ABC News posts a story on the journey of IRS agent Jeff Novitzky, who once tried out for Lute Olson at Arizona basketball, as he crusades against steroids and doping and some say too zealously Barry Bonds.
The story starts in a California courtroom where Novitzky participated in the BALCO trial of Victor Conte. And it will continue in the same courtroom:
Sometime in the next few months, Jeff Novitzky will walk back into the same 10th floor courtroom, raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth in the case of the United States v. Barry Lamar Bonds. He will say that Bonds lied in that same courthouse five years ago when he told the grand jury he never knowingly took steroids. And then he'll wait for the jury to decide if baseball's home run king was telling the truth.
But no matter what the jury decides -- and face it, most of us have already made up our minds about Bonds -- it is clear that the detective and his gun has replaced the scientist and his test tube. What isn't clear is whether Jeff Novitzky is part of the solution -- or if he's now the bigger part of the problem.
Novitzky's early life was highlighted by the Olson connection:
There is nothing about Novitzky's life before Balco that suggests a man destined to direct the biggest investigation in sports history. Or one who would crave or abuse power. He grew up the son of a Bay Area hoops coach, a basketball and track star who still owns the San Mateo County high jump record of 7 feet. Coming out of high school in 1985, he tried out for Lute Olson's Arizona University basketball team. When he fell short, Novitzky returned home to play backup forward and teammate to his big brother at San Jose State.
After the jump we examine more of the extended story on Novitzky...
Novitzky backed into the BALCO investigation and into the Bonds situation; later he found himself in the forefront of the most important national anti-doping investigations:
Like most in the Bay Area, Novitzky followed the home run exploits of Bonds, four years his senior, who'd grown up in nearby San Carlos. And like many, he wondered if Bonds' late-career power surge was fueled by steroids. In 2000, he joined the Burlingame gym Bonds used, located right around the corner from Balco. There, he'd watch Bonds work out with Greg Anderson, a trainer affiliated with Balco and usually seen surrounded by a detail of muscled-up bodybuilders.
In 2002, local narcotics agents started hearing about steroid deals at the Burlingame gym and the possible connection to Balco and its owner, Victor Conte. Soon, Novitzky began rummaging through Balco's garbage, turning up enough evidence to convince his bosses to let him find out if the rumors were true. On Sept. 23, 2003, Novitzky led 26 armed agents into Conte's lab as local TV crews -- tipped off to the raid -- looked on. And that day, the sports world changed.
He was in the room when Bonds told his story to the grand jury, and there again when Barry was indicted for perjury. He was in the New York courtroom when Marion Jones cried through her confession of steroid use. He sat behind Clemens when the pitcher unraveled before Congress. (For a man who claims to need a low profile to do his job, Novitzky found himself in front of the national media often enough.)
All the while, the buzz grew. Teams of reporters were assigned to follow the investigation. Hordes of attorneys began appearing on TV, defending the many high-profile athletes caught in Novitzky's net -- Tim Montgomery, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Dana Stubblefield, Shane Mosely. For a federal agent used to working in anonymity, this was unfamiliar territory.
Then there is the White-BALCO infiltration controversy and 'book deal' remark:
A former member of Novitzky's team, Iran White, had raised questions about the Balco investigation in a May 2004 Playboy magazine article. And there had been a series of leaks to the media about confidential details of the investigation. The IRS watchdogs, an independent agency reporting to the Treasury secretary, needed answers.
Novitzky knew White -- they'd worked together years earlier to bust a computer chip smuggling ring run by the Crips gang. For the Balco investigation, Novitzky asked White to get close to Anderson and wear a wire in hopes the trainer would implicate the Giants slugger. But White suffered a stroke after one grueling weightlifting session with the trainer, ending his operation just before the Balco raid. White later told Playboy that Novitzky had a longstanding vendetta against Bonds and that he talked openly during the investigation about cashing in with a book deal.
Novitzky told the watchdogs that talk of a book deal had been in jest -- though he could see how his words "might have been misconstrued." He told them he had talked to a few reporters but never about the case, and he had no idea why White thought he was out to get Bonds.
There is also the missing $600.00:
The IRS agents had one other matter to discuss. Novitzky had confiscated $66,923 from a locked safe when he raided Anderson's apartment soon after the Balco raid. All of the money had been placed in an IRS safe, then transferred to a bank. Novitzky was one of three agents who had handled the money. Now $600 was missing, and they had to ask him why. Novitzky claimed no knowledge of the missing evidence. Five months later, the IRS issued a report clearing Novitzky of any wrongdoing, with the question of the missing $600 left unanswered.
And the Conte angle -- Conte suggested Novitsky is untruthful...would anyone ever suspect Victor Conte was not truthful?
Then there's Conte. Soon after the Playboy article appeared, Novitzky's report of his raid on Conte's headquarters was leaked to the San Jose Mercury News. In it, Novitzky claims Conte admitted giving steroids to Bonds, a story that all but convicted Bonds in the court of public opinion. Conte denies he ever gave steroids to Bonds, and has accused Novitzky of lying about his confession -- a charge he's filed in court documents under penalty of perjury. Given how hard Novitzky has worked to put people in jail for perjury, it's at least a curious omission that he was never questioned again.
"Novitzky did not tell the truth back when this began," Conte says. "And he is not telling the truth now."
Novitsky led the raid on CBT, which resulted in finding 104 MLB names on the positive doping test list from 2003. We presume Barry Bonds's name made the list. However there was another name on the list -- Alex Rodriguez -- which would be leaked out in 2009:
Hours later he arrived at CDT with 11 other armed agents. After many calls between lawyers, a CDT supervisor handed Novitzky the 10 results set out in the search warrant. Not good enough, Novitzky said, we want to search your computer system. Before long, a government computer expert was clicking through the entire directory and making copies on disks. When he was done, the government had possession of drug test records of every major league player, a bunch of NFL and NHL players, and workers in three other businesses -- more than 4,000 files in all.
Three district court judges were appalled. One asked if the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal search and seizure had been repealed. Judge Susan Illston, who's presided over the Balco case from the beginning, called Novitzky's actions a "callous disregard for Constitutional rights." All three instructed Novitzky to return the evidence untouched.
Instead, Novitzky gambled that he'd win an appeal, reviewed the material and saw that he'd cornered the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez. He quickly asked his grand jury for and received a subpoena for the records of the 104 players who tested positive. He would eventually send out one of Bonds' urine samples for further testing.
Shockingly, a three-judge California appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of the government, saying Novitzky was free to pursue those who tested positive. But the full court took the case and is expected to make it ruling by next fall. The case had floated under the radar for years until four sources broke the law and leaked A-Rod result to Sports Illustrated. An angry public now wants to know the identity of the other 103 players, but it could be a long wait as this appears to be a Fourth Amendment test case destined to go to the Supreme Court.
Novitsky was involved in trying to pry information about Bonds from ex-trainer Greg Anderson. Then there is the twisted track coach Trevor Graham perjury trial, which found Graham convicted of perjury charges, but less than the Govt wanted, and more than a key juror delivered. The juror was concerned about the many about-faces the Govt's key witness put out. The key witness was dope dealer Angel Heredia:
Heredia's performance led one juror to find Graham not guilty on two of the three counts, giving Novitzky a tainted victory. After the trial, Novitzky waited outside the jury room to find out why. The first to emerge was Frank Stapleton, whom Novitzky recognized as the attentive small business owner from Oakland who had been named jury foreman.
As Novitzky approached the foreman, Stapleton held up his hand. "Before you says anything," Stapleton said, "I just want to tell you I was the one who voted for acquittal."
"Mind if I ask you why?" Novitzky said.
"Heredia put a layer of scum on this prosecution that was never scraped off," Stapleton answered. "I never understood why you brought this case against Graham."
And lastly there is question of the Obama administration will vigorously pursue drug cheating and PED cases (note here Obama was NEVER a professor of constitutional law as stated; he was a lecturer and NEVER a tenured professor):
Both men, one a former constitutional law professor, the other the head of the Justice Department, are certain to be consulted if there's a decision to be made about putting the CDT case and the identity of those 103 baseball players before the Roberts Supreme Court. At stake is the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment's protection of private records stored in computer databases.