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The Bulk of Bonds's Potential Woes Goes Well Beyond Issues of Steroids
By MURRAY CHASS
Published: March 25, 2005
" .... If Bonds doesn't play this season, his knee won't be the reason. He faces accusations that, if true, could put him in prison before he breaks Hank Aaron's career home run record.
Income tax evasion, money laundering, evading federal banking laws and perjury are on the roster of charges Bonds could face if a woman named Kimberly Bell, who identifies herself as his ex-girlfriend, proves to be telling the truth. These matters are far more serious than steroids use and would result in far more serious penalties than a 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids. Convicted tax evaders and money launderers do jail time. Ask Pete Rose.
"All the stuff she's talking about is all documented," said Martin Garbus, one of the attorneys for Bell. "I don't think there's any issue about that. What two people said in a room does create issues, but there are people who saw them together."
Bell, who said her relationship with Bonds began in 1994, testified last week before the federal grand jury investigating steroids distribution in the San Francisco area, the same one Bonds testified before in December 2003.
"They asked her about steroids and money flow," Garbus said. "I think her story about money flow is corroborated by bank documents. I think she can put it in a time and a focus, and other people were around, so that her credibility will stand up."
If there's any question about Bell's credibility, it's because she plans to write a book about her relationship with Bonds. Garbus is a New York lawyer who represents Bell in her effort to find a publisher. If Jose Canseco can sell a book proposal without a publisher having first-hand knowledge of the steroids tales he tells, Garbus should have no trouble getting Bell a hefty advance.
The grand jury won't weigh Bell's testimony based on her desire to sell a book because it has no reason to know about the book.
Bonds appeared before the grand jury when it was investigating four men, including his personal trainer, whom it has indicted and who face trial later this year. Bell has contradicted Bonds's statements to the grand jury that he didn't know the substances he was using were steroids.
Discussing perjury, a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he is not involved in the case and thus felt it was inappropriate to comment on the record said: "It has to be a lie that is material to grand jury considerations. Whether or not a guy like him is using steroids would be viable."
Perjury is a serious charge, but what Bell told the grand jury about money flow can be even more damaging to Bonds.
"I think the government is investigating the possibility that Barry Bonds gave untruthful testimony to the grand jury," said Hugh Levine, Bell's California lawyer. "Also illegal structuring of cash transactions by breaking down payments to less than $10,000 to avoid federal law. I think they're looking into the possibility of evading income tax for cash payments for memorabilia."
Levine doesn't know what the government's motives are. The government doesn't advertise its intentions.
Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for the United States attorney in San Francisco, declined to comment on that office's activities regarding Bonds.
"This is just my speculation and educated guessing based on 34 years of practicing criminal law, the first 12 as a prosecutor," Levine said.
When Bonds played the melancholy Dane the other day, he didn't mention these other elements in his life. If he had, he would most likely have scoffed at them, as he does with everything he puts down.
That is his public posture, and he's entitled to put on any act he wants, even playing Hamlet. His lawyer, Michael Rains, also isn't about to acknowledge the potential seriousness of Bell's statements. Rains did not return telephone calls seeking comment. But the allegations are potentially serious.
"I think it's a high probability that they will want to talk to her further," Levine said in reference to the grand jury.
Garbus said the grand jury didn't ask Bell about personal matters. "They asked her about cash," he said, "but they didn't ask her about personal relations, intimate stuff."
Neither Garbus nor Levine would say what Bell told the grand jury, but in an interview with The New York Times this week, she said that Bonds gave her $80,000, mostly in $100 bills, to help her buy a house. She said he told her to deposit the money in four banks, with no deposit to exceed $9,999.
Federal law requires banks to report transactions of $10,000 or more. The law enforcement official said the government often prosecuted what he called structuring cases.
"Structuring is when you avoid reporting requirements on transactions just under $10,000," he said. "It's usually a charge that accompanies money laundering and other things." In addition, he said, "If you're concealing funds to avoid paying taxes, it can be charged as tax evasion and money laundering."
Bell said in the interview that Bonds received the $80,000 for signing baseballs. If he did not report the income, he left himself open to a tax-evasion charge.
"It looks like he's in a bunch of hot water," the law enforcement official said. "These kinds of charges are usually not hard to prove.""