- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One grand jury has come and gone, and a second is on its way. It seems pretty clear the government is out to get Barry Bonds on perjury and income tax evasion charges.

No kidding.

That’s how it usually works. The government sets its sights on someone, and it doesn’t stop until it gets him.

That doesn’t mean the person isn’t guilty.

It just means he did something to put himself in the cross hairs.

When the FBI goes after crooked members of Congress, it doesn’t target the quiet, low-key crooks with lots of friends. It goes after the ones who call attention to themselves, the ones who make enemies, who flaunt their excess and put a target on their backs that says, “Go ahead. Make my day.”

Barry Bonds arrives in Washington today not for a tour of the Justice Department but to take the field for the San Francisco Giants for a series against the Washington Nationals.

Bonds flaunted his excess. Bonds made himself a target when he hit 73 home runs in 2001, just three years after Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record with 70 home runs.

In locker rooms across baseball, players have, rightly or wrongly, concluded the steroid controversy would not have reached these heights if Bonds had not broken a record that just had been broken.

That certainly seems unfair, given McGwire and Sammy Sosa were celebrated across the land for their accomplishments. Of course it’s unfair. Bad timing.

That doesn’t mean Bonds is not guilty of everything for which the government is trying to get him. He just made himself a target, and he made a lot of enemies along the way.

But he still has one friend, apparently, and it is an important one: his trainer, Greg Anderson, who opted to go to jail near the end of the first grand jury rather than testify against Bonds.

Now he faces the chance of spending 18 months in jail — the length of a second grand jury’s sentence — if he continues to refuse to testify.

It doesn’t look good for Bonds. The longer this can be drawn out, the better the chance of not just Anderson but someone like a Jason Grimsley testifying for his own self interests.

When the government finally got Al Capone, according to crime reporter Hank Messick, it was because one of his own, Jake Lansky, brother of mobster Meyer Lansky, tipped the government to pursue income tax evasion charges.

The government wanted John Gotti, who beat several cases in court and earned the name “Teflon Don.” He finally was convicted in 1992 thanks to the testimony of his underboss, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who apparently wasn’t as close to Gotti as Anderson is to Bonds.

This is not to imply Bonds is connected to someone like Capone or Gotti, except in the sense that they all were desirable targets for the government.

Only one high-profile target comes to mind that the government went after but failed to nail: boxing promoter Don King.

The government came after King in 1984 on charges of tax fraud and conspiracy, but he beat the case in court. Some jurors asked for King’s autograph after acquitting him. To show his gratitude, King took the jury on an all-expense paid trip to London to see a heavyweight championship fight.

In 1998, prosecutors charged King had cheated Lloyd’s of London out of $350,000 in training expenses for a fight that was canceled.

King was acquitted of insurance fraud, and he took the jury members and their families to the Bahamas and then Atlanta to watch heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield defend his title against Vaughn Bean.

The government tried one more end around on King when it filed bribery and fraud charges against International Boxing Federation founder Bob Lee in 2000, hoping that a bribery conviction would convince Lee to testify against King, an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

Lee was acquitted of all but six lesser charges, which left prosecutors with no leverage.

Since then, King has been an unabashed Bush supporter and fund-raiser. And the government has not taken another run at King.

So can Barry Bonds follow the Don King method of defense against government prosecution? Not likely.

One thing about King: He can make someone feel like he or she is the most important person in the room. He can be deadly likeable.

Bonds has made it a badge of honor to make people feel small.

That’s no small difference and in fact may be at the heart of why Bonds finds himself in the cross hairs of some determined federal investigators and prosecutors: He made himself an easy and satisfying target.

Which doesn’t make him any less guilty.

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