SAN FRANCISCO – Barry Bonds is headed to trial next March on federal charges of lying to a grand jury about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The trial date was set Friday after baseball's home run king pleaded not guilty when he was re-arraigned on 15 felony counts of lying under oath and obstruction of justice.
Lead Bonds attorney Allen Ruby pleaded not guilty to the charges on the slugger's behalf, while Bonds stood silently in front of the judge. Ninety minutes later, Ruby agreed to a March 2, 2009, trial date before a second judge.
Bonds, who has not signed with a team this season, pleaded not guilty to similar accusations last December, but a judge ordered prosecutors to rewrite the indictment. The new indictment includes no new allegations.
Bonds was charged with 14 counts of lying under oath and one count of obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors say Bonds lied when he told a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO, in 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
A much smaller and subdued crowd attended the Bonds hearings Friday than had showed up to his first federal court appearance Dec. 17. Dressed in a black, pinstripe suit, Bonds stepped out of a black SUV with his attorney and a couple bodyguards and entered the courthouse through a back entrance without addressing reporters.
Bonds embraced his aunt, Rose Kreidler, after the hearing.
"The reason that I am here is because his father is deceased," said Kreidler, sister to Bonds' father, Bobby Bonds, who died in 2003 of cancer. "This is such a tremendous blow to his family. It is so much on us. He's a great person. We are all praying for him."
A jury earlier this year convicted cyclist Tammy Thomas of lying to the same grand jury that Bonds is accused of misleading. Last month, another jury convicted track coach Trevor Graham of lying to federal investigators. In all, six of the 11 people charged in connection with the BALCO investigation were accused of lying during the government's investigation started in 2002.
"The outcome of other cases has no effect on ours," Ruby said outside court. "He didn't lie to the grand jury."
Five men, including Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson, have pleaded guilty to selling performance-enhancing drugs.
Prosecutors allege that Anderson supplied Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs and at least on one occasion injected Bonds with drugs.
Anderson spent nearly a year in prison last year after refusing to testify before a grand jury about whether he supplied Bonds with drugs. Anderson's attorneys say the trainer also will refuse to testify at Bonds' trial, making it likely Anderson will be returned to prison on contempt charges if the slugger doesn't plead guilty.
The Major League Baseball Players Association said last month it was investigating whether to file a collusion grievance against teams for not pursuing Bonds, who became a free agent when the San Francisco Giants decided they didn't want him back after 15 seasons.
The 43-year-old outfielder, a seven-time NL MVP, says he wants to play this year. His agent claims no team has made an offer for the 14-time All-Star.
Outside court, another Bonds attorney Mike Rains shot down rumors that the slugger and Red Sox were in talks. But, he said, "Barry is in great spirits."
Bonds hit 28 homers last year to raise his total to 762, seven more than Hank Aaron's previous record.