Everyone wants to know what Alex Rodriguez said in Buffalo.
Major League Baseball wants to know.
New York’s tabloids want to know.
The obstacle they face is secrecy. The records they want are either sealed under court order or labeled confidential by the FBI.
League investigators are nevertheless moving forward in an effort to learn more about the New York Yankee’s appearance before a grand jury here in 2010 and his ties to a Toronto sports doctor who admitted smuggling human growth hormone into the United States.
The new head of the FBI in Buffalo confirmed the league’s interest in its records concerning Rodriguez and Dr. Anthony Galea but indicated the league’s requests for information have been informal.
“With a formal request by Major League Baseball, we will review what can be shared with them,” said Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the local FBI office. “We’ll give them a full review.”
Boetig said any decision on what, if anything, can be shared with the league would come from the FBI’s Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
Unlike Galea, the sports doctor who was sentenced to probation, the interest in Rodriguez has not waned in the year since the federal court case was closed.
In fact, the interest in his ties to Buffalo and Galea may be on the rise since his 211-game suspension for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs.
A source close to the Galea case said the league’s interest is not limited to FBI records.
The league also wants access to the minutes of Rodriguez’s appearance before a federal grand jury three years ago.
Those records are currently under seal, and it’s not clear what the league hopes to find in them.
It’s believed Rodriguez testified about his treatment by Galea.
The league declined to comment on its interest in FBI and grand jury records, but ESPN reported last week that the league has filed a motion in federal court to unseal the grand jury records,
The league’s motion also is reportedly under seal.
Patrick J. Brown, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer who once represented Rodriguez, said the league faces an uphill struggle. “The whole premise of a grand jury is that it’s independent and secret,” Brown said. “Absent some compelling reason, it’s highly doubtful the court would grant such a request.”
Carol E. Heckman, a Buffalo lawyer who spent eight years as a federal judge, agreed. “I think it would be pretty tough,” she said of the league’s chances.
Heckman said the rules regarding grand jury secrecy are clear-cut and have been stringently enforced by the courts for decades.
For the league to succeed in opening those records, it would have to provide U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, the judge in the Galea case, good cause, she said.
“It’s a balancing test,” Heckman said. “A test that balances the interest of knowing and the risks of exposing grand jury secrecy.”
Major League Baseball is not the only organization interested in what Rodriguez said while he was in Buffalo.
The New York Daily News recently sent Arcara a letter asking him to unseal two documents in the Galea case.
Those records include an affidavit filed by Paul J. Campana, the federal prosecutor in the case.
It’s not known what is in Campana’s affidavit, although it’s believed to pertain to Galea’s request for a lower sentence because of his cooperation with prosecutors.
The contents of the second sealed document also are unknown.
“The Daily News submits that the sealed documents here involve a matter of intense public interest,” Matthew A. Leish, vice president of the paper, said in his letter to Arcara.
In his response to the Daily News, Arcara said he does not act on letters to the court.
Joe Tacopina, Rodriguez’s lawyer in the Major League Baseball case, could not be reached to comment Thursday, but he lambasted the league in an interview with ESPN last week.
“Unlike Major League Baseball, I will not discuss any matters under seal,” Tacopina said. “I will say that we are not afraid of anything Alex Rodriguez testified to in that grand jury. However, we will not stand by as Major League Baseball tries to abuse this process. The notion that they think their interests trump the interests of federal grand jury secrecy laws in this country shows you their arrogance and lack of perspective. It is also clear that they are desperately scrambling to gather evidence at the eleventh hour.”
Rodriguez’s suspension, which is on hold while he appeals, stems from his alleged association with Anthony Bosch and Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic formerly located in Coral Gables, Fla.
Major League Baseball claims Bosch helped Rodriguez and others violate contract provisions against performance-enhancing drugs.