Desperate Prosecutors Use Blatant Intimidation to Pressure Greg Anderson to Testify Against Barry BondsAdd comments
The Government’s Shameful Behavior in the Barry Bonds Steroid Inquisition
Prosecutors in the U.S. United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California are increasingly showing signs of desperation in their steroid-related perjury case against Barry Bonds. Bonds has been the primary target of their far-reaching Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) doping investigation. The former baseball player for the San Francisco Giants has come to symbolize the infamous steroid era in baseball. The challenge of bringing down Major League Baseball’s single-season and all-time home run leader Barry Bonds will commence in San Francisco federal court on March 2, 2009. Barry Bonds faces ten counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
The government’s desperation has become increasingly apparent during the weeks leading up to the trial after federal prosecutors have failed to secure the critical testimony of Bonds’ personal trainer Greg Anderson. Prosecutors have recognized the importance of Anderson as a key government witness testifying against Bonds and have obsessively pursued his testimony obsessively to no avail. Judge Susan Illston has ruled significant pieces of evidence as inadmissible, including all three alleged positive steroid tests and doping calendars/ledgers, unless Anderson testifies to verify their authenticity.
Greg Anderson has been one of the few defendants who did not cooperate with the government’s BALCO investigation. Anderson pleaded guilty to steroid distribution in 2005 and served 3 months in prison and 3 months home confinement. Anderson refused to become a government witness as part of his plea agreement. Greg Anderson would not testify against Barry Bonds under any circumstances according to his attorney.
After he was released from prison for dealing steroids, Greg Anderson refused to testify before a grand jury investigating whether Barry Bonds committed perjury in statements regarding his use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs. U.S. District Judge William Alsup found Anderson in contempt of court and immediately sent him to prison in July 2006. He was released a couple of weeks later after the grand jury term expired without indicting Bonds.
Anderson was found in contempt of court again on August 29, 2006 when he again refused to testify before a new grand jury convened to investigate Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid-related perjury. Anderson spent over a year in Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin (California). He was released shortly after Barry Bonds was indicted on November 15, 2007. Federal prosecutors, at the time, felt they no longer needed Anderson to pursue their case against Bonds. Anderson’s attorney Mark Geragos was surprised, “Frankly I’m aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn’t go forward without him.”
The day after Anderson was released from prison for contempt of court, his wife Nicole Gestas received an intimidating “target letter” from prosecutors threatening to charge her with criminal conspiracy to commit a crime if she did not agree to cooperate with the feds. The U.S. Attorney’s office had already assigned an undercover agent to join the Powerhouse Gym in Redwood City where Gestas is employed while her husband was in prison. The objective of the undercover agent was to “befriend her” and unsuspectingly encourage Gestas to talk about Barry Bonds. The covert operation was unsuccessful.
The San Francisco federal prosecutors continued their intimidation tactics when they threatened to charge Anderson’s mother-in-law with financial crimes when they raided the home of Madeleine Gestas on January 28, 2009. There was apparently a clear understanding that if Anderson testified against Barry Bonds, then the investigation against Gestas would be dropped.
Charles J. Smith, Nicole Gesta’s attorney expressed concern to the New York Daily News that the government would violate their own prosecutorial standards and go after Greg Anderson’s wife and mother-in-law to get him to testify against Barry Bonds.
“There are violations that both Nicole and Madeleine are worried about. They are matters that I don’t believe would rise to the level they would prosecute under the current standards of the U.S. Attorney’s office. But in this circumstance, perhaps they’ll ignore their own standards to prosecute Madeleine or her daughter to get what they want.”
“Fundamentally it is unfair that the government, in efforts to get Barry Bonds, would threaten Nicole and her mother to try to get Anderson to testify against Bonds. I’ve been an attorney for 32 years. I was a prosecutor for 10 years. But I have never heard anything like this. It’s mean-spirited. It really is mean-spirited.”
Mark Geragos, Greg Anderson’s attorney, was ashamed of the desperate and despicable actions by the government.
"The day after Greg was released, they sent a target letter to his wife. Almost 30 days before the trial, they now execute a search warrant at his mother-in-law's house. This is coming on the heels of a letter they wrote me two days ago, demanding to know whether or not he was contingent to testify. I'm ashamed of my government. Even the mafia spares the women and children. It's nothing more than cheap theatrics and frankly, disgusting tactics. It's blatant intimidation."
Even U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, the presiding judge in the Bonds case, has become irritated with prosecutors’ ridiculous pursuit of Greg Anderson’s testimony.
She uncharacteristically raised her voice when she asked the assistant United States attorney Matt Parrella if he could find a case “where someone was put in prison for a year” then released, refused to testify at trial “and is jailed again.”
“Have you ever found that?” she asked.
When Parrella said he knew of no such example, the judge responded: “Neither have I.”
Greg Anderson again faces contempt of court charges and could go to prison for a third time on the same charge for the duration of the Bonds trial. If the government proves that they can not make their case against Bonds without Anderson’s testimony, he could face criminal contempt of court which carries a significant longer penalty than civil contempt of court. Anderson’s lawyer has told reporters that his client’s defense team will be prepared for any and all possible consequences.
The significance of a successful conviction of Barry Bonds for prosecutors can not be understated. The San Francisco division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has spent $55 million and counting in their dubious effort at making an example out steroid users in sports, specifically Barry Bonds. The San Francisco office is the agency most responsible for the morally inspired steroid witch-hunt against steroid use in professional sports. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco has been building its case against Barry Bonds for almost five years utilizing every last moment of time permitted under the five year statute of limitations. In spite of spending so much time and money, the case is surprisingly weak and in most other circumstances would not go to trial. But the government is desperate and has resorted to questionable tactics in their continuing steroid witch-hunt against Barry Bonds.
The actions of the U.S. United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California are reprehensible.
“Judge rules some evidence inadmissible,” February 19, 2009
“Wife of Bonds’s Trainer Backed Out of Deal to Cooperate,” February 18, 2009
“Family of Bonds’s Trainer Feeling More Pressure,” August 29, 2009
“Judge orders Anderson released from prison,” November 15, 2007
“Greg Anderson held in contempt, returned to jail,” August 29, 2006
“Bonds’ Trainer Sent to Prison,” July 6, 2006
By Millard Baker