For Barry Bonds, Time To Play Defense

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds sits on the bench during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday, July 21, 2007, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS News and
You've just broken the all-time home-run record*, Barry Lamar Bonds, where are you going to go next? What, not Disneyland? Where? To the federal courthouse in the northern district of California? As a defendant in Case No. 07 CR 0732WHA?

I'm sure that Bonds is disappointed that the feds delivered him an early Thanksgiving turkey in the form of a five-count perjury and obstruction of justice indictment. Disappointed but surely not surprised. Bonds and his attorneys almost certainly knew that prosecutors were poised to go public with this. In fact, I'd be shocked if government lawyers and Team Bonds hadn't discussed some sort of a deal prior to what amounts to the first day of the rest of Bonds' life.

The indictment is simple and straightforward and suitably detailed. And stripped of all the hooey, the case and trial would be a fairly routine affair as well. Prosecutors will bring witnesses to the stand who will say that they saw Bonds do or say what he now claims he did not. Defense attorneys will attack the reliability and credulity of those witnesses and show jurors their own version of events. The case comes down to this: what did Bonds know about steroids and Balco and when did he know it.

At first brush, and until we know more about the allegations and their origins, it seems like a zero-sum game for the defense. Bonds' attorneys have to go -- and please forgive me for this -- 5-for-5 on the counts to avoid a conviction. For prosecutors, carrying the burden of proof, they have to go (again, please) 1-for-5 to argue that Bonds deserved to be punish for his crime.

And what a case it could be. There aren't any victims - really -- so it won't be weighed down by tragedy. And no national security is at stake -- sorry but the National Baseball Hall of Fame doesn't count -- so the case won't be weighed down by classified material and government experts. The only bad thing is that it won't be televised because it's in federal court. And that means we will be deprived of the opportunity to have a "collective national experience" watching a guy like Jose Canseco testify in front of a jury.

If Bonds is convicted, he could go to prison. Martha Stewart went to prison when she was convicted in similar circumstances. And I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby would be in prison still if he hadn't been commuted by President George W. Bush earlier this year. It's apparently very chic these days to prosecute well-known people for obstruction of justice. And it's even more fashionable for judges to use the opportunity to try to remind the rest of us that lying to the feds is never a good idea.