Troy Ellerman Pleads Guilty, Resigns from PRCA

As if the abuse and brutality inherent in rodeos isn't enough to appall and turn off sponsors and entertainers, one would think being affiliated with the likes of corrupt, unethical sleazebags like Troy Ellerman would drive away any remaining doubt.

September 8, 2009: Ellerman Released from Prison Early - Back to Rodeo?

Troy Ellerman
In a 2005 interview, Troy Ellerman pushed rodeo propaganda hard declaring, “There’s nothing phony about rodeo. It’s the real deal. If you walk down the street with a cowboy hat, that’s the symbol of integrity and hard work.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you Commissioner Ellerman showing the true corrupt phony cowboy he is, leaving a California courthouse-—This is rodeo’s REAL deal.

NEW YORK‚ The lawyer who leaked confidential grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes to the San Francisco Chronicle five years ago was released from prison after serving 16 months of his 30-month sentence.

Troy Ellerman was released Jan. 16, according to the Bureau of Prisons Web site. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said Tuesday he was let go under a program in which a term can be reduced by one year if a prisoner successfully completes a substance-abuse treatment program.

In addition, prisoners who serve more than one year are eligible to receive 54 days off for each year of good behavior under standard rules, Billingsley said.

"He's looking for some full-time work," said Ellerman's lawyer, Scott L. Tedmon. "He's going to be doing some consulting on the business side, which is similar to what he was doing with the rodeo."

Ellerman was commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from 2005-07. He voluntarily surrendered his membership in the California State Bar rather than face disbarment. 

July 12, 2007: Former PRCA Commissioner gets 2½ years in prison

SAN FRANCISCO -- An attorney who admitted leaking the confidential grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes to a reporter was sentenced Thursday to two and a half years in prison, by far the harshest penalty to result from the government's sprawling probe of steroids in sports.

Troy Ellerman, 44, pleaded guilty in February to allowing a San Francisco Chronicle reporter to view transcripts of testimony by Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and other athletes embroiled in the steroids investigation. Giambi admitted taking steroids while Sheffield and Bonds testified if they did take performance enhancing drugs, they did so unwittingly.

After the newspaper published the players' embarrassing accounts after they had been promised confidentiality, the judge overseeing the case recommended that the Department of Justice launch a leak investigation.

Ellerman initially blamed federal investigators for leaking the testimony and argued that the case against his client be tossed out because of government misconduct. He also lied to a judge about not knowing the source of the leaks.

"This affected, and infected every aspect of the judicial system," U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White said.

White also rejected Ellerman's argument that he should get a lighter sentence because President Bush commuted former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 2½-year prison sentence for perjury to probation. White said to do so would open the door to doling out unduly lenient sentences for other white collar criminals.

"If Mr. Ellerman is dissatisfied with his sentence, he should seek a commutation from the president," White said.

White also asked prosecutors about a letter Bonds' attorney Michael Rains filed in the case arguing that the slugger was a victim of Ellerman's actions and that Ellerman was not the only leak in the high-profile case.

Rains says he has evidence that sources other than Ellerman -- but still unknown to him -- had leaked confidential grand jury evidence to the Chronicle and other publications.

"Since Mr. Bonds has yet to be indicted, I have not been in position to introduce evidence concerning the leaked grand jury materials related to this case," Rains said in his letter to the judge. "In the event that Mr. Bonds is indicted, I would certainly welcome such an opportunity."

But on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Raphael told the judge that the government's leak investigation concluded with Ellerman's conviction. Raphael conceded that there had been other "little leaks" in the case, but that investigators were focused on finding the culprit of the grand jury breach.

"We do not believe that there is any other source," Raphael said. "We have no specific evidence that someone else leaked grand jury transcripts."

Ellerman was a successful Sacramento attorney when Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO, hired him following a 2003 raid of the Burlingame nutritional supplements lab by federal agents.

He also later served as the attorney for BALCO vice president James Valente, and it was while he was representing Valente that he allowed reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada to view the players' grand jury testimony.

The leaked testimony was featured prominently in Fainaru-Wada's book co-written with Lance Williams called "Game of Shadows," which recounts the alleged steroid use of Bonds, who is five home runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record.

A friend and former private investigator in Ellerman's law firm turned him in to authorities after they had a falling out.

Ellerman said the pressures of the high-profile case coupled with alcohol and cocaine abuse were major factors in letting the reporter view the transcripts.

"I did not do this seeking publicity," he told the judge. He said trying to cover his tracks "took on a life of its own."

He pleaded guilty to four felony counts of obstruction of justice and related charges, and federal prosecutors dropped their case against the two reporters. They had faced up to 18 months in prison for refusing to divulge the source of the leak.

Judge White also ordered Ellerman to give 10 talks on conduct to law students. The judge didn't fine Ellerman.

Ellerman was fired as commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and voluntarily gave up his license to practice law in California.

June 20, 2007: Former PRCA Commissioner's Plea Deal Thrown Out

There has been a shocking turn of events in the case of attorney and wannabe cowboy Troy Ellerman, rodeo commmish, who was exposed as the source of the BALCO grand jury leak. The judge seeing the case rejected Ellerman's plea deal as not punitive enough. Judge White chastised,

"The court hereby rejects the plea agreement and refuses to be bound thereby," White said, declaring that Ellerman had "corrupted several different aspects of the criminal justice system," particularly the grand jury. Ellerman lied to government agents, courts and the news media, the judge said.

White said Ellerman's actions had "impacted all three branches of government," including the legislative branch, by prompting new calls for a federal shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to disclose their sources.

Still unwilling to "cowboy up" and take any responsibility for his actions, Ellerman was quoted in another article blaming "excessive drinking and drug abuse and the constant hounding of reporters" for his lack of morals. Real rodeo family values, Troy.

Read about the Ellerman saga from the beginning below:

February 20, 2007: In December 2006 we reported that PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Commissioner Troy Ellerman stood accused by a former associate of leaking secret grand jury transcripts to two reporters in the BALCO steroid scandal, the biggest sports scandal in history.

Now “Cowboy” Troy has not only admitted what he did, he has pled guilty to obstructing justice, contempt of court and filing a false declaration. The plea deal will send Ellerman to prison for two years and he will pay a quarter million dollar fine. Interestingly, if the presiding judge chooses not to accept the plea deal, Ellerman could still be sentenced to fifteen years and could be fined two million dollars.

There is a possibility that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White will not accept the plea bargain, and we certainly hope that he will not. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said Ellerman's behavior was an "abuse of our system of justice." "Such gamesmanship undermines the integrity of the legal system and demands accountability," he said. Even Victor Conte, one of Ellerman’s former BALCO clients who was convicted, spoke out against Ellerman in an email to the Associated Press. "I find the fact that Troy Ellerman has admitted to leaking the BALCO grand jury transcripts to be outrageous," wrote Conte. Even convicted criminals find Troy Ellerman’s conduct to be abhorrent!

Judge Susan Illston, who presided over the BALCO case, was furious that someone was leaking information. Ellerman, along with other principles in the BALCO case, had signed a promise NOT to divulge information in the transcripts before receiving them. Ellerman subsequently violated that pledge.

When the leaked information became public, the judge had lawyers in the case, including Ellerman, sign a promise that they were not the source of the leak. Ellerman then leaked information again.

Incredibly, Ellerman then attempted to have charges against his client dropped by claiming there were, “repeated government leaks of confidential information to the media.”

Troy Ellerman is the perfect poster boy for the rodeo mafia. He is a narcissist, a cheat, a liar and now, an admitted criminal. One thing Troy is not, and what no rodeo thug is, is a real cowboy. Real working cowboys aren’t running around from rodeo arena to rodeo arena, they are on ranches doing ranch work. Rodeo thugs are simply performers in a Western- theme circus. Instead of wearing a clown costume, they wear an equally ridiculous John Wayne costume. They wear ridiculous hats and huge belt buckles (apparently to compensate for other shortcomings), surround themselves with the American flag, pray to God, and then indulge in the only thing that is real in rodeo – the abuse of animals.

And what of the PRCA Board of Directors? Their first response to an admission of guilt by Ellerman should have been to fire him—but no. They waited and waited and finally “accepted” his resignation. A statement released by Tom Feller, Chairman of the Board, after Ellerman was under FBI investigation and caught on tape making self-damaging comments, shows the PRCA’s true attitude towards criminal behavior in their circles:

“The majority of the PRCA Board stands solidly behind Commissioner Troy Ellerman as he continues to move the PRCA and the sport of professional rodeo forward.”

If Troy Ellerman is SHARK's choice for poster boy of the rodeo mafia, then surely PRCA stock contractor Harry Vold is Ellerman’s lady-in-waiting. Vold has been busted by SHARK investigators three times – twice at the American Royal rodeo in Kansas City, Missouri, and once at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Last year, Vold and another stock contractor were busted again at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Like Ellerman, Vold is a phony and a cheat, but the Ellerman scandal shows that Vold has another trait common to rodeo thugs – he’s a backbiting backstabber.

Even after the December 2006 media exposure that Ellerman was under investigation by the FBI as a likely source of the leak, Harry Vold continued to praise Ellerman in his best brown-nosing style. An interview with Yahoo Sports points out Vold’s support for his pal Troy:

“Harry Vold, a longtime and well-regarded stock contractor, dismissed criticism of Ellerman. 

Vold pointed out that Ellerman took over the PRCA when it was reportedly $3.6 million in debt and has since stabilized the organization's finances.

"Whether a lot of people are happy or not, it's pretty hard to find a person that is going to satisfy everyone," Vold said. "As far as I'm concerned, he's doing the best job he possibly can, and I'm not going to criticize what he's doing."

Now two months and a guilty plea later, Harry Vold has no problem with criticism of Ellerman’s PRCA leadership and has taken the media opportunities to voice his disapproval, as in this article from February 20, 2007:

"He was dead wrong," said Harry Vold, a member of the Hall of Champions board. "They didn't even own the Hall of Champions and never consulted our board. They made a deal without any authority." [referring to Ellerman’s deal with New Mexico to move rodeo’s “Hall of Champions” out of Colorado]

So when Harry “Backstabber” Vold thinks that Ellerman might survive his legal issues and remain head of the PRCA, Harry talks nice about Ellerman. As soon as it becomes clear that Ellerman is going down, the old Backstabber launches attacks against Cowboy Troy.

This is far from the first time that there has been backstabbing in the PRCA, and Harry Vold is neither the first nor the last of the lowlifes involved. When the PRCA’s last commissioner, Steven Hatchell was in power, everyone kissed his butt as well. When he resigned, out came the long knives, and Hatchell was properly rhetorically drawn and quartered. Then it was Cowboy Troy who was going to save the PRCA.

Now that the head of the rodeo world is an admitted liar, underhanded schemer, and headed for federal prison, where’s the condemnation from the “honest, down-to-earth cowboys” that supposedly are the backbone of rodeo? A check of the major online rodeo discussion boards and forums finds mostly glowing compliments of Ellerman and unending praise about how “he saved the PRCA from financial distress”. The reality is that Troy Ellerman got the PRCA out of debt by selling off nearly every asset the PRCA owned. Anyone could have done that. Yes, Ellerman got the PRCA out of the red-- by effectively cutting and selling arms and legs off of the organization and shrinking the PRCA itself. And rodeo is going to circle their wagons to protect this?

Rodeo, and the people involved, are what they are – a cruel joke. Their utter lack of character guarantees that not even the corporate jerks that sponsor them can give them the public acceptance they so desperately crave. Neither rodeo thugs nor their corporate sponsors have any morals, integrity, conscience, ethics, or any other redeeming quality that we can detect.

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