A seemingly unruffled Barry Bonds made his first appearance in federal court Friday, pleading not guilty to charges he lied to federal investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs.
The home run king was arraigned in U.S. District Court on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice stemming from a Nov. 15 indictment. If convicted, he could spend more than two years in prison.
Bonds appeared relaxed as he smiled and chatted with his cadre of six attorneys. He then stood before the judge with his hands clasped behind his back and said: "I'm Barry Bonds."
Newly hired defense attorney Allen Ruby entered the plea on Bonds' behalf.
"Barry Bonds is innocent," Ruby said after the hearing. "He has trust and faith in the judicial system."
A judge declined the government's demand that Bonds turn over his passport and restrict his travel to within the United States. Ruby said such a restriction would interfere with his job as a Major League Baseball player. Bonds, a free agent after parting ways with the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 2007 season, is looking to sign on with a new team for next year.
He was released without having to post any money. If he violates any terms of his release, including appearing at all required hearings, he'll be required to forfeit $500,000.
Bonds had also been expected to be booked and have his mug shot taken, but Ruby told the judge that had happened Thursday.
After the hearing, Bonds emerged from an elevator into the lobby and hugged a woman he called his aunt but who declined to give her name. They chatted for about 10 minutes as she showed him press clippings and other mementos from his career.
A small gathering of fans chanted "Barry, Barry" as he waded through a crush of reporters, photographers and television cameras, waving to his supporters and departing with his wife Liz in the same black sports-utility vehicle he arrived in.
Bonds wore a dark blue suit and tie and said little during his 30 minutes in court. He quietly answered "yes" when asked if he understood he had a right to counsel and if he couldn't afford a lawyer, one would be appointed for him.
Bonds, who made nearly $20 million last year, was flanked by six private lawyers, including high priced criminal defense attorneys Ruby and Cristina Arguedas.
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.
A federal grand jury charged Bonds with repeatedly lying when he testified under oath that he never knowingly used performance enhancing drugs.
Several of Bonds' former associates are expected to contradict that testimony, and prosecutors claim to have a blood test from November 2000 that shows a "Barry B" testing positive for two types of steroids.
Former San Francisco Giants teammates and other players, including Detroit Tiger Gary Sheffield and New York Yankee Jason Giambi also could testify if Bonds takes the case to trial, which wouldn't start until late next year at the earliest.
Bonds' defense team is expected to attack the credibility of the witnesses, who include Bonds' former mistress and a one-time business partner who had a bitter split with the slugger over memorabilia sales. Legal experts say the reliability of the drug test, seized during a raid of the BALCO steroids lab, also will be subject to fierce scrutiny by Bonds' lawyers.
The 10-page indictment mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
But for all the speculation and accusations that hung over him as he chased Hank Aaron's milestone, Bonds was never identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids, even though Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson spent most of the last year in jail for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
Anderson was released hours after the indictment was unsealed Nov. 15 and his attorneys said he didn't cooperate with the grand jury. They also say he will refuse to testify at Bonds' trial, making it possible that prosecutors will again ask a judge to send him back to prison on contempt charges.
"I fully expect the government to start ratcheting up the pressure on Greg," said Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos. "He will never cooperate with the government. He doesn't trust them."
At the end of the 2003 season, Bonds said, Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover. Anderson also gave him something he called "flax seed oil," Bonds said.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson - which the indictment alleges was a lie because doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, he broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he'd bulked up to more than 240 pounds – his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
He joins a parade of defendants tied to the BALCO investigation, including Anderson, who served three months in prison and three months of home detention after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering.
BALCO founder Victor Conte also served three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to steroids distribution.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
Bonds, long represented by attorney Michael Rains, added high-profile lawyers Arguedas and Ruby to his defense team on the eve of his arraignment.
Unlike Rains, both have extensive experience in federal cases. Arguedas, based in Berkeley, represented several athletes called to testify before the BALCO grand jury. Ruby, a San Jose lawyer who has built a career representing Silicon Valley corporate titans, most recently got state corruption charges dropped against former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales.