Ex-mistress' testimony makes for embarrassing day for Bonds
Kimberly Bell's testimony about Barry Bonds came off as surprisingly credible
Prosecutor Chris Arguedas may have made a mistake with her combative attitude
Bell's testimony contained several tidbits that cast Bonds in a poor light
SAN FRANCISCO -- Three quick thoughts after Day 5 of the perjury trial of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds:
1. Kimberly Bell was more convincing than expected. Saying that Bell has a credibility problem would be like saying the surface of the sun is warm. Bonds' former mistress tried unsuccessfully to sell a book about her nearly nine-year love affair with him, and she sold her story to Playboy while also appearing naked in that magazine. Bell was upset when Bonds got married and when he reneged on his promise to pay off her house in Arizona, among other scorns. She also made explosive comments on television and radio shows, and she is friendly with others who have allegedly tried to profit off their associations with Bonds. In short, she was a potential nightmare for the prosecution. But she took the stand and came off as sympathetic and believable as she discussed how Bonds once told her that he used steroids, and as she talked about changes in Bonds' body -- acne, hair loss, etc. -- indicative of the use of performance-enhancing drugs. She also testified that during spring training Bonds would go into a room with trainer Greg Anderson, which mirrored earlier testimony from Steve Hoskins. Bonds also became angry and threatening during the period the government says he was doping, Bell said. Her comments that Bonds threatened "to cut my head off and leave me in a ditch" and "cut out my breast implants" had to resonate with the jury, which includes eight women.
2. Chris Arguedas' approach may have backfired. Arguedas, a well-known female defense attorney, went after Bell from the start of her cross-examination. Her tone was hostile. She shouted at Bell and cut her off when Bell didn't give a direct answer or didn't provide the single-word response Arguedas wanted. She seemed to be trying to bait Bell, to make her angry so that Arguedas' portrait of Bell as jealous and bitter would come to life on the stand. On some issues, Arguedas caught Bell in contradictions and created real doubt about Bell's motives. But Arguedas could have done that with the facts alone, minus the indignation. Her focus on Bell's financial troubles and quibbles over whether or not she was accurate on a home loan was so far afield it took away from the segments that mattered and could be seen by jurors as personal attacks. At the end of Bell's testimony, Arguedas demonstratively threw her glasses on the defense table. It could have been a show for the jury -- a signal that they too should be annoyed by many of Bell's answers -- or it could be taken as a sign of Arguedas' frustration with the fact she didn't completely crack the witness.
3. It was an embarrassing day for Bonds. Bell provided a good share of salacious tidbits when questioned by prosecutor Jeff Nedrow, but it didn't stop there. During Arguedas' cross-examination, some of the most damning information came out. One example: When Arguedas suggested that Bell was always looking to write a book, Bell said that it was Bonds' wife at the time who suggested she write one. In another charged moment, Arguedas talked about the cities that Bell visited with Bonds. When she brought up a visit to Houston, Bell stated that the visit occurred at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and in that uncertain time Bonds "abandoned her." Arguedas also tried to dispute that Bonds had sexual dysfunction but did so by mentioning other women he had in Las Vegas and Phoenix. At the end of her first cross-examination, Arguedas confronted Bell about the "vulgar" things Bell said about Bonds on Howard Stern's radio show. Bell snapped back: "I don't remember. Refresh my memory." The courtroom laughed as Arguedas weighed whether to read Bell's comments from the show. Arguedas eventually said she would "decline the opportunity to go into the gutter," but the gutter was achieved long before, which made for an uncomfortable day for the defendant.