Thursday, July 30, 2015
Be patient. None of the good stuff has happened yet. The Barry Bonds perjury trial was a slow starter Tuesday. Everyone largely went through the motions.First, attorneys gave their opening statements. No surprises. After that, Bonds' former trainer Greg Anderson appeared before the court and again refused to testify, as expected. Anderson was immediately led off to jail, going from free man to inmate in less than five minutes while making no eye contact with Bonds, seated just a few feet away.Next came the pro forma testimony of government investigator Jeff Novitzky. Defense attorney Allen Ruby then tried to rattle Novitzky under cross-examination and failed. Once more, no shock.Just wait, though. The compelling sit-up-straight-and-listen witnesses lie dead ahead. And here is a semi-bold prediction, after hearing the initial remarks of prosecutor Matthew Parrella, in which he outlined the government's general game plan:The most crucial witness in the Bonds case will be someone whose name has barely created a blip on the radar so far.That would be Stan Conte, the former Giants trainer.Do not confuse Stan Conte with Victor Conte, the former head of BALCO who ignited this whole mess. Stan Conte is no relation to Victor. Most importantly, Stan Conte has far more credibility than Victor -- or others on the witness list who have scuzzy back stories.
The second reason Stan Conte looms so large is that he has zero slime in his background. Those of us who dealt with him during his Giants tenure always figured him to be an honest and forthright guy. Nothing has happened since to mar that perception.
Conte is definitely no Steve Hoskins, who is scheduled to testify as soon as Wednesday. Hoskins is Bonds' former business partner. They were in the autographed-memorabilia racket together before a falling out. Hoskins will testify that Bonds admitted to drug usage and also will produce a taped conversation between Anderson and Hoskins in which Anderson allegedly confirms Bonds' steroid usage.
But there are problems with Hoskins himself. After their breakup, Bonds accused Hoskins of theft and forging autographs. The FBI became involved. Bonds' attorney, Ruby, spent part of his opening statement suggesting that Hoskins has held a grudge against Bonds ever since. Ruby also suggests the government gave Hoskins a break in the FBI case in exchange for his testimony against Bonds.
The government's other star witness is Kimberly Bell, who was Bonds' mistress from 1994 to 2003. She is going to talk about how Bonds admitted to her that he used steroids and describe the changes in Bonds' body during that time (including changes in the size of, ahem, certain organs).
Bell's past, however, is also tainted. She has capitalized on her relationship with Bonds by posing for Playboy, writing a book manuscript and appearing on television talk shows.
Needless to say, Stan Conte has done none of the above. He has no business beef with Bonds. He has not posed nude anywhere or profited from writing exposés. He left the Giants to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and has continued to build a reputation for being a standup guy -- as is proved by passages in the Mitchell Report, the official Major League Baseball investigative report on performance-enhancing drugs.
According to the report, during a 2002 road trip by the Giants, an "unidentified player" asked Conte about anabolic steroids. The player said he was thinking about obtaining the drugs from Anderson and wanted Conte's opinion. Conte tried to nuke the player's plan by describing the health hazards of steroids. Subsequently, Conte expressed concerns about Anderson to Giants officials, who essentially did nothing.
Also in the report: In 2003 -- the same year as Bonds' grand jury testimony -- Conte was interviewed by a federal law enforcement official about the Giants' steroid usage. Conte sadly told the official that "the horse had already left the barn."
Hmmmmm. A jury would be inclined to believe a guy like that. If the government has any chance to win the case, Conte's words will be its best weapon. Just a hunch.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5092.
morning reportThe government portrays Bonds as a liar, and his lawyer insists he "told the truth."