Troy Ellerman, a defense attorney in California, was sentenced to 30 months in prison earlier this month in part for leaking grand jury testimony to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter from a federal investigation of steroid distribution by Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative executives to professional baseball players.
At the same time Ellerman was leaking the grand jury testimony of players including Barry Bonds, he was asking a judge to dismiss the case against the BALCO executives because of the leaks. Now that's an interesting legal strategy. Not a good strategy, but an interesting one. His clients got convicted on drug distribution charges, and Ellerman pleaded guilty to two counts of contempt of court, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of filing a false declaration with a federal court.
Ellerman's attorneys tried to paint him as less worthy of prison time than Scooter Libby, who got a similar 30-month sentence on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice before President Bush commuted his prison term. But that argument got smacked down by a federal judge, who threw a right hook at the president just for kicks.
Ellerman's attorneys argued he deserved a lighter sentence because "Mr. Libby's conduct involved matters of national security, while Mr. Ellerman's conduct has no nexus to national security." Ellerman didn't out a covert CIA operative, but what about the nexus to our national pasttime? What about the tears in the eyes of children at the stadium when Daddy has to explain what steroids are and why Barry Bonds is under investigation for perjury? That's not an easy talk to have over peanuts and Cracker Jack.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White wasn't buying the Scooter comparison and showed no love for the president, even though Bush appointed him to the bench in 2002. "Under the president's reasoning, any white-collar defendant should receive no jail time, regardless of the reprehensibility of the crime," White said. That sounds harsh, but then who said Bush relies on reasoning in the first place? Maybe the judge meant "seasoning", like for ribs on the grill down at the presidential ranch in Crawford. Mmmmm....ribs.