Barry Bonds Under House Arrest Plus Probation
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Of course, Barry Bonds says that he never knowingly used anabolic steroids. And as we mentioned, he walked out of a San Francisco courthouse yesterday just as he'd walked in - a free man. NPR's Tom Goldman explains.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced Barry Bonds to two years probation, 30 days home confinement and 250 hours of community service. She then stayed the sentence until Bonds' appeal of his conviction runs its course. That could take several years.
A noticeably slimmer Bonds - he's replaced bashing baseballs with riding bikes - left the courthouse without comment, leaving pundits like Golden Gate University Law Professor Peter Keane to interpret what happened.
PETER KEANE: The actual punishment itself was extremely light.
GOLDMAN: Not that prosecutor Matthew Parrella didn't try for something more severe. He wanted a 15-month prison sentence. By obstructing justice in his 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating doping, Bonds undermined the legal system, Parrella told Judge Illston - a serious offense. Plus, Parrella said, giving Bonds probation, a slap on the wrist; giving bonds home confinement in a palatial, 15,000-square-foot home, a joke. But the judge held fast. Bonds' 2003 testimony didn't interfere with the grand jury investigation she said. His philanthropy over the years was significant. And the sentence was consistent with others Illston handed down to defendants who, like, Bonds, were involved in the infamous Balco doping scandal. If the sentence was good news for the Bonds team, Professor Keane thinks there could be more celebrating to come as they move forward to appeal the April conviction.
KEANE: The charge itself, that he was not completely candid with the grand jury, and therefore it amounted to obstruction of justice, there's a good chance that Bonds' lawyers will be successful in having that overturned on appeal as being too vague.
GOLDMAN: Which would be a good thing for Bonds - not just having a felony conviction stricken from his record but perhaps smoothing the path to Baseball's Hall of Fame, where right now, Bonds is toxic. Longtime baseball writer Tim Kurkjian spoke yesterday on ESPN.
TIM KURKJIAN: He is still going to be viewed as the face of the steroid era, and I would be astonished if he made it into the Hall of Fame next year, his first year on the ballot. And my guess would be that it would take several years before he gets close to getting into the hall.
GOLDMAN: A court official says the volume of media phone calls and emails about yesterday's sentencing hearing was markedly lower than before the trial in April. Compare that, says Professor Keane, to the attention Bonds and the steroids issue commanded in recent years.
KEANE: At the end of this saga of Bonds, what had started out as something having to do with a major societal health problem, having to do with sports and figures who were role models being negative role models, that's all gotten lost.
GOLDMAN: Perhaps that's just recognition of the end of the so-called Balco scandal. But coming up, a springtime trial for former pitcher Roger Clemens, a much more brazen defendant than the quiet Bonds. And of course recently, baseball's hopes to distance itself from the steroids era with a that-was-then, this-is-now attitude, those hopes were dashed by the positive drug test for reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun. He faces a hearing of his own next month. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.