In Barry Bonds's wake, a trail of broken lives
The Barry Bonds trial has played out like a daily morality play, offering an unvarnished look at how sports stars' entourages can be made and ripped apart by fame, wealth, and scandal.
Three weeks into home run king Barry Bonds’s perjury trial, testimony from some of the prosecution’s witnesses has exposed how the lives of some of those in Bonds’s inner circle have been torn apart in the eight years since the steroid scandal emerged.
If the testimonies are true, Bonds’s ex-mistress views her extramarital affair with the former San Francisco Giants slugger as taking years out of her life, leaving her with little to show for them.
Two of Bonds’s childhood friends, a brother and a sister, are now estranged from Bonds and the sister feels betrayed by the brother.
And his former personal trainer is now in jail.
While the tales of players and their entourages have become standard fare for the modern American professional sports fan, the stories unfolding in a federal courtroom in San Francisco in some ways represent something unique. They have offered an intimate and unvarnished look at how money and celebrity can become corrupting influences in the lives of the people surrounding them.
“There’s a saying among financial analysts: The more money that’s involved, the less likelihood for an ethical outcome,” said Marianne Jennings, a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University who has written about Bonds and the steroid scandal.
All four of these individuals had become dependent on Bonds for “a lifestyle that they could not have paid for on their own and, once they got a taste of that, they can’t give it up no matter what they see,” she says.
Bonds faces one count of obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements to a federal grand jury in 2003, when he denied knowingly using banned performance-enhancing anabolic steroids.
Bonds's defense team rested Wednesday without calling a witness, meaning closing arguments will be Thursday and the jury could render a verdict Friday. Also Wednesday, prosecutors dropped a fourth charge of perjury against Bonds because US District Judge Susan Illston was prepared to dismiss it.
The former mistress
During their 2-1/2 weeks of calling witnesses, prosecutors called Bonds’s former mistress, Kimberly Bell, to testify about physical and emotional changes in Bonds that, they say, point to steroid use. In one instance, Ms. Bell said, Bonds attributed an injury to steroid use.
Bell said she has no intention of becoming the next Mrs. Bonds when the two met in 1994 and started dating.
“He was a handsome guy. He was charming and I was attracted to him,” Bell testified on Monday.
Yet when Bonds told her in 1997 that he would marry another woman, she said she was “shocked,” “upset,” and “blindsided” by the news.
Still, she continued seeing Bonds because “I just didn’t think he was going to go through with the marriage.”
When Bonds did get married, she settled for the role of “road-trip girlfriend,” seeing him while the Giants played away games.
Bonds bought her cars, took her on trips, paid for crowns in her teeth and breast implants, gave her shopping money, and even provided money for a down payment on a house in Arizona.
But she also described changes in Bonds as time went on, like hair loss, increased muscle mass, and bloating, all of which might indicate the use of steroids.
There were also changes in his character, she testified, when he became increasingly hostile, irritable, and aggressive.
Near the end of their relationship in 2003, it got so bad that he threatened to cut off her head, throw her in a ditch and remove her breast implants “because he paid for them.”
After the breakup she tried to publish a book and planned on calling it either “In The Shadow Of A Giant” or “Giant Mistake.”
She denied she was trying to embarrass Bonds. Instead, she wanted to write about “how someone like me could get caught up in something like this and couldn’t get out.”
To promote the book, which in the end she never actually wrote, she posed for Playboy.
“I wanted what [Bonds] promised and what I lost,” she explained, fighting back tears and struggling to keep her composure after hours of testimony last week.
She ended up selling her Arizona house to pay off debts and moved back to California.
Most people who start out in similar situations don’t initially realize what they’re getting into until they’re in too deep, says Dr. Jennings.
“It’s a lot like riding a tiger,” she says. “They want to get off but have no idea how to do it without getting hurt, and the sad part of it is they are going to get hurt.”
The woman who had introduced Bell to Bonds back in 1994, Katherine Hoskins, also took the stand.
She and her brother, Steve, have known Bonds since childhood.
Her brother was Bonds’s personal assistant, making appointments for him, while she became his “shopper,” particularly of his clothing. She also packed his clothes at his home before he went on road trips.
She testified that every time she packed for Bonds, she saw his trainer, Greg Anderson, with him and they’d “go into the office for one or two minutes, come back out.”
One day in 2002, she said, they came into the bedroom where she was packing and Bonds told Mr. Anderson “let’s do it right here,” according to Ms. Hoskins's testimony.
When Anderson seemed nervous about this, Bonds told him, “This is Katie. She’s my girl. She won’t tell anybody.”
She said she saw Anderson inject Bonds in his navel area with something from a syringe, she didn’t know what, and then Bonds turned to her and said, “That’s a little somethin’ somethin’ for when I go on the road. You can’t detect it.”
In 2003, Bonds accused Mr. Hoskins of stealing from him and the friendship ended abruptly. Bonds banished Steve from his life, although Katherine packed for Bonds a couple of times after that.
The last time she spoke to Bonds was at his father Bobby Bonds’ funeral in August of that year.
Her brother, however, wasn’t allowed at the funeral.
At this point in the cross-examination, Ms. Hoskins’s demeanor, which had been feisty, began to crack and she lifted her glasses up to wipe tears away with a paper napkin.
Bonds eventually contacted the FBI about his allegation against Mr. Hoskins.
In response, Ms. Hoskins said on the stand, her brother contacted the FBI and told agents about the injection his sister had witnessed.
When later it became clear that the FBI was going to ask her about the incident, she got a lawyer because her brother “threw me under the bus, and that’s why I’m over here,” she said.
When prosecutor Matthew Parrella questioned her, he asked her: “Are you testifying here just to back your brother up?”
“Absolutely not,” she responded.
“Are you happy being here?”
“No,” she said, choking up and lifting her glasses to wipe more tears away. “I was put in the middle of this.”
Ms. Hoskins’s story is particularly poignant, says Derek Van Rheenen, director of Cultural Studies of Sport in Education at the University of California at Berkeley.
“She was witnessing unethical behavior and turning a blind eye,” he says. “We need to ask ourselves, what investment do I have in this person that’s causing me to ignore my own values?"
“If you’re turning a blind eye because you’ll be out of a job or feeling like you’ll betray someone, that’s a challenging position to be in, particularly if your livelihood depends upon it,” he adds.
Yet, in some ways, Dr. Rheenen sees Anderson’s situation as the most intriguing. Anderson has not appeared at the trial because he has been in jail more than a year for refusing to cooperate with federal investigators.
But his name has been ubiquitous at the proceedings. Four witnesses – Jason Giambi; his brother, Jeremy; Marvin Bernard; and Randy Velarde, all current or former professional baseball players – testified that they used banned steroids, some of which they bought from Anderson, who apparently used his association with Bonds to find new clients for a dubious concoction he called “the cream and the clear.”
“He’s the only one who has paid any price for his behavior so far, certainly with going to prison,” says Rheenen. “In a way that’s honorable.”
But on the other hand, “sometimes loyalty runs face to face up against ethics,” Rheenen says. “We really honor loyalty, but if your loyalty is part of unethical behavior then that loyalty has to come into question.”