They further say that the release of the transcripts benefited none of the four original BALCO defendants, while the disclosures ultimately enhanced the government's ability to make a public case and discredit Bonds and numerous other high-profile athletes. The case would have been viewed as excessively pricey and mundane, they say, without the juicy link to pro athletes, especially in light of the fact that none of the defendants received a prison sentence harsher than the four months served by Conte.
In some circles, Conte has been viewed as a possible source for the grand jury leaks, though recent court filings by the Chronicle seem to make that less likely.
"A lot of the stuff that came out came from [the government]," said one of the defense attorneys, who asked to remain anonymous. "During the case, there was stuff coming out all the time. Some of the stuff, we didn't even have.
"Every time that we turned around, we were getting hit, getting hit. I think [the government] wanted to force a deal with Conte and all those surrounding people, and they weren't cooperating. So why not go ahead and embarrass them? I think the motive was there. The problem is proving the government did it. If the government is investigating the government, how fair is that?"
That's where Rains comes into play.
While he admits he hasn't stumbled upon a smoking gun, Bonds' attorney purports to possess enough evidence to finger the source of the grand jury leaks. He says IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky, who has led the probe of Bonds and BALCO, was one source of information for the reporters, though he stops short of identifying Novitzky as the person who provided the grand jury testimony.
"Novitzky, in particular, has an absolute obsession of taking down Barry," Rains said. "The thinking is, if he has been given unfettered right to do anything he damn well pleases here in this case, then certainly things could happen. From Novitzky's standpoint, he was angry when Barry didn't get indicted to begin with."
Rains acknowledged the feds could indict Bonds any time they desire, but said they know a conviction from a San Francisco jury is a dicey proposition. The moody superstar continues to have a solid fan base in the city and is associated by some with helping to keep Major League Baseball in San Francisco. And with the O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and Robert Blake cases as a backdrop, it seems a conviction for a celebrity defendant is an increasingly difficult task.
"They'll never convict Barry," Rains said. "And it makes you wonder why in the world they would want to indict him, if they can't convict him. They're going to be embarrassed. They're going to be ashamed. And they're going to look like fools in the process. They have done too many dirty, underhanded things.
"Their problem is, their forum to convict Barry is San Francisco. And like it or not, a lot of people in San Francisco kind of like Barry. The sports writers don't, but the people do. Two, you got a lot of people in San Francisco -- being the liberal Bay Area community that it is -- that have a certain amount of mistrust of the government. And three, the government has completely played into the theory and belief of mistrust in the way it has behaved in connection with this case against Barry.
"And a San Francisco jury is going to hate the government in this case. And that is not to say maybe they'll even feel … well, there could be some belief or could be some suspicion still that Barry did something and he knew better. But that is not enough to convict. And it is not going to convict him in San Francisco. So the bottom line is, he won't be convicted. They don't have either the evidence, or the talent to present the evidence to convict Barry Bonds."
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.