On the positive side, Smaltz secured convictions against three companies, five people and one law firm, resulting in $3.5 million in fines thus far. But that leaves a $5.5 million shortfall. A scandal in the order of Iran-Contra might be worth that much, but what about Espy's estimated $35,000 in trips, luggage and football tickets?
TIME Washington correspondent Viveca Novak says Smaltz will have to win big in the courtroom — that is, get the majority of his 39 indictments to stick. And that's a far-from-certain prospect. "This will be a D.C. trial, with a D.C. jury. They've got a very healthy skepticism of independent prosecutors," says Novak.
Like many scandals, this case will likely turn on the cover-up. The charge of witness-tampering and altering documents over a trip to a Dallas Cowboys game courtesy of Tyson foods is, says Novak, "the only juicy part." Without convictions on those two, Smaltz will have fallen short. And remember, there's always the presidential pardon.