Bonds pleads not guilty; attorney says he'll ask judge to toss out case

Updated: December 8, 2007, 12:30 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- A cool and impeccably tailored Barry Bonds waded through a sea of television cameras and chanting supporters Friday as he made his first court appearance since being charged with lying under oath about using steroids.

Bonds' new lawyer entered a not guilty plea in U.S. District Court to the four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice contained in the Nov. 15 indictment against Major League Baseball's newly minted home run king. Legal experts say he could spend up to 2½ years in prison if convicted.

Bonds, 43, said little during the 30-minute hearing. He was allowed to go free without posting any bail, but if he violates the terms of his release or misses any required court appearances, he'll forfeit $500,000. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Feb. 7, but Bonds may not have to attend.

"Barry Bonds is innocent," defense attorney Allen Ruby told a crushing throng of television cameras and reporters outside the courthouse afterward. "He has trust and faith in the justice system."

Bonds made a similar statement on his Web site.

"I still have confidence in the judicial system and especially in the judgment of the citizens who will decide this case," he said. "And I know that when all of this is over, I will be vindicated because I am innocent."

Ruby said he would soon ask a judge to toss out the case against Bonds because of "defects" in the indictment. He declined to elaborate.

Prosecutors wanted Bonds to turn over his passport and to restrict his travel to within the United States. But the judge declined after Ruby, in a sign that Bonds intends to play baseball next season, said such a restriction would interfere with his ability to make a living.

"Mr. Bonds is a major-league baseball player," Ruby said.

Bonds, who played the past 15 seasons in San Francisco, is a free agent. The Giants said at the end of the 2007 season that they weren't going to bring him back for 2008.

A restriction on international travel would prohibit playing for or against the Toronto Blue Jays.

He could also end up across the bay with the Oakland Athletics, who open the 2008 season against the Boston Red Sox in Japan.

The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he testified he never knowingly used performance enhancing drugs, even though prosecutors say he flunked a private steroids test in 2000. Bonds' personal surgeon, Dr. Arthur Ting, collected the blood sample and is expected to be called as a witness if Bonds take the case goes to trial.

Former Giants teammates and other players, including Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, could also testify at trial, which wouldn't begin until late next year at the earliest.

Investigators also say they seized other evidence, including an alleged "doping calendar" maintained by Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson, who spent about a year in jail for refusing to help investigators in their perjury probe of Bonds.

[+] EnlargeBarry Bonds
AP Photo/Paul SakumaBarry Bonds was released on $500,000 personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to perjury and obstruction charges.

Anderson was released from prison after Bonds was indicted without ever cooperating in the probe. But he could still be called to testify at the trial, and his lawyer said Friday that Anderson will again refuse, meaning prosecutors could ask the judge to send him back to prison for contempt.

"I fully expect the government to start ratcheting up the pressure on Greg," attorney Mark Geragos said. "He will never cooperate with the government. He doesn't trust them."

Bonds' new defense team, assembled in the days leading up to his first court appearance, is expected to attack the credibility some of the government's key witnesses, including Bonds' former mistress and a one-time business partner who had a bitter split with the slugger over memorabilia sales.

Legal experts also say the reliability of the drug test, seized during a raid of the BALCO steroids lab, will be subject to fierce scrutiny by Bonds' lawyers.

Bonds quietly turned himself in to U.S. Marshals on Thursday to be booked and have his mug shot taken, a process that typically occurs the same day as a defendant's initial appearance.

He arrived at the courthouse Friday in a black SUV with his wife, Liz. He pushed through the throngs of reporters and onlookers, went through the security checkpoint and made his way to the 19th-floor courtroom with his legal team amid a heavy security presence.

Bonds, who wore a dark blue suit and tie, quietly answered "yes" when asked if he understood his right to counsel. If he couldn't afford a lawyer, the federal magistrate judge told him, one would be appointed for him.

Bonds, who made nearly $20 million last year playing for the Giants, was flanked by six private lawyers, including high-priced criminal defense attorneys Ruby and Cristina Arguedas and noted appellate specialist Dennis Riordan.

Bonds, long represented by local attorney Michael Rains, added the new lawyers to his team for their federal court experience, which Rains lacks.

Arguedas and her firm represented several athletes called to testify before the BALCO grand jury, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella told the judge there was "a potential conflict of interest with some of the attorneys," though he didn't name them.

Parrella said he would be filing court papers on the issue, which could be debated at the Feb. 7 hearing. If so, Bonds would be required to attend because he may have to formally waive any conflict concerns. Otherwise, the judge said Bonds could skip that hearing.

In the courthouse lobby after the hearing, Bonds ran up to and hugged an elderly woman with a walker who had been denied entrance because she lacked the proper security clearance.

"Hey, that's my aunt," Bonds shouted.

It was Rosie Bonds Kreidler, the sister of Bonds' father, former major-leaguer Bobby Bonds. The two chatted for about 10 minutes, and she showed him newspaper clips and other mementos from his career. Then Bonds hugged her again and said goodbye.

As Bonds emerged from the courthouse, a small gathering of fans chanted "Barry! Barry!" He navigated the crush of cameras, waved to his supporters and departed with his wife in the black SUV.

Across the street, a tire store marquee noted for its quirky quotations echoed the sentiments of many Giants fans, who remained loyal to Bonds even as he chased baseball's career home run mark amid steroid allegations and the scorn of fans almost everywhere else: "Say it ain't so, Barry."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press