Home run king released; next court date set for February
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Lamar Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday to four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in testimony given to a grand jury four years ago.
Bonds was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, meaning he won't have to put up that bond unless he violates the conditions of his release, which include committing no crimes, having no contact with court officials and not taking flight from the United States. He was not placed on any travel restrictions.
Bonds, who did not speak to reporters, issued a statement on his Web site on Friday.
"I want to thank my family, friends and fans for their unwavering support. It means everything to me. Despite the charges that have been filed against me, I still have confidence in the judicial system and especially in the judgment of the citizens who will decide this case. And I know that when all of this is over, I will be vindicated because I am innocent."
No date for a trial -- U.S. v. Bonds -- was set. A status hearing instead was scheduled for Feb. 7.
Afterward, in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building, where the trials of Patty Hearst and those responsible for the Jonestown Massacre were once heard, Bonds' new lead attorney told reporters that his celebrity client was ready for a fight.
"Almost everything we have to say about this case we'll say in court papers, which we will file over the coming months," said Allen Ruby, a high-powered San Francisco Bay Area criminal defense lawyer who joined Bonds' defense team this week. "For today, Barry Bonds is innocent. He has trust and faith in the justice system. He will defend these charges. And we're confident of a good outcome."
The first steps in the long and sometimes tedious litigation process were taken in front of a crowded courtroom No. 10 on the 19th floor of the famous building.
The proceedings took about 20 minutes in two parts. Ruby entered the plea on Bonds' behalf before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, and that was followed immediately by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston setting the date for the status hearing.
Bonds was accompanied by five other attorneys, including Cristina Arguedas and Michael Rains. Arguedas, another local criminal defense attorney, is also new to the case this week, while Rains has been on it almost since the federal government began its investigation.
Bonds, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and tie with diagonal stripes, waived his right to a speedy trial and answered a number of perfunctory questions, including his name and age. He appeared somber, but not nervous.
James notified Bonds of his Miranda rights. The only point of contention during the 15-minute arraignment portion of the hearing was travel restrictions sought by assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella, who presented the government's brief arguments. The government sought free travel for Bonds within the continental U.S., but surrender of his passport and restrictions on his ability to leave the country.
Ruby argued that those restrictions would inhibit Bonds' ability to continue his profession as a Major League player, something he has said he intends to do in 2008. Under the government's proposal, if Bonds signs with an American League team, he would have had to apply for an exemption each time he was scheduled to play in Toronto.
The judge denied Parrella's motion.
After a short break in the proceedings, Illston asked the attorneys for their opinions on when to start the trial. The government, citing unnamed conflicts of interest between members of Bonds' legal team and some of its prospective witnesses, said that the matter had to be resolved in the coming weeks and sought the status hearing instead.
The government is now required to turn over all its evidence to Bonds and his attorneys in what is called the "discovery" portion of the case. The matter cited would restrict turning over some of that evidence until it is resolved, Parrella said. Ruby didn't object, saying that the government is turning over a good portion of its case almost immediately.
"I'm not exactly sure what the government is referring to," Ruby said afterward. "I don't want to guess at that so we'll just see how it unfolds."
Ruby also told the judge that the defendant is considering filing a motion to dismiss the case, stating that on its face not enough evidence was presented in the indictment for it to move forward.
"As we told the judge in court, there may be defects on the face of the indictment, meaning that if you just read it you can see the defects," Ruby said. "If we conclude that that's the case, there will be a motion to dismiss and a briefing schedule and a hearing date. But we're not quite there yet."
Bonds was excused from the Feb. 7 hearing unless a motion to dismiss is scheduled to be heard on that date.
Both before and afterward, as he entered and left the building, Bonds waved to a crowd of onlookers, signing an autograph in the lobby as he left the elevator after the hearing. He was accompanied by his wife, Liz, who was the only family member in attendance. He didn't stop to speak with reporters.
Bonds, the former Giants slugger with 762 career homers, first appeared before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative on allegations of money laundering and illegally dispensing performance-enhancing drugs on Dec. 4, 2003. He testified under oath and with immunity on numerous occasions that he had never used anabolic steroids, testosterone and human growth hormone or had been administered any of those drugs with a needle during the period from 2000-2002.
The indictment cited the actual grand jury testimony elicited from Bonds, alleging that Bonds committed perjury on 19 occasions.
The investigation into the case against Bonds spanned four years, involved three grand juries and led to the jailing of Greg Anderson, Bonds' former personal trainer, for refusing to testify against Bonds. Anderson, one of five people ultimately charged in the case, previously had served three months in prison and three months under house arrest in a plea bargain arrangement. Victor Conte, BALCO's president and founder, was the only other principal to go to prison.
Anderson was released from a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., on Nov. 15, shortly after the indictment against Bonds was unsealed. It's almost certain that if the case ultimately goes to trial, the government will subpoena Anderson to be a witness.
"I fully expect the government to start ratcheting up the pressure on Greg," Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, told The Associated Press. "He will never cooperate with the government. He doesn't trust them."
Friday's hearing occurred four months to the day in San Francisco -- Aug. 7 -- on which Bonds hit his 756th home run to pass Hank Aaron and set Major League Baseball's all-time home run record. Currently a free agent, Bonds played his final game for the Giants on Sept. 26 at AT&T Park. He was told at the end of September that the club would not consider bringing him back for a 16th season as a Giant.