By Ross Newhan
Barry Bonds did not get away with murder, metaphorically speaking.
It only appears that way because of the seemingly light sentence Bonds has received for giving evasive answers to a federal grand jury eight years ago.
It's known as obstruction of justice, and under federal guidelines District Court Judge Susan Illston could have sentenced Bonds to 15 months in prison.
Instead, in a ruling consistent with her other decisions in the long running BALCO drug case, Bonds was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest, two years probation, 250 hours of community service and a $4,000 fine.
In an effort to avoid a lifetime reputation as a felon, Bonds will appeal, and Illston stayed her sentence Friday until the appeal is heard.
Putting the lenient sentence aside, no one will ever convince me that Bonds did not use steroids or a form thereof as his body expanded in size as his home runs totals similarly expanded and he became baseball's all-time home runs leader.
In my mind, he will always carry the reputation of a cheater, felon not withstanding.
Bonds becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame with next December's ballot. Some voting members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America may feel Bonds was already a Hall of Fame caliber player before the steroids questions arose and will vote for him on that basis. I don't buy it. A career is a career. How do you simply erase the suspicions that accompanied the latter half of his career? In fact, Bonds has admitted using a susbstance known as the cream, claiming he was unaware it was a steroids derivative.
Bonds was convicted April 13 by a San Francisco jury that heard three weeks of testimony about his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs. He was found guilty on one of the four counts in the case,the jury agreeing he had obstructed justice by giving evasive answers to a grand jury in 2003 when asked if Greg Anderson, his former personal trainer, had ever injected him
The jury came within one vote of convicting him on a second count, voting by 11 to 1 that he had committed perjury when he told the same grand jury in 2003 that he was never injected by anyone other than his doctor. Depending on the outcome of his appeal, if community service stands, he should begin by doing the gardening for that one jury member who voted against perjury.
Of course, that would be after he finishes 30 days of house arrest in his Beverly Hills mansion..
Illston explained her sentence by saying Bond's obstruction behavior was not as serious as his conviction might suggest, and that the prison guidelines "apply to us when the obstruction are things like threats of force and intimidation of jurors--significant criminal behavior. What was convicted here was of a different nature"
Prosecutor Matthew Parrella disputed her reasoning and termed the sentence "almost laughable."