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Friday, February 27, 2009

Marin Writer Tosses High Hard One at Barry Bonds' Nemesis

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 6:29 AM

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In recent years, Jeff Novitzky has inarguably been America's most popular IRS employee -- not that that's saying much, but still. The former Internal Revenue Service agent has been compared to Elliot Ness for his dogged pursuit of steroid-using athletes in the BALCO case.

Yet Marin writer Jonathan Littman doesn't feel Novitzky is untouchable; in a lengthy article now available on Playboy's Web site -- see, you can read it for the articles -- Littman paints Novitzky as a glory-seeking obsessive with a maniacal desire to nail Barry Bonds akin to Captain Ahab's quest to harpoon the white whale.

"I have a different view of Novitzky than what was reported in the San Francisco papers and best-selling books. I don't have any doubt who he is," Littman told SF Weekly.

Littman, who has been covering the BALCO case since 2004, quotes three of Novitzky's close associates in that investigation including undercover narcotics agent Iran White. "All of these men had serious professional concerns about Novitzky," Littman notes. All three confirmed Novitzky boasted about spinning the prosecution into  a book deal and reveled in TV coverage. One of the agents told Littman that "Novitzky hated Bonds." Nailing Barry may have been a prime rationale for the IRS agent to kick off the BALCO investigation.

"I've seen the testimony of virtually every other San Francisco Giant and they're virtually identical to Bonds in that they claimed they didn't know what they were taking and that's what they testified to before the grand jury," Littman says. "None of these men have been charged with perjury. I find that interesting."

Yet perhaps the biggest revelation in Littman's article is previously sealed testimony by Novitzky and drug expert Dr. Donald Catlin  in which they acknowledge that tetrahydrogestrinone -- THG or "The Clear" -- was not illegal or even considered a steroid when Bonds delivered the 2003 testimony that has since resulted in his perjury charges.

The ramifications of this on Bonds' trial -- and any subsequent steroidal cases -- could be massive. Since "The Clear" was neither illegal nor considered a steroid, an athlete asked under oath if he had knowingly taken steroids could answer in the negative, even if he'd been swimming in hot tub-sized vats of The Clear.

Littman's anger over the case goes beyond Bonds, however. With corporate raiders Ponzi-ing away to their heart's content, Novitzky's IRS investigation -- estimated cost: $55 million and counting -- has so far convicted BALCO founder Victor Conte of laundering $100 -- a hundred bucks! -- and nailed several small-time athletes with home detention. The longest jail sentence thus far went to the attorney who leaked the grand jury testimony.

"The government doesn't bother to collect hundreds of billions of dollars of perfectly obvious IRS tax fraud each year and people were defrauding others out of billions, like Mr. Madoff -- yet we spent untold millions and diverted all this manpower away from real problems," says the writer. "The same congressional group that held that unbelievable hearing with Roger Clemens could have been looking into mortgages. My retirement fund could have been doing better."

Photo   |   Permanently Scatterbrained

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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