Baseball star Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 11 counts of perjury and obstructing justice when he testified before a grand jury probing the use of steroids by elite athletes.
Thursday’s arraignment was the third time Bonds has entered a plea in the case. The charges against him have been consolidated and refiled twice since he originally was charged in November 2007.
After the arraignment, Bonds sat silently as his six attorneys attempted to poke holes in some of the government’s most damning evidence — including urine tests, drug calendars and handwritten notes by Bonds’s trainer, Greg Anderson.
Judge Susan Illston did not rule immediately on the admissibility of the evidence, but seemed to be leaning toward excluding much of it because Anderson has said he would not testify or cooperate with the government in the case.
Bonds, wearing a light-colored suit, only gave his name and age — 44 — in the one-minute arraignment before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James. One of his attorneys, Allen Ruby, formally entered the not guilty plea.
The small courtroom was packed with reporters for the arraignment, as well as at least one of Bonds’ relatives.
His aunt said: “Sweetie, I love you” as Bonds entered the hearing, and hugged him as he left.
Bonds and his attorneys then headed upstairs in the federal building for the 75-minute evidentiary hearing.
The government’s case could be severely undercut by Anderson’s refusal to testify. Anderson spent a year in prison because of his earlier unwillingness to cooperate with prosecutors, and might face the same fate again if he continues to refuse to testify against his childhood friend.
Among the evidence Illston seemed considering excluding were three positive drug tests from November 2000 to February 2001, the months leading up to the 2001 season in which Bonds hit a single-season record 73 home runs.
The urine tests, all tied to Bonds by numerical codes on laboratory logs, show traces of the steroids methenolone and nandrolone. But Anderson is the only person who could testify he saw Bonds provide the urine for the tests.
The same is true of handwritten notes and drug calendars kept by Anderson. One of the calendars has a list of drugs below the name “Barry B.”
Illston delayed discussion on the admissability of a urine sample Bonds provided as part of Major League Baseball’s drug-testing program in 2003. The sample came back clean in baseball’s test, but prosecutors seized the sample and had it retested — and it showed traces of performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds’ attorneys also said Thursday they would try to exclude evidence about changes in the ballplayer’s physical appearance, including acne and shrinkage of his testicles. Prosecutors plan to call Bonds’s former mistress as a witness to discuss such physical changes.
“It will be a circus and a side show,” Bonds attorney Ted Cassman said.
Bonds’s trial is set to begin on March 2 and expected to last about three weeks.