Posted: Monday March 21, 2011 12:12PM ; Updated: Monday March 21, 2011 9:36PM
George Dohrmann
George Dohrmann>VIEWPOINT

Sizing up the key figures in the Barry Bonds perjury trial

Story Highlights

The BALCO scandal's most recognizable figure finally stands before a jury

At issue is whether Bonds lied in his 2003 BALCO grand jury testimony

Each of four perjury counts against him carries a maximum sentence of five years

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The start of the perjury trial against former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds this week doesn't guarantee that the BALCO scandal -- now in its ninth year -- has reached an absolute end, but it represents a culmination of sorts: The scandal's most recognizable figure finally stands before a jury.

The stakes for Bonds are obvious. If he is found to have lied in 2003, when he testified before a federal grand jury hearing evidence of BALCO's doping of athletes, he could face prison time (Each of the four perjury counts against him carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; the same is true of the obstruction of justice count). In addition, testimony by (among others) his ex-girlfriend, ex-personal assistant and an assortment of former teammates will clarify and magnify the extent to which his achievements were enhanced by performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds, however, will share the spotlight with another group of individuals: the judge, lawyers and witness involved in the case. In the San Francisco Bay Area so many lawyers have worked on BALCO-related legal issues -- either counseling witnesses or defending the accused -- that it is almost impossible to find a big firm that doesn't have at least a tangential connection to the case. Also, some of the witness who will appear in the Bonds trial testified at earlier hearings and the Judge, Susan Illston, has presided over the BALCO case since the beginning.

"The case has been going on so long, and so many people have worked on it, that pretty much everyone [in the legal community] is familiar with the particulars and the players," said one Bay Area lawyer.

For the benefit of those less familiar, here is a primer on the key figures in the case. SI.com also asked two lawyers with connections to the BALCO scandal to comment on these individuals, which they did under the stipulation that their names not be used.

Judge

SUSAN ILLSTON

Appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1995, Illston was a well-known lawyer in the Bay Area, partnering with Joe Cotchett. She graduated from Duke and then got her law degree from Stanford. Daughter of an Army officer, she was born in Tokyo and went to high school in Germany. Considered a rising star on the bench and whispered to be in the running for a spot on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lawyer's View: "She is very well-regarded on both sides of the bar, and it is hard to find anybody with anything negative to say about her. The government has not been happy with her sentences in the BALCO trials, but it is hard to find fault with her knowledge and demeanor on the bench. She is known outside of court as a down-to-earth, sincere person with a lot of class, but she can be tough in court when she needs to be."

Defense Team

ALLEN RUBY

Ruby grew up in Detroit and his father was a professional wrestler. He joined his father's troupe and also did commentary for the family's TV shows, Motor City Wrestling and Big Time Wrestling. Graduated from Stanford Law School and almost immediately opened his own firm in San Jose, Ruby & Schofield. He prevailed in a 14-year-long civil case against the government and the defense contractor that manufactured the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He also successfully defended the NFL against an Al Davis lawsuit. He recently joined the Bay Area office of Skadden, Arps, one of the nation's largest law firms.

Lawyer's View: "If pretrial proceedings are any indication, he is going to be the lead chair, and he has been the primary public face of the defense team. He has a large courtroom voice that most trial lawyers only dream about, a baritone that fits with his larger-than-life persona. He's at the top of most lists of the best civil and criminal trial attorneys in the state."

CHRISTINA ARGUEDAS

A New Jersey native and graduate of Rutgers Law School, Arguedas is a prominent figure in the California legal and political scene. (Her domestic partner is former state senator Carole Migden.) A partner at Arguedas, Cassman & Headley, she has represented numerous corporate officials but has dipped her toe into sports trials before. In 1995, O.J. Simpson's defense team brought her in to do a mock cross-examination of the accused former NFL star and rumor has it that her performance convinced Simpson's lawyers not to put him on the stand. She successfully defended former Oakland Raider Darrell Russell in a rape trial.

Lawyer's View: "Most people couldn't afford to pay for Allen and Chris. You've got two people with different specialties, and obviously Chris is known for cross-examinations. She is very strategic. She's relaxed and not overly dramatic or flamboyant. But she is surgical."

DENNIS RIORDAN

A graduate of NYU Law, Riordan was an interesting addition to Bonds' legal team because his expertise lies in appellate law. Most famously he worked on the case of the "San Quentin Six," representing Johnny Spain, one of six Black Panthers accused of murdering three prison guards. Riordan got Spain's conviction overturned after a 14-year appeal.

Lawyer's View: "Dennis is not someone that usually gets on a [defense] team early to be involved in the motion process, which is his specialty along with appeals, but that was a smart move. He has been helping set the boundaries of the fight, and so far the motion process has been great for the defense."

TED CASSMAN

Arguedas' legal partner, Cassman graduated from Cal-Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. He wrote the winning briefs in United States v. Merchant, a case before the U.S. States Supreme Court.

Lawyer's View: "Not as well-known as Arguedas but very experienced and very savvy. Much of his trial experience has been in state court, but he knows his way around federal court also. One might say that he isn't needed with Ruby and Arguedas already in place, but with the government talking about calling over 30 witnesses, there will be a lot for him to do, especially with the experts."

Government Team

Assistant U.S. Attorney MATTHEW PARRELLA

He has been head of the San Jose branch of the U.S Attorney's office since 2003. He is also the chief of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit, the first unit of its kind in the country. A New York native, he handled homicide prosecutions for Suffolk County and then moved to Las Vegas, where he worked as a federal prosecutor for five years before moving to Northern California.

Lawyer's View: "He's definitely a New Yorker. He did street crimes and then some organized crime in Las Vegas and then moved on to computer crimes. He's overseen some huge investigations, and while I think he is a rigid thinker, he makes up for it by being dogged."

Assistant U.S. Attorney JEFFREY NEDROW

Nedrow, a Stanford graduate who attended UCLA Law School, questioned Bonds during his grand jury testimony. He has worked in both the San Jose and San Francisco U.S. Attorney's offices, spending nearly 20 years as a federal prosecutor.

Lawyer's View: "He is a good guy, more relaxed than [Parrella]. Good common sense can take you a long way as a prosecutor, and Jeff has that. He's a little scattered but he has good judgment of the facts, and strategically that helps keep him out of tough situations."

Key Witnesses

GREG ANDERSON

A childhood friend of Bonds', he eventually became his trainer and was a constant presence around Bonds as he rose to become baseball's home run king. The government has put considerable pressure on Anderson (jailing him for more than a year) and members of his family, but he has remained steadfast in his refusal to talk about his dealings with Bonds. The inability of the government to get Anderson on the stand led Judge Illston to throw out evidence -- including doping calendars and three tests that allegedly showed that Bonds doped -- considered important to the government's case. Anderson's voice on an incriminating recording, however, will be heard.

Lawyer's View: "Even though he won't likely testify, he will loom over the case nonetheless. It will be interesting to see how the prosecutors portray his relationship with Bonds and how they frame his refusal to testify. I imagine Illston will instruct the jury in some way about his absence."

JEFF NOVITZKY

The lead investigator in the BALCO case, Novitzky has become the face of the BALCO investigation. Now with the Food and Drug Administration (he was a IRS Criminal Investigation agent when the BALCO scandal began), he has continued to investigate steroid use in sports, playing a prominent role in the current Lance Armstrong investigation.

Lawyer's View: "As it was with the BALCO trials of Tammy Thomas and Trevor Graham, he is a critical government witness. He presents on the stand to the jury as a polished, thoughtful government agent with a lot of confidence, but not arrogance. He was tripped up on at least a couple key points in the Graham case, which showed that his preparation was not perfect or that, at the time, he was stretched too thin. But he now has had more than two years since the last BALCO trial to get ready for the Bonds case. It will also be interesting to watch when the prosecution puts him on -- do they try to get off to a fast start with him early or do they worry that the cross will be rough enough that they have to wait on him?"

KIMBERLY BELL

Bonds' former girlfriend will, according to court filings, testify that Bonds told her he did steroids before the 2000 season, and she can also speak to his relationship with Anderson. She will also testify about changes she saw in Bonds' body beginning in the year 2000.

Lawyer's View: "In the end it could come down simply to how she presents to the jury. In this district, it isn't going to put most people off that she appeared in Playboy [after alleging that Bonds used steroids], but she apparently shopped a book after having a falling out with him, and it could look to the jury like she has attempted to trade on Bonds' fame. There is ample material for the defense to attack her motives and credibility."

BOBBY ESTALELLA

One of six former teammates of Bonds' listed as potential government witnesses, Estalella is the only one to have allegedly discussed doping with Bonds. According to the prosecutors' pleadings, he will testify that Bonds "admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, and that they had several discussions regarding that topic."

Lawyer's View: "He could be a key witness and presents a significant challenge to the defense because there appears to be no obvious motive for him to lie, and he doesn't appear to have the same personal history with Bonds as some of the other witnesses. The challenge for the defense is how to attack his motives and credibility. Do they argue that he is being untruthful or that he is simply mistaken?"

STEVE and KATHY HOSKINS

Steve Hoskins was a childhood friend of Bonds' and then worked as his personal assistant. His sister Kathy was hired as Bonds' personal shopper and assistant. Steve Hoskins had a falling out with Bonds prior to making allegations about his steroid use, and he later taped a conversation with Anderson in which the doping of athletes was discussed.

Lawyer's View: "These two are classic inner-circle witnesses. They grew up with Bonds and then had a falling out with him. Bonds knows these people very well, so there is nothing about them the defense team won't know. They will have a good understanding of who they are and how they will present in court."

 
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