From: Contra Costa Times
Barry Bonds’ lawyer, who has accused the federal government of illegally leaking confidential grand jury information about the San Francisco Giants slugger, is a former cop who built a well-known Pleasant Hill law practice largely on defending police officers accused of brutality and other wrongdoing.
Michael L. Rains, 56, defended Oakland officers known as “The Riders'” in the longest criminal case in Alameda County history. Charges against the defendants were dropped after two juries failed to reach verdicts. Rains also helped win acquittals for eight correctional officers charged with forcing inmates at Corcoran State Prison to fight like gladiators. He will be leading Bonds’ defense should the baseball star be indicted by a second federal grand jury that was impaneled this week.
On Thursday, Bonds’ former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, appeared before a grand jury investigating whether Bonds lied under oath when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs and whether he failed to pay taxes on the sale of memorabilia.
Earlier this week, Rains lambasted federal investigators, claiming they leaked to reporters that Bonds’ medical records were subpoenaed from the Giants. He sent a letter to a U.S. District Court judge demanding an investigation.
People who know Rains describe him as a legal Rottweiler who is defending Bonds the way he defends police officers — with a calculated, demonstrative aggression. “He is incredibly passionate about the individual rights of those who are often wrongly accused,” said Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the state prison guards’ union. “He is a working-class, blue-collar guy who knows where he’s been.”
Rains, of San Ramon, did not respond to a request for an interview.
His firm represents the Oakland Police Officers Association, which appealed to the state Supreme Court two lower court rulings won by the Contra Costa Times that the salaries of police officers are a matter of public record. After serving with the Marines in Vietnam, Rains worked as a Santa Monica police officer and served as the department’s union president. He won a scholarship to Golden West University Law School in West Los Angeles, which he attended at night while continuing his police work. He eventually joined a San Francisco firm that represented police officers and their unions.
Rains’ “time on the street,” seeing what police officers see daily, is what makes him “such a passionate advocate” for them, Corcoran said.
“Mike is absolutely tenacious,” said Ed Fishman, an attorney who represented one of the accused officers in the Riders case. “He is the most impassioned criminal defense attorney I have ever come across. If I was in trouble, I’d want him as my attorney.”
Rains’ firm represents more than 100 public employee unions across Northern California, most of them police groups, according to its Web site. Oakland attorney John Burris has spent years opposing Rains in court, representing victims of police violence and civil rights violations. “Mike is a tremendous advocate,” Burris said. “We are on the opposite side of police cases, but I respect the professionalism of his work.” Rains has served as Bonds’ attorney since the slugger received a subpoena in 2003 to appear before a federal grand jury investigating steroid distribution at the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, known as BALCO.
Rains has vocally defended Bonds, saying he is an unfair target of federal prosecutors and the victim of a smear campaign. “We think this has always been the case of the Barry Bonds show,” he said at a December 2004 news conference in Oakland. “It hasn’t been U.S. vs. BALCO. … It’s been U.S. vs. Bonds.”
If Bonds is indicted, every detail of the case will be under even more intense scrutiny, said Los Angeles attorney Brian Hennigan, who represented former baseball star Darryl Strawberry on tax evasion charges in the 1990s. Strawberry pleaded guilty and served time in federal prison. “Every part of the process is different,” Hennigan said about representing a celebrity athlete. “Everything done in this case is going to end up being analyzed and analyzed a second time. Every (court) appearance is going to be a media event.”
No matter how the Bonds case is resolved, Rains’ stature is likely to reach the national level, Hennigan said. “It depends on what he wants to do with it,” Hennigan said. “If he wants to become a talking head, he’ll have the entry into it.”