The Stupid Barry Bonds Prosecution, In A Stupid Nutshell

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As you all know, Barry Bonds was convicted yesterday on a single count of rambling in the first degree. (No, seriously. Seven years of this shit, and that's what they got him on — evading a question he ultimately answered. Aggravated incoherence. A felony charge of Not Being Freaking Pericles in the Presence of a Grand Jury. Go read Craig Calcaterra if you don't believe me.) There's a lot of mewling and bead-fondling in the sports pages today about what it all means for Bonds's legacy — as always, it's important to remember that a sportswriter talking about a legacy is just a fart talking about its own smell — but let's ignore all that for now and instead direct our attention to an exchange from Day 12 of the trial, which I only just now noticed. One of Bonds's attorneys, Dennis Riordan, was objecting to the judge's instructions to the jury on the obstruction of justice charge, which, per the San Jose Mercury News, enabled the jury "to find [Bonds] guilty based on four separate statements":

Some of those statements appear loosely tethered to the allegations that Bonds lied to a federal grand jury in December 2003 about using steroids.

For example, one of the statements covers the following response to a question about whether Bonds had ever been given anything from trainer Greg Anderson that required a syringe.

"That's what keeps our friendship," Bonds replied in rambling fashion. "You know, I am sorry, but that—you know that—I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child, with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see...."

Riordan argued that the jury could clear Bonds of allegations connected to steroids and injections and, under the instruction, convict him of a felony through that statement, at least in theory. Quoting Karl Marx and his famous statement that history repeats itself twice, first as tragedy and then as farce, Riordan said such a conviction would be "utterly a farce."

As it turned out, the obstruction verdict centered on that "celebrity child" riff, even though Bonds eventually answered the question the jury said he was dodging. Riordan's absolutely right, and the verdict could very well fall apart on appeal. That's not what I want to point out, though. What I want to point out is the prosecution's response to Riordan.

Prosecutor Matt Parrella, already spoiling for a venomous closing, derided Riordan's argument. "As for the quotation from Marx," Parrella scoffed, "it's lucky we don't live in communist Russia."


Marx was German. The quotation comes from a pamphlet he wrote about the 1851 French coup d'état. He was echoing a turn of phrase from another German, who himself was citing something a German philosopher once wrote. In other words: A German writing about France echoing a German who was paraphrasing another German (who was probably writing about France, too), some 60 years before the Bolsheviks showed up in the Winter Palace. That quotation has nothing whatsoever to do with communist Russia, except to the sort of idiot children who think "Marx" is a bad word. You can almost see the dumb, immensely self-satisfied smirk spread across Parrella's face — a frat boy who has just called someone a fag. This is lawyering straight out of YouTube Comment LLP. It's lucky we don't live in communist Russia. Take that, Barry Bonds. Yakov Smirnoff rests his case.

Exploring the sheer absurdity of the Bonds verdict [HardballTalk]
Barry Bonds trial, courtroom blog Day 12: Closing arguments [Mercury News]