The criminal defense lawyer for Barry Bonds is going on the offensive in an attempt to discredit the government’s investigation of Bonds just as a new federal prosecutor steps in to oversee the inquiry.
The lawyer, Michael Rains, is engaged in a two-pronged attack. One part involves using the Freedom of Information Act to unearth how much money the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco has spent investigating Bonds. The other involves a request to federal prosecutors to continue investigating leaks of confidential government documents and grand jury testimony on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroids distribution case.
The legal maneuvers coincide with transition in the United States attorney’s office and with Bonds’s preparations for a season in which he hopes to surpass Henry Aaron as baseball’s career home run leader. Bonds, who recently signed a $15.8 million contract to remain with the San Francisco Giants, is being investigated on possible charges of perjury and income-tax evasion.
Kevin V. Ryan, the United States attorney for the Northern District of California, left his post in San Francisco on Feb. 16 and was replaced by Scott N. Schools, a former general counsel at the Justice Department. Schools inherited a case with loose ends, including the status of Greg Anderson, Bonds’s former trainer, who remains behind bars for refusing to testify before a grand jury about Bonds’s suspected steroid use.
It is unclear where Schools intends to take the Bonds investigation, and Rains said he has not spoken with him. Through a spokesman, Schools declined to comment for this article.
On Feb. 14, Troy L. Ellerman, a former defense lawyer for the Balco founder Victor Conte and James Valente, the laboratory’s vice president, agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice and related charges after admitting that he leaked secret grand jury testimony about suspected steroid use to reporters from The San Francisco Chronicle.
But in a letter dated Feb. 15, Rains asked the federal prosecutor’s office in the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, not to close its investigation into who had revealed documents and testimony.
Rains argued that information was leaked by one or more federal officials to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of The Chronicle. The reporters used the information in newspaper articles and in their book, “Game of Shadows.” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Los Angeles, said prosecutors had heard similar accusations from others. Mrozek said the investigation remained open.
In his other effort, Rains filed a request in December with the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act for a list of expenditures by the federal prosecutor’s office in San Francisco on the Bonds investigation. He said the Justice Department initially responded by saying it would provide the information in 20 business days. In a telephone interview yesterday, however, he said the department had not done so.
Rains, meanwhile, said he was also engaged in an “open dialogue” with investigators for George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader who is conducting an inquiry into steroid use for Commissioner Bud Selig. But Rains said Bonds would not cooperate with the investigation until the federal inquiry of Bonds ceases. Baseball’s investigators are headed to spring-training camps to conduct interviews with team officials and possibly players.
“Either you try and duck this thing and not respond, or you cooperate,” Rains said. “We are not ducking him. I have been in communication with Mr. Mitchell.” But, he added, “I won’t let Barry talk to anybody about this stuff until the investigation is over.”
Michael Weiner, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said no players had been interviewed by Mitchell’s investigators. Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Fordham Law School, said the efforts by Rains were typical in high-profile criminal investigations that tend to drag on.
“It looks like Rains wants to signal to the prosecutors that he is ready to impose the maximum cost on them if they continue on this case and that he will impose the ultimate cost through publicity and litigating motions and all types of other moves,” he said.