August 15, 2006

S.F. Reporters Must Testify Over Bonds Leak: A federal judge told two San Francisco Chronicle reporters they must comply with a subpoena and tell a grand jury who leaked them secret testimony of Barry Bonds and other elite athletes ensnared in the government's steroid probe.

posted by L.N. Smithee to baseball at 07:12 PM - 8 comments

Heh. Maybe Williams and Lola-Falana can use some of that bookwriting loot to pay for their defense. Before I am accused of being a Bonds apologist, listen up -- I ain't. I think Bonds used steroids knowingly, and lied about it. I believe he is reimbursing Greg Anderson for the legal fees necessary to keep him from testifying. I hope he retires at the end of this season and spares all Giants fans another season of hanging fire over whether or not he's going to be yanked from an on-deck circle in handcuffs. And if he seems like a man walking through a living hell in an asbestos jumpsuit now, it will still not prepare him for the heat he will suffer if he creaks around long enough to break Hank Aaron's record. Think Pete Rose multiplied by 756. Nevertheless, whenever Bonds comes to bat, I want him to hit one out. He's a Giant, and the Giants are my team. He's not going to be a Giant forever, and I am not about to dump my team because of the misdeeds of one guy. To wit: I didn't dig Deion Sanders when he was a Falcon and making life miserable for my 49ers, and I didn't like him when joined the Niners. But you can bet I was cheering when he ran INTs back for a TD. What delights me about this development is that it smacks silly the self-righteousness of the Chron writers and their assertions that Bonds' and other players' abuse and subversion of our used-to-be national pastime justifies their own abuse and subversion of our Grand Jury system. That's right, I said "our" system -- someday, you might be the target of one yourself, and you sure as heck don't want to be compelled under penalty of imprisonment to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth before a supposedly hermetically sealed chamber just to find full-color photos of your dirty laundry hitting your front steps in the morning. Although they don't say it plainly, there's no mistaking the scribes' defense: "The rules don't apply to us -- we're reporters." Thank goodness that throughout the country, from New York to San Francisco, judges are sending the message that a press pass is not carte blanche.

posted by L.N. Smithee at 07:51 PM on August 15

While I am generally in favor of a wide latitude for the press not to be required to testify and out their sources, in this case the crime at issue is the leak itself and therefore it is probably appropriate that the reporters should be forced to testify. The reporters were not doing a public service in bringing to light something inappropriate that was covered up; in this case someone leaked testimony that was required by law to remain undisclosed. Requiring the testimony in this instance does not have a chilling effect on reporters' ability to get information from sources in a manner that is in the public interest -- it only has a chilling effect (and appropriately so) on disclosure of sealed information by leakers. Preemptive rebuttal -- slippery slope, blah, blah, blah.

posted by holden at 09:08 PM on August 15

I'm with you, holden, and I don't buy the slippery slope rebuttal at all. It shouldn't be that difficult to see a hard line around those instances in which the act of acquiring information is itself illegal. I'm no lawyer or First Amendment expert, but if a reporter gets a story by, say, illegally tapping a phone line, I believe whatever shield law is applicable has to take a back seat. Smithee is dead on when he says that a press pass is not a license to run roughshod over the law. (Noting that in this instance the reporters are not necessarily committing the crime in question, but are still benefactors of it.) And, Smithee, as a Yankee fan for over 30 years, I share your anguish over having to occassionally root for felons and miscreants.

posted by BullpenPro at 10:46 AM on August 16

If someone steals something, and then gives it to someone else to sell, the seller is considered a criminal as well because he aided and abetted the thief. His defense of "but I didn't steal it" would likely fall on deaf ears. Why should a reporter who knows that the information that he receives is illegal and then sells that information (in the form of a book) in order to distribute the illegal information to as many people as possible not be held to the standard?

posted by graymatters at 12:37 PM on August 16

If they can lock Greg Anderson up for refusing to rat,they should lock these reporters up also.Anderson did not use any illegally obtained information.he just won't talk about what he may or may not know.these men used "sealed" testimony to sell a book.profiting from criminal activity is a crime,not being a snitch cat isn't.

posted by mars1 at 01:03 PM on August 16

Why should a reporter who knows that the information that he receives is illegal and then sells that information (in the form of a book) in order to distribute the illegal information to as many people as possible not be held to the standard? There is no law against what the reporters did, but there is a law against receiving stolen property. Additionally, the information is not illegal, the act of disclosing grand jury information is what is it illegal.

posted by bperk at 01:30 PM on August 16

Who cares? I go to games to see homers, I dont go to see stolen bases or singles. Steriods don't make you a great hitter, and lets face it - Barry has always had great stats.

posted by jzonker at 06:04 PM on August 16

Now now, jzonker, don't try to go all sporty on us here. We're having a perfectly nice conversation about the American justice system and the free press. Why don't you run along and play?

posted by Amateur at 06:33 PM on August 16

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