A federal grand jury in San Francisco is believed to be weighing perjury and tax evasion charges against San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. The inquiry stems from the federal prosecutions of four figures tied to BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a Burlingame, Calif., business linked to the distribution of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. The prosecutions resulted in the convictions of -- but prison sentences of just a few months for -- BALCO founder Victor Conte as well as Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, and others. Bonds testified in December 2003 before a federal grand jury in San Francisco. That panel's term expired. Now, another grand jury is considering evidence.
* What does the grand jury do?
The grand jury's job is to decide whether probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed and that a specific person committed it. If the grand jury so believes, it returns a written statement of the charges called an indictment.
* If Bonds is indicted, what happens next?
If not arrested, Bonds would have to surrender to authorities, after which he would plead guilty, no contest or stand trial.
* Is it likely Bonds would be arrested?
No. He probably would get the chance to turn himself in.
* What is the maximum penalty for perjury? For tax evasion?
Five years on each count. But criminal cases often produce prison sentences of far less than the maximum. Conte, for instance, served four months.
* Has Bonds admitted to knowingly using steroids?
* What is the source of the tax inquiry?
Cash tied to the sale of Bonds-related baseball memorabilia.
* Who are likely to be key witnesses against Bonds?
An ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, and a longtime friend, Steve Hoskins, who before the friendship dissolved in 2003 used to be a business partner as well.
* How long is a grand jury's term?
* When does this grand jury's term expire?
Reportedly this week.
* Could the grand jury's term be extended?
* If this grand jury's term expires without any action, could a new grand jury consider the matter?
* Is the grand jury considering charges against anyone else?
Uncertain. What is clear, however, is that after moving through what legal experts call the "distribution" phase of the BALCO matter, where the focus was on the distribution of illicit substances, the government is now in what experts call the "clean-up" phase, looking at matters such as perjury and other pieces of the BALCO puzzle.
-- ALAN ABRAHAMSON