On Nov. 15, when the indictment was unsealed, Bonds and the public got the first inkling of the evidence the federal government may have in the case when court documents noted that "during the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained, including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances, for Bonds and other professional athletes."Bonds appeared before the original grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative on allegations of money laundering and illegally dispersing performance-enhancing drugs on Dec. 4, 2003. At the time, he testified under oath on numerous occasions that he had never used anabolic steroids, testosterone and human growth hormone or had been administered any of those drugs with a needle. Those documents didn't reveal the nature of the positive tests or the time frame in which they were administered. During the months ahead before trial, it is federal law that Bonds and his attorneys have to be given that information. If the federal prosecutor can present irrefutable evidence that Bonds committed perjury and had indeed previously used performance-enhancing drugs, then his attorneys may advise him to make a deal to close the case on lesser charges accompanied by diminished punitive measures. In that instance, as was the case when track star Marion Jones recently plea-bargained her perjury charges in the BALCO case, Bonds will almost certainly have to stage a press conference publicly admitting his guilt. In contrast, if Bonds' attorneys deem that the government's evidence is shaky, they will probably seek dismissal of the charges, and if the judge denies that, certainly defend their client at trial. If found guilty by a jury, Bonds could receive up to 30 years in prison, but it's more likely that he wouldn't be sentenced to more than a year, Scherer said. Scherer also added that it's unlikely the federal prosecutor would seek an indictment against Bonds if he had a flimsy case. "It does a prosecutor no good to ram a bad case through the grand jury, only to lose it at trial," Scherer said, "The U.S. Attorney's office, unlike some state and military prosecutor's offices, never settles for probable cause. They approach the grand jury aiming to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Their goal is to come out of the grand jury with evidence so overwhelming that they can force the defendant to take a deal. Federal prosecutors could get a bad case indicted, but it wouldn't be worth their time." Of course, Bonds could win the case, particularly if heard in San Francisco, where it might be tough to find 12 jurors who are not sympathetic to a local sports hero, a man with 762 lifetime homers. Bonds is hugely popular in a town where he played 15 seasons for the Giants, and only four months ago at AT&T Park, hit his 756th homer to pass Hank Aaron into first place on the all-time list, generating a seven-minute standing ovation. In any event, Scherer said, because of the upcoming months of legal maneuvering, the 2008 baseball season could be over before U.S. v. Bonds reaches that point.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.