Do Not Mistake Me For Nancy Grace – - Please

Today I am not going to pretend to be a legal analyst; trust me, I have no aspirations to be the next Nancy Grace. I just want to go through a layman’s thought process regarding the recent revelation by the NY Times that Sammy Sosa was one of the players who tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs in 2003. Based on some of the “wing-nut comments” on a bunch of websites that carry the works of real sportswriters, there are lots of folks out there who see sinister behavior in all of this; and of course, each commenter has his/her favorite sinister character who is responsible for “the leak”. My problem here is that there are too many potential sources for “the leak” to make anything more than a guess at this time as to “the source”.

The list of players who failed this test was supposed to be confidential; only the number was ever to be released; but someone failed to destroy the list itself. Then as Federal prosecutors homed in on BALCO prosecutions, they filed a discovery motion to seize records at one of the labs that performed the test analyses. Federal agents seized computers there and – evidently – the list with the names still present was in memory. Oops!

Nevertheless, what this means is that there are myriad folks who have had access to that list – or to parts of that list – since the time that computer provided evidence to the investigators/prosecutors. Consider:

    The folks at the lab who didn’t erase the file in the first place might have a paper copy somewhere.

    The agents who first found that list in memory could easily have printed out a copy or two.

    Those agents’ supervisors may have seen the list in paper form or on a computer screen.

    Surely, prosecutors and the staff for the prosecutors would have had access to the list. By this point, it had to have been committed to paper form somewhwere, no?

    Various judges, their clerks and court staff members where BALCO cases have been heard could have had access to the list in paper or electronic form.

    Lawyers for various defendants – and their staffs – probably have seen the list. Surely, they have seen parts of the list.

    The MLBPA has sued to restrict the use of the list by prosecutors in Federal Court. Even if MLBPA once destroyed their copy of the list, they have surely seen it subsequently.

    MLB officials surely saw the list back in 2003. Even if they honorably destroyed their copies back then, I presume that some folks there have seen the list since then or some have reconstructed parts of the list.

    At least one agent – Scott Boras – knows that one of his clients – A-Rod – is on the list. We know that is the case because A-Rod admitted he was on the list. Sosa’s agent now knows that his client is allegedly on the list. Agents for other players under investigation probably also know their clients are under investigation – meaning those clients are on the list. Agents share information so at least a few of them know at least parts of the list. Agents have assistants and associates…

Surely, that is not an exhaustive rendition of who has had access to the list over the last six years. A person skilled in legal research would probably find at least a dozen other “nodes” in the path that such evidence might take and describe other kinds of folks who have seen all or part of the list. And so, it is far too early to speculate as to the source of the info that found its way to the NY Times. Stay tuned…

It is not, however, too early to consider the possibility that Sammy Sosa might face perjury charges for his testimony to the Congress. Nevertheless, if such charges are to happen, the Feds had better shake a leg. According to my layman’s search, the statute of limitations for a perjury charge is five years; Sosa – along with McGwire, Palmiero and Schilling – appeared before Congress in the Spring of 2005. That means the Feds have about nine or ten months to get themselves organized and to get an indictment and to start perjury proceedings. Based on the glacial pace of previous activities in this entire investigation – BALCO inquiries started back in 2001 or 2002 as I recall – it is not a cinch that they could have an indictment in hand before the clock runs out. I do not know if there is the legal equivalent of a “time-out” here…

Staying on the jurisprudence trail today, WR, Donte Stallworth pled guilty to DUI manslaughter and was sentenced this week. He will spend 30 days in jail and two years under house arrest and then eight years of probation; he will also do 1000 hours of community service and he has reached a financial settlement with the family of the man who died in this incident. According to reports, the leniency shown here in terms of his time in jail is because he cooperated with the authorities, took responsibility for his actions and reached a settlement with the victim’s family.

Notwithstanding all of those mitigating factors, all of which are positive and should be given strong consideration in a sentencing decision, consider that Stallworth will spend 30 days in jail for an incident where a human life was lost. Compare that to the time that Michael Vick spent in jail where no human life was lost.

I do not want to get into any arguments with the “doggy people” here. I am NOT justifying in any way what Michael Vick did; it was heinous. Michael Vick also did anything but cooperate with the authorities and he lied about the dogfighting enterprise for months. He deserved every moment of his jail time – - and maybe even more. Nevertheless, he spent about a year in jail where Donte Stallworth will spend 30 days in jail. Given the victims in the two cases, that seems incongruent to me.

Meanwhile in NYC, the Plaxico Burress case adjourned for a few months meaning that there is no way he will be tried on his gun possession case until after this year’s NFL season is over. If anyone thinks that is an accidental happenstance, he/she would also probably need an operating manual to use a screwdriver. The next thing you will be reading is that Burress – along with his lawyer(s) of course – will seek a meeting with Roger Goodell to determine his eligibility to play in the NFL this season and to argue that the Commissioner not exact any suspension until after the legal processes have run their course.

    When you do read about that meeting, try not to think that Burress is asking the Commish to give him another shot.

Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about another athlete who has been involved with the legal system:

“The Dolphins signed undrafted offensive lineman J.D. Quinn, whose college career included three DUI stops and his team being made to vacate eight victories because he accepted unearned money from a car dealership. Otherwise — good kid!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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Comments

  • Tony  On June 18, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I love dogs – and would probably say that I like most dogs more than I like most people – but I’m inclined to agree with you on Stallworth vs. Vick. I think people as a whole are unique among animals in that we will “protect” those not of our species on a grand scale, to the detriment of our own species, so that’s probably where the incongruity comes from.

    Of course, the fact that Vick acted in malice and Stallworth acted in irresponsibility may also have something to do with it…

  • Rich  On June 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Vick may have had to spend more time in jail than Stallworth will, and may never get his NFL career going again, but at least his dogfighting activities have been cur-tailed.

  • Ed  On June 18, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Sosa may not get charged. As I understand reports of his testimony, he had a downright Clintonian phrase, that he never broke the laws of the US or the Dominican. But if he does the steroids IN THE DR, where they may be legal? Then he did not break their drug laws, and he was not in the US. So he could go home, juice up in the winter, detox with that guy Presinal, who is supposedly very good at such matters, and who has ties to Sosa, and show up at spring training with extra muscle. You’d probably need an exact transcript and a team of lawyers to parse everything, but he may walk. Did he ever say he never did PEDs? Or just never broke the laws?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Tony:

    Michael Vick is not a nice person and his actions with regard to the dogfighting business were repugnant at the very least. His sentence was 23 months in jail.

    That makes Stallworth’s sentence of 30 days in jail look pretty meager to me.

    Rich:

    No supper for you tonight. Go to your room!

    Ed:

    Sosa said – via his spokesperson – that he never broke the laws. AND he alluded to a clean drug test in 04. He never mentioned the failed drug test in 03. That would mean he did not tell “…the whole truth…”

    In addition, his claim of insufficient fluency in English back then can be part of his defense in that he may not have been able to provide his lawyer with proper info to craft his statement to the Congress.

    I doubt that perjury charges will be forthcoming by the time the statute of limitations runs out…

  • Ed  On June 18, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Yes, but the point is, if he took drugs legal in the DR, he didn’t break the law there. The drugs might be illegal HERE, but not there. So technically, he told the truth. Intentionally misleading? OK. But I think perjury is a much higher burden of proof – you have to actually lie.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 19, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Ed:

    Perhaps the standard for perjury is higher. However, recall that President Clinton had his law license supended by a judge in Arkansas for intentionally misleading the court. Since I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know if that equates to perjury nor do I know if that standard was applied because he was indeed a member of the bar and was held to a standard that comes with such a status.

    But, there is one example of a “penalty” being applied for misleading a court. What Sosa did might – I said MIGHT – be construed as misleading the Congress or showing contempt for Congress. Time will tell…

  • Steve  On June 19, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Perjury is an awful hard rap to prove.

    ~Richard M. Nixon ~ March 21, 1973

  • Ed  On June 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Clinton lost his license over Lewinsky, saying there was no sex, when there was, as defined at the trial. Clear lying. I was referring to his twisted statements before taking office about drug use, where he did drugs in England that were legal THERE, not here, and said he obeyed the drug laws in the US and GB. Granted, the drug use was extremely minor, but he sought to mislead without technically lying. Which is what they may decide Sosa did.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Steve:

    Perjury is indeed very hard to prove. That is why – - with only about 9 or 10 months to go until the statute of limitations kicks in – - I suspect there will be no perjury charges levelled.

    Ed:

    Here is where Sosa may – - I said MAY – - get himself in trouble. If the US attorney calls him in for an interview and he lies to or intentionally misleads the investigators – - with or without his lawyers there – - he might put himself in a new batch of hot water where the statute of limitations has a long time to run. Absent that, I suspect that he will really be able to sit back and wait for the Hall of Fame voting to happen.

    But, I don’t think he will like the results. Just a guess, but in his first year of eligibility, I don’t think he’ll get more than 20% of the votes.

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