In July 2005, nearly a full decade ago, the federal government wrapped up its most headline-grabbing steroids prosecution in history, against defendants associated with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO). The final BALCO tally? Four convictions, on an aggregate total of six counts, netting the perps a grand total of seven months in prison combined. The underlying criminal case, wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, "seemed to end with a whimper."
But from President George W. Bush on down, the real perceived "bang" in this case was never about cracking down on illegal steroids dealers, but rather publicly shaming BALCO's most famous customer, the elite slugger (and widely hated personality) Barry Bonds.
Bonds was eventually convicted in 2011 not for illegal drugs, but for obstruction of justice, stemming from the way he answered a grand jury question about using steroids. (This is consistent with how BALCO prosecutions have gone; the longest prison sentences have come not to drug-dealers, but to people who refused to testify.) That first conviction was upheld in 2013 by a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but then a majority of the Circuit's remaining judges voted to have a larger panel re-hear the case. That panel came back with a ruling this afternoon, and it was resounding: 10-1 against the federal government.
"Real-life witness examinations, unlike those in movies and on television, invariably are littered with non-responsive and irrelevant answers," Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the ruling.
More from the Associated Press:
Jessica Wolfram, one of the jurors who convicted Bonds, said she couldn't help but feel it was "all a waste, all for nothing."
"Just a waste of money, having the whole trial and jury," she said.
Best quote comes from BALCO founder Victor Conte:
"Let's hope the prosecutors choose not to waste any more resources on what has been nothing more than a frivolous trophy-hunt and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars."