Criminal Justice

When You've Lost ESPN, it Might Be Time for a Re-think

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Sports journalism outlets aren't necessarily known for their over-concern when it comes to civil liberties, particularly when pertaining to jerkoff millionaire athletes. That's why this Jon Pessah column for ESPN magazine about the upcoming Barry Bonds trial is all the more interesting. Pessah discusses something I've written about here a couple of times–the disturbing zeal of IRS prosecutor and avowed Bonds hater Jeff Novitzky, who has been at the center of a six-year shaming exercise that's long since tipped northward of $50 million in taxpayer costs. Excerpt:

[I]n 2004…Novitzky raided Comprehensive Drug Testing, the nation's largest sports-drug testing company. What happened on that day is complicated but boils down to this: Novitzky walked into CDT with 11 armed agents and a search warrant for the confidential test results of 10 baseball players with ties to BALCO. Hours later, he walked out with more than 4,000 medical files, including those of every major league baseball player, a bunch of NFL and NHL pros, and workers from three businesses. Maybe one that employs you.

Three federal judges reviewed the raid. One asked, incredulously, if the Fourth Amendment had been repealed. Another, Susan Illston, who has presided over the BALCO trials, called Novitzky's actions a "callous disregard" for constitutional rights. All three instructed him to return the records. Instead, Novitzky kept the evidence, reviewed the results and received clearance from an appeals court to pursue 103 MLB players who, those records revealed, had tested positive for steroids. (That investigation is pending another appeals court decision, expected this fall.) […]

After [Bonds' trainer Greg] Anderson served three months in jail for dealing steroids and money laundering, Novitzky and the feds put him back in for 13 more for refusing to testify against Bonds. They also waited three years to return $41,420 of the seized $63,920 [from Anderson], violating Anderson's plea agreement. And most recently, they opened tax investigations on his wife and mother-in-law, neither of whom has anything to do with Bonds, to force the trainer to testify.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Pessah, not Passan.

  2. for the last time congress! STOP WASTING OUR MONEY ON THIS! LOOK! Steriods were LEGAL IN BASEBALL AKA NOT BANNED until the late 90’s. therfore every single player before then is in the clear in all ways. yeah they might have taken them, yeah it might have helped them perform better, but yeah it was not banned!

  3. and really who cares they play a game, let them take all they want, they are entertainers, lets get our moneys worth, as they are overpaid anyhow

  4. This is insane.

    I hate Barry Bonds with a soul searing passion the rivals a supernava in intensity and still find it amazing that this dumbfuck Novitzky is wasting my tax dollars on this travesty of prosecutorial discretion.

    Jeff you fucking moron, it’s just goddam baseball! A game that children play, baseball doesn’t get important when adults do it. It ain’t worth your obviously not very valuable time or my goddan money, you clueless boob.

  5. It’s about time someone famous got the shitty end of the stick with regard to war on some drugs testing.

    Whether it is “confidential” or not, it’s still about control and carrying the water for the war on some drugs. It is the opposite of the freedom we Americans used to expect. I’m glad all these famous atheletes were caught lying for the millions of $’s they make and making a mockery of the war on some drugs, at least they made a lot of money.

    /Sports fans, the sporting industry is the next “bubble” to burst.

  6. Unfortunately no policy-maker is going to come out and say that professional sports do not matter. They are second only to children in drawing public veneration.

  7. Pessah, not Passan

    Sorry, and thanks.

  8. Novitzky should be in prison right now. He is breaking the law so he can prosecute Barry Bonds for breaking another law. Equality before the law is a joke in this country.

  9. “Sports journalism outlets aren’t necessarily known for their over-concern when it comes to civil liberties, particularly when pertaining to jerkoff millionaire athletes.”

    NERD!!!!!

  10. I’m not totally up on the Bonds case, but didn’t all this come out from leaked grand jury testimony? And isn’t that itself illegal (they’re supposed to be secret, right?)?

  11. MNG,

    If the government is breaking the law, why should the press obey the law?

  12. didn’t all this come out from leaked grand jury testimony?

    That was a big part of the public-shaming element (for Bonds in particular), but it was just one of many abuses/screw-ups in the case. It (the testimony, that is) is also the case for Bonds’ criminal trial, which is for perjury & obstruction based on his testimony.

  13. I’m not totally up on the Bonds case, but didn’t all this come out from leaked grand jury testimony? And isn’t that itself illegal (they’re supposed to be secret, right?)?

    Depends on who’s doing the leaking. Some participants are enjoined from blabbing, others are not.

  14. I hate Barry Bonds with a soul searing passion

    Why? Did he steal your wife or something?

    I can’t imagine any sports celeb ever being important enough to hate.

    -jcr

  15. BTW, why in the hell is there such a thing as an “IRS prosecutor”? IRS is treasury, prosecutors belong in the DOJ.

    -jcr

  16. One asked, incredulously, if the Fourth Amendment had been repealed.

    Uhh… yeah.

    What rock have you been under for the last eight 40 years?

  17. Steriods were LEGAL IN BASEBALL AKA NOT BANNED until the late 90’s

    I agree with most of your rant, but this is not true. All illegal drugs were banned by baseball. They just didnt test for them. Like cocaine, if you somehow got arrested for it or admitted to the use of steroids, you would get a suspension. Well, eventually. See Steve Howe for how all that worked.

  18. Another prosecutor who lies, fucks with evidence, etc.

    How many prosecutors across this country engage in this behavior? Can you imagine the frustration of being prosecuted by someone who ignores fucking judges to continue to come after you? And Bonds is a gazillionaire.

  19. Actually, I believe its “Jackass,” not Pessah. This guy deserves Barry treating his head like a fastball over the plate.

  20. Get me on that jury.

  21. Bonds is hated, deservedly so IMHO. So the government gets to act the way it wants with him irrespective of its civic obligations. If there is an “American tradition” in prosecutorial law practice, it’s that defect in it, it’s as old as Old Glory.

    The darkest excesses along this vein are with abstract concepts we hate that are embodied by physical things. Sometimes those things are people. Take the internment camps of WWII, a whole demographic is stripped of their property and then their freedom, by nothing more substantive than an executive order. Same deal with drugs. We are willing to destroy our society apparently in the quest of a drug-free society. We will trade the dream of no drugs in society for the reality that was Stalin’s society, I guess at some point.

    Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were celebrated by society in their heydey despite their obvious chemical augmentation because we liked them. This made the illusion they were conquering such lofty records appealing to us. Bonds is a jerk, so we get mad at him for chemically augmenting himself to synthetically conquer the same hallowed records.

    Barry Bond’s existence though might be useful in the context of an axiom available from despair.com, which states “Maybe your only reason for existence is to be a warning to others.”

  22. Imagine that. A former IRS investigator lying, cheating, perjuring himself, violating constitutional amendments, and being an all round assclown.

    Who’d of thunk it.

    I say juice them all, sports might be worth watching then. Oh wait, most are already on.

  23. how is this guy Novitzky NOT IN JAIL? he violates the direct order of three judges. he violates the 4th amendment rights of hundreds of US citizens. he wastes millions and millions of tax payers dollars. yet our government continues to allow him to run his witch hunt, all in hopes of a book and maybe movie deal to cash in on the situation. Novitzky is the absolute worst kind of person, and deserves to have his anus violated repeatedly by nasty nate at the nearest federal penitentiary. kind of makes you wonder if bureaucrats and politicians are held accountable to any standard what so ever, not to mention the actual law and rulings of judges.

  24. Look at it this way, once we have nationalized health care, the feds won’t need to conduct any raids to access our medical files.

  25. Novitsky should be guillotined.

    I have spoken.

  26. You are all a bunch of SISSIES! Listen to you all with your cries of, “Constitution” and “Equality before the law”! The Constitution is yesterday’s news – outdated and dangerous (if we followed it, the evil Arabs would run across the Atlantic and murder us all!)

    Okay, okay, in all seriousness: this case is a guaranteed loser for the feds. I repeat: the government will lose this case with 99.984% certainty.

    So we should rejoice (well, sorta: we should rejoice in the way you would if your home was robbed but you caught the robber after he’d already sold all your goods).

    For a perjury case to have any shot of winning, the perjury must be:

    1) Unambiguous
    2) Of material importance to the case at hand
    3) Committed with demonstrative foreknowledge

    The feds are 0-3. Hey, maybe they should copy Bonds’s game film, it might improve their their batting average.

    I’m guessing Novitzky is yet another impotent and(or) closet-gay Republican whose frustrated wife abandoned him for a black man or a Muslim when she found out he needed Viagra to love her, so he’s embittered against black folks.

    Republicans, it’s not Barry Bonds’s fault that you can’t have sex without paying off Big Pharma. Kidnapping Bonds’s trainer and throwing Bonds in a cage aren’t going to make you men again. (But I have advice that might solve your problem: quit your lives of hatred and lies. Do it for a year, and maybe – maybe – you won’t need to tear out those disgusting Viagra coupons from all your golfing magazines.)

  27. I can see working to go after corruption but this stuff is complete Bullshit and the fact is the government guys behind this just don’t have the balls enough to go after real criminals, but they are not afraid to use mob like tactics to get what they want at any price…sad, very sad.

  28. If the government is breaking the law, why should the press obey the law?

    Realistically, it should be “If the government is breaking the law, why should anyone obey?”, but the answer is, “Because you’ll go to prison, or worse”.

  29. Look at it this way, once we have nationalized health care, the feds won’t need to conduct any raids to access our medical files.

    But at least it won’t cost us a lot of money after they are all electronic. Give BO some credit once in a while.

  30. In sports, performance enhancing drugs are taken by the athletes.

    At concerts, performance enhancing drugs are taken by the audience.

  31. @Peter: Oh they’re taken by sports audiences too. Take a look at beer sales numbers.

  32. “Sports fans, the sporting industry is the next “bubble” to burst.”

    Nope. Gold.

  33. “Bonds is hated, deservedly so IMHO”

    Racist!

  34. “Novitzky is the absolute worst kind of person, and deserves to have his anus violated repeatedly by nasty nate at the nearest federal penitentiary.”

    No thank you.

  35. Okay, okay, in all seriousness: this case is a guaranteed loser for the feds. I repeat: the government will lose this case with 99.984% certainty.

    The great thing about prosecutions is that, even when the government loses, it wins, and even when the defendant wins, he loses.

    The government wins, and the defendant loses, because even when the government loses it has inflicted suffering and expense on the accused.

    In Soviet America, city hall beats you!

  36. Excellent post, Matt. I have zero interest in sports, but this hounding of athletes for the crime of pumping up is beyond obscene.

    The public appetite for “tough on crime” seemingly has no limits. It would be so nice if somewhere, sometime, a politician who ran for office promising to pass tough new laws on criminals actually got defeated.

  37. It’s always pissed me off that people pretend they hate Barry Bonds because of steroids. They hate Barry Bonds because one, he’s a jerk, two, doesn’t play for their team, and three, is the best home run hitter of the past couple decades at least. Where is the hate towards Alex Sanchez or Ryan Franklin?

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