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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Barry Bonds' Victory

sBarry Bonds' conviction on one count of perjury, on arguably irrelevant questions, and hung juries on three other counts must be viewed as a win for the onetime baseball star.


It is debatable whether Bonds told the "truth" about his childhood, or his relationship with trainer/childhood friend Greg Anderson, the central topics of the one charge of which he was convicted. Although perjury is serious, and in fact needs to be investigated more, one must question whether this trial was less about deterring and punishing perjury and obstruction of justice, and more about prosecutorial ambition and headline chasing.


Perhaps in retrospect the mistake Barry Bonds made was in ever talking to a grand jury.


The risk prosecutors now face is that prospective witnesses may be advised by their lawyers to never say anything to federal officials or a grand jury. If perjurious statements -- lies -- become subjective and "in the eye of the beholder," then any statement carries some risk of being characterized as a lie, as criminal perjury.


The best, and only, way to avoid the risk of a perjury charge is to remain silent.  Otherwise, you run the risk of being wrongfully accused, wrongfully prosecuted, and wrongfully convicted.


If normally cooperative witnesses become understandably reluctant to testify, the government will have to depend more on testimony from cooperating witnesses -- i.e. People who have been caught committing crimes and want to get leniency at sentencing. Such dependence also carries the risk of perjured testimony as well as diminished credibility of government witnesses.

The government's job fighting crime will only get harder due to the prosecutorial ambition that drove the Bonds case.


Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who may be reached at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.

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