Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving non-responsive answers to questions in a grand jury. As Judge Fletcher told the government in the oral argument in the 9th Circuit en banc challenge to his conviction, “I find your reading of the [obstruction of justice] statute absolutely alarming.” And for good reason — Judge Fletcher thinks that the government’s interpretation of obstruction of justice would mean that most civil lawyers are felons.
There are a lot of ways to violate federal laws that are related to obstruction of justice. You can lie to a federal agent who is coming to your house to interview you and violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. You can commit perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621. And there are a host of other false statement statutes specific to other regulatory schemes (like false statements in connection with a tax filing, or a health care request for payment, etc.).
All of those laws, though, require that the person who is being prosecuted make a false statement.
Obstruction of justice is different. Instead of having concrete elements like “making a false statement”, obstruction of justice criminalizes willfully “obstruct[ing], imped[ing], or interfer[ing] with” whatever is being allegedly obstructed.
Here, Barry Bonds didn’t make a false statement. Instead, he gave an answer that was non-responsive. The government’s theory was that Barry Bonds didn’t give a responsive answer to a question in order to throw the government off (because, apparently, having the temerity to force an AUSA to listen to questions in a grand jury and ask a follow-up question is the kind of thing that ought to brand you a felon).
And that was “obstructing” the federal law enforcement apparatus.
There are a lot of things wrong with this prosecution. The one I want to focus on is the lengths the federal government will go to in order to protect AUSAs from having to do the same basic work that the rest of the legal community does routinely.
* As a public service, here’s a very good guide about what criminal activities should NOT be talked about on Facebook. [Slate]
* It’s getting to that time of year when law students’ minds turn from finals preparation and towards the violent overthrow of the government. [McSweeney's]
* Finally, the full story on how reporter T.J. Quinn eavesdropped on Barry Bonds’s grand jury testimony without violating any laws. Go New York Daily News lawyers! [Deadspin]
* There allegedly was a female soldier prostitution ring at Fort Hood, lead by the unit’s sexual assault prevention officer. Now watch as somebody uses this to argue that women shouldn’t be in the military. [Gawker]
* Winners from Detroit’s bankruptcy filing include lawyers, don’t really include Detroit. [Am Law Daily]
* Here we go — proof that the internet is racist is coming. [Forbes]
* Rutgers-Camden Law has been fined and censured for allowing applicants to use something other than the LSAT without asking the ABA nicely if it could do so first. This is what the ABA cares about. Those are the questions they had for Rutgers. What was left off the list of ABA inquiries: Rutgers-Camden’s favorite color? [ABA Journal]
You’ll have to excuse me if this post comes off a bit more confused or muddled than it usually does. It’s being written amidst the swirl and din of Valentine’s Day preparations. This year, I’m making dinner which I thought would be the easier (read: cheaper) option. Listen, there’s a reason I’m poor. And it’s not because I’m secretly a genius. This is the dumbest thing I’ve done. Just got back from the grocery store, where I spent a small fortune on one (still hypothetical) meal. Have I mentioned I can’t cook? This is a Hindenburgian disaster and I wish I could blame my girlfriend or the Valentine’s Industrial Complex. Maybe love itself for the way it blinds you to your inability to measure up, if only briefly. But no, none of these are the likely culprit. As I already said, there’s a reason I’m poor. A reason I’m financing a T14 debt burden on a TTT salary. I’m humble enough to admit that the only reason I continue to make bad decisions is a simple one: I think my mom smoked crack while she was pregnant with me.
Vince Young is broke. Or, he may be broke. At any rate, Vince Young is currently financing a Pro Bowl debt burden on a waiver wire salary.
Did Lester Munson get his law degree by staying at a Holiday Inn Express?
Last night, Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice, while the jury hung on all other counts, resulting in a mistrial as to those counts. We posted about it.
Now, I don’t expect non-lawyers to really understand what “obstruction of justice” means. I certainly don’t expect them to understand what a “mistrial” is. But I do expect anybody who has been through 1L year at an American law school to understand these concepts. I certainly expect law professors to understand these terms. And I freaking demand that legal analysts charged with making sense of this issue for ESPN — the WORLDWIDE LEADER IN SPORTS — have a basic grasp on what the hell is going on.
ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson, you, sir, have failed. Failed at your job. Failed at being a thought leader. Failed at failing in a funny, non-offensive way.
Even 1Ls won’t believe the kind of tripe Muson has been spewing on ESPN…
After four days of deliberating over whether or not former baseball great Barry Bonds lied about his use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, the jury could not reach agreement on a number of charges the government made against Bonds.
But the feds nailed him on the obstruction of justice count. From ESPN:
The guilty verdict on obstruction of justice means the jury believed Bonds hindered a grand jury’s 2003 sports doping investigation by lying.
The judge, after speaking to the jury foreman, said she believes the mistrial is the proper decision given that the jury believes it has reached a crossroads.
* On the same day that Lady Kaga wrote her first dissent, Governor Deval Patrick nominated Barbara Lenk, an openly gay woman, to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Big week for… uhh, female judges. [New York Times]
* The prosecution in the Barry Bonds case rested their case yesterday, and the judge is considering throwing out previous testimony about Bonds’s shrunken testicles. National League something something small ball. [San Francisco Chronicle]
* Fordham Law School hosted a conference on Bob Dylan and the law, featuring “law professors, a Dylan historian, a disc jockey and a guitar player.” Then she opened a book of poems and handed it to me. Written by an Italian jurist from the 20th century. And every one of Scalia’s words rang true and glowed like burning coal. [City Room / New York Times]
* White O’Connor, the Hollywood entertainment-law firm, is merging with “NYC white-shoe powerhouse” Kelley Drye. [Deadline.com]
* If the Muslim Brotherhood gains power in Egypt, they will impose sharia law. Just like Oklahoma! [ABC Online]
* Lindsay Lohan took to Twitter to announce that she “was not raised to lie, cheat, or steal.” Well, nature it is. [msnbc.com]
* Arizona is suing the federal government over the porous border. Mr. Obama, build us a wall! [Reuters]
* Barry Bonds, he of the enormous dome piece, had the number of felony charges against him dropped to five. Hauling that gargantuan cranium about. I’m not kidding, that boy’s head is like Sputnik. [ESPN]
Last season, Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s all-time home run king, batted .276 with 28 home runs and 75 runs scored. Bonds also reached base 48 percent of the time—the best in all of baseball.
This season, however, Bonds is unemployed. The San Francisco Giants, his former team, prefer to play journeymen outfielders Dave Roberts and Rajai Davis. The Washington Nationals, meanwhile, seem to prefer outfielder Elijah Dukes, who has nearly as many lifetime arrests (6) as Major League home runs (10). Stranger still, the New York Mets claim to be content beginning the season with Ryan Church, Angel Pagan and Endy Chavez playing their corner outfield positions. Last season, the Church/Pagan/Chavez combo had 438 more at bats than Bonds, yet combined for eight fewer home runs, not to mention a lower combined batting average.
Bonds recently told the media that he is “working out” and “training,” in hopes of playing for some team this season. With recent notification that prosecutors must revise their perjury indictment against him, Bonds for the moment is free from any legal conflicts. In addition, Bonds is relatively healthy, not to mention just 65 hits shy of the 3,000 milestone.
So what’s going on here? Read more, after the jump.
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