The white whale

Perhaps one of the most senseless federal prosecutions of the past generation ran its course Friday when a judge slapped Barry Bonds on the wrist for giving misleading testimony to a grand jury.

For almost a decade, federal prosecutors dogged Mr. Bonds over steroid use, spending more time and treasure chasing baseball's all-time home run king than the government did investigating fraud in the Pentagon procurement process.

When it was all said and done -- Mr. Bonds will exercise his appeal option -- prosecutors managed to get a conviction on just one count, prompting Judge Susan Illston to hand down a sentence of 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service.

Given the offenses involved and the inordinate amount of attention that government lawyers spent on this case, it's easy to conclude that this was a prosecutor's office with an agenda. That became obvious when assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Parrella stood outside the courtroom and bemoaned the sentence because Mr. Bonds, among other transgressions, "had mistresses throughout his marriages."

How is that at all relevant to the matter at hand?

"This sentence is an appropriate sentence for a conviction where there is no victim," Stuart Slotnick, a former prosecutor now in private practice, told The Associated Press. "And many question the seriousness of the charges and the motivation for the prosecution."