Scott Schools certainly knows how to make an exit.
Hours before the White House announced the nomination of Joseph Russoniello to be permanent U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Schools, the interim top prosecutor, delivered his own bombshell: the indictment of baseball slugger Barry Bonds on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
Russoniello's nomination comes after months of speculation by local federal prosecutors that he was the choice for the job, but that his ascent to the post would have to wait until after the Department of Justice had a permanent leader. President Bush swore Michael Mukasey in as attorney general on Wednesday.
Russoniello previously served as U.S. Attorney in San Francisco during the Reagan administration. He could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
It will likely be several weeks before Russoniello gets a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate will likely recess for two weeks surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday, and Bush made a slew of other nominations for Justice Department vacancies Thursday.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the committee would "purposefully" evaluate all of Bush's nominations.
"Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein welcomes the nomination of a permanent U.S. Attorney for the Northern District," said Scott Gerber, a Feinstein spokesman. "We look forward to doing the due diligence to evaluate him based on his record, experience and qualifications."
Schools took over as interim U.S. Attorney earlier this year after former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan was relieved of duty because of concerns about his poor management of the office.
The Bonds indictment caps a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes, and months of speculation about whether federal prosecutors here would go after the slugger. If convicted, the 43-year-old free agent could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
"Sometimes the line prosecutors hold onto an indictment until the new guy arrives, so they can give the new boss a treat," said David Anderson, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, now with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, who had interviewed for the top job. "But this is the reverse, which is much less common."
The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. He is also charged with lying when he testified that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
Bonds' defense attorney, Michael Rains, said he hadn't seen a copy of the indictment. "However, it goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these unsupported charges in court," Rains said. "We will no doubt have more specific comments in the very near future once we have had the opportunity to actually see this indictment that took so long to generate."
Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury that indicted Bonds. Anderson has spent much of the last year in prison for refusing to testify against his longtime friend; he was ordered released shortly after the indictment was handed up Thursday.
"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
Schools did not respond to a late request for comment.
Matthew Parrella, Jeffrey Nedrow and Jeffrey Finigan are the assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting Bonds, who is scheduled to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.