerned.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

Getty Images
66 Comments

UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.