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Bonds Adviser To Help Pick U.S. Attorney

Publication Date: 
July 18, 2009
The New York Times
Michael S. Schmidt

Professor Robert Weisberg is quoted in The New York Times in a story about conflict of interest concerns over one of Barry Bonds' defense attorneys Cris Arguedas.

Barry Bonds is at home, awaiting trial and hoping that a major league team will ask him to play again. The prosecutors overseeing his case have gone back to working on other investigations. And one of Bonds’s lead defense lawyers has spent time helping to determine who the prosecutors’ next boss will be.

Cris Arguedas, one of Bonds’s defense lawyers, is part of a seven-member committee that is advising Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, on whom she should ask President Obama to nominate to become the next United States attorney for the Northern District of California.

Whoever eventually becomes the United States attorney — the highest law-enforcement official in the Bay Area — will have an important decision to make in the Bonds case. A federal appeals court is weighing whether the government should be permitted to use several pieces of evidence, including positive drug tests, at Bonds’s perjury trial. If the government is barred from using the evidence, the United States attorney will have to decide whether the prosecutors handling the Bonds case, who are not political appointees, should proceed to trial or drop the charges.


Legal experts said that Arguedas had more ties to the judge and the prosecution in the Bonds case than most lawyers do in comparable situations, but that they did not believe it was a conflict of interest.


Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University, acknowledged that Arguedas’s connection to the appointment of Illston and the selection of a new United States attorney created the appearance of something “dramatic,” but he did not really think it was.

“I can see the concern that it looks worrisome,” he said, “but there are many layers in this decision, there are a lot of people on the committee — there is no direct decision-maker — it’s Boxer’s call, it’s Obama’s call and it’s subject to review of the Department of Justice and Congressional approval.”