Everybody needs a friend like Greg Anderson, especially if you happen to be a retired home run king suspected of doping and charged with lying to a grand jury about it. Then it’s essential to have a pal like that.
Anderson’s childhood friend and former boss, Barry Bonds, was back in court gain Tuesday, pleading not guilty, again, knowing full well that Anderson would refuse to testify against him and as a result, wind up spending some time in jail — again.
Three years have passed since Bonds was originally charged with lying under oath, but almost seven have gone by since the two men first got caught in the government’s net during an investigation into the BALCO labs in California. Anderson went to prison the first time in 2005, after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering tied to the BALCO operation, then twice more for refusing to tell the feds what he knows about Bonds, whose next stay in jail — if it comes to that — will be his first.
It’s one of those cases where nearly everyone involved behaved badly.
There’s Bonds, who continues to insist that he believed substances Anderson provided in measured doses and administered according to a precise schedule were nothing more potent than flaxseed oil. Then there’s federal agent Jeff Novitzky, whose dogged pursuit and questionable tactics prompted more than one judge to make him return evidence that was seized illegally. And finally, there’s the prosecution team, which has revised the charges three times since November, 2007, when the original indictment was unsealed, and have yet to get that right.
Anderson is no angel, to be sure. His list of sins begins with the decision to expand his personal training operation and begin providing performance-enhancing drugs to select clients, then clamming up about almost all of it. But he’s the only person in the cast of characters who — Bonds’ legal fees aside, which are considerable but manageable for a guy with his portfolio — so far has had to pay for his mistakes. That kind of loyalty is admirable, in a twisted way, and it makes for good movies — think “Goodfellas” — but a miserable life.
Anderson has missed chunks of his son’s childhood while in prison and his time on the outside hasn’t been a picnic, either. His business is a bust. The day after he got out of prison the last time, his wife, Nicole, was informed she and her mother, Madeleine Gestas, were targets in a federal tax investigation. In January, 2009, no less than 20 federal IRS and FBI agents staged a SWAT-style raid on his mother-in-law’s house.
Anderson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said that was no coincidence, but payback for his refusal to tell prosecutors whether his client had changed his mind and would testify against Bonds
“Even the mafia,” Geragos huffed back then, “spares women and children.”
But on Tuesday, Anderson told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston he wouldn’t take the stand and when the case goes to trial March 21, he will be going back to jail for as long it lasts.
Exactly what Bonds did to inspire that kind of loyalty is the subject of much speculation and the punchline to running joke, which usually ends with the words “secret bank account in the Cayman Islands.” The two were teammates on a middle school baseball team, but even then, they were never equals. Bonds was the star at every level, Anderson the guy on the periphery working out longer and lifting heavier weights trying to close the gap. He got as far as college ball, but figured out soon enough playing the game was never going to put food on the table.
He and Bonds arrived at the federal building at the same time, but remained a study in contrasts. They came in different entrances and rode different elevators up to the courtroom. Bonds looked svelte and smiled a lot. Anderson was bulky and grim. Instead of answering Illston’s question about whether he intended to follow through on his vow of silence, Anderson only nodded his head.
“He’s nodding yes,” Geragos assured the judge, drawing a few laughs from the gathering. But what the attorney said in the moment after that didn’t seem quite as funny. “He’s taking not testifying to the nth degree.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.