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Fight for Bonds ball seemed cursed from the start

February 24, 2010 9:45:27 PM PST
In Berkeley, this may be the final post-script to one of the stranger legal cases in memory. It started with Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball. That prized souvenir seemed to bring along some wrecking ball tendencies.

It is always a good sign when a restaurant has a line and the new owners of smart Alec's in Berkeley certainly noticed that.

But it is the backstory behind Smart Alec's restaurant that makes it most notable today and it begins with an event that a lot of people would compare with winning the lottery.

When Barry Bonds hit his record 73rd home run there was a scrum that resulted for a ball that might be worth millions. Alex Popov claimed to have caught the ball, only to have it stolen from him, and took the case to court.

The verdict gave Popov back half the legal rights to that ball. In the process, his attorney, Martin Triano established a new legal precedent.

"It's possession of property, property that had been abandoned," said Triano.

But last week, Popov and his wife lost another piece of property -- Smart Alec's restaurant. And while he did not return ABC7's call on Wednesday, it appears that their fight for the baseball played a role.

"I think he dropped the ball twice. At least twice," said Howard Cummins, a Smart Alec's consultant.

Cummins represents the restaurant's minority investor, who earned a court judgment against Popov on Friday. They proved years of stock swaps, and questionable use of restaurant funds to pay for bad investments and legal cases, including the Bonds baseball battle.

Triano did not get paid for that case. Not even after the ball's auction, which failed to bring millions or even half a million, sold for $450,000 on the phone.

After the split, it did not even cover legal fees.

Lucky for Triano, Mr. Popov had given him a note on his corporation that owned this restaurant. Now, at least, the lawyer in the Bonds ball case may finally collect his bill.


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