Fischer delivers records to grand jury
MIAMI -- After months of negotiations and legal wrangling with the whistle-blower in the Biogenesis clinic scandal, Major League Baseball still hasn't pried loose documents he took from the clinic. But within the past week, Porter Fischer, the clinic's former marketing director, appeared before a federal grand jury in Miami and turned over the records, sources told "Outside the Lines."
Fischer blew open the Biogenesis case when he made available some of the clinic documents to the Miami New Times last year. The initial disclosure, as well as documents subsequently obtained by "Outside the Lines" from other sources, played a part in suspensions to date of 14 players, led by Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta. The lone challenge has come from Rodriguez, who has mounted an all-out fight against his 211-game suspension.
The grand jury appearance by Fischer and his turning over of documents are clear signs that the scandal has gone beyond Major League Baseball's intensive in-house probe and evolved into a federal law enforcement investigation that could lead to criminal charges against individuals tied to the clinic and its distribution network, including Tony Bosch, the shuttered clinic's founder who is cooperating in baseball's investigation.
Though ballplayers could be questioned or even called as witnesses, it is doubtful they could face charges.
Some of the documents presented to the grand jury date back to 2009 and include not only Biogenesis but also Biokem -- a previous clinic Bosch operated in the same Coral Gables office. The doping details on the pro athletes are just a small part of the 800-plus pages of documents. Potentially of more interest to law enforcement are doping regimens for teenage athletes, references to Bosch being a doctor (which he is not) and spreadsheets revealing payments made to pharmacies and individuals to deliver drugs.
Fischer declined comment. His attorney, Scott Fingerhut, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
MLB officials said Thursday that they are aware of the grand jury proceedings.
"He didn't stay there long," a source close to the investigation said of Fischer's grand jury appearance.
Fischer was not questioned under oath, so it is assumed he'll be asked to return and decipher key details, including code names and aliases, in the documents.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
The Miami Herald first reported Friday that Fischer had been ordered to appear before the federal grand jury.
Sources told "Outside the Lines" that the federal investigation has intensified in recent weeks but that the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is coordinating the probe, had already begun conducting interviews and gathering clinic records from other sources.
Mia Ro, spokeswoman for the local DEA office, declined comment.
Major League Baseball has been attempting for months to gain Fischer's cooperation, at one point offering as much as $125,000 to bring him into the fold. Fischer pulled back against what he perceived as MLB's bullying tactics and became even less inclined to cooperate after officials cut a deal with Bosch, whom he had a falling out with over an unpaid debt.
Earlier this month, MLB resorted to naming Fischer in an emergency court order, which requested a Miami-Dade Circuit Court to require him to turn over the documents. Attorneys told the court they feared the documents Fischer had may "disappear." The parties were scheduled to be back in court Wednesday before Judge Ronald Dresnick, but the parties asked for a last-minute delay as they attempted to reach an agreement.
MLB attorneys have used a local civil lawsuit filed in March against Bosch, as well as five others affiliated with Biogenesis, in a bid to gain cooperation and access to clinic records. The presumption is baseball will eventually drop the case, but for the time being, it continues to use the court system as a vehicle to gather information from key witnesses. The latest example is Lazaro "Lazer" Collazo, a onetime University of Miami coach and influential figure in the South Florida amateur baseball community, who is scheduled to be deposed Friday.
Collazo is a former Biogenesis patient who is linked to Bosch in documents, including references to his two then-teenage sons being treated by Bosch.
The civil suit has proved particularly successful in gaining Bosch's cooperation in return for baseball promising to release him from the suit, provide personal security and speak on his behalf in any cases brought against him. To make its case, Major League Baseball put itself in the odd position of cutting a deal with an alleged drug dealer who, if the Feds are successful, may one day be indicted for his alleged crimes.
"Outside The Lines" investigative reporter T.J. Quinn contributed to this report.