If you wanted to see Barry Bonds do hard time for breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record in a seemingly fraudulent fashion, today’s not your day.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced Bonds on Friday to 30-days of confinement in his 15,000 sq.-ft. Beverly Hills home, two-years probation, and 250 hours of community service for obstructing justice during 2003 grand jury testimony. Illston also agreed to delay the sentence, because Bonds will appeal. Prosecutors were seeking a 15-month prison term for Bonds: The sentencing guidelines call for 15-to-21 months for obstruction. Illston agreed with the jury’s verdict in the case – guilty of one count of obstruction for evasive grand jury testimony in 2003, when Bonds was asked if his personal trainer had injected him with performance-enhancing drugs. (Three perjury counts ended in a mistrial.) During the sentencing hearing, Illston cited Bonds’ philanthropic efforts, which likely helped lighten the punishment. One of the prosecutors called the sentence “almost laughable.” Bonds has long maintained that he unknowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
Peter Keane, emeritus dean of the Golden Gate University Law School, has been tracking the Bonds case, and other steroid investigations and trials, for years. “Well, the punishment was particularly light,” he says. “He was convicted of a federal felony, a serious offense. Bonds intentionally threw a monkey wrench into the gears of the justice system. That’s not jaywalking.”
Keane thinks the federal steroid investigations, which critics have called a waste of government time and money, were worth it. Younger athletes are certainly more aware of steroid dangers. But to Keane, the length and hassle of the Bonds trial – charges were filed in November of 2007 – has drowned out that message. Outrage over Bonds’ sentence will only overshadow it further. “He’s going to do 30 days in a 10-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills?” says Keane. “If he needs someone to do the time for him, he can give me a call.”