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Baseball star Barry Bonds was in court today, pleading not guilty to charges that he lied under oath. In 2003, Bonds testified that he never knowingly used banned performance-enhancing drugs. Today's arraignment begins a legal process for Bonds that seemed unlikely until his indictment last month.
Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN: Sadly, a star athlete in a suit entering a courthouse barely warrants a double take these days, but today seemed different. Barry Bonds, in a dark blue suit, walked into the Phillip Burton Federal Building in downtown San Francisco - not just an athlete, but the all-time home-run king, the holder of the most hallowed record in a sport called America's pastime.
Bonds arrived at the same courthouse in December 2003. That's when he testified before a federal grand jury investigating the BALCO doping scandal, and that's when prosecutors say he lied. According to his indictment, there were 19 times he allegedly did not tell the truth about whether or not he used banned drugs. While he testified that he took substances later identified as steroids, he said he didn't take them knowingly.
Today, before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, Bonds pleaded not guilty to four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. He was released on $500,000 personal recognizance, which means he doesn't have to pay the money unless he violates terms of his release.
After Bonds waded back through a crowd of reporters and onlookers, entered a black SUV and drove off. His lead attorney, Allen Ruby, spoke to reporters.
Mr. ALLEN RUBY (Lawyer): 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.
GOLDMAN: Ruby, who led a pack of six Bonds lawyers into the courtroom, hinted at an initial defense strategy.
Mr. RUBY: As we told the judge in court there may be defects, but we're not quite there yet.
GOLDMAN: Ruby wouldn't say what the defects are, but later on ESPN, legal analyst Roger Cossack described how the indictment includes transcripts of the questions and answers during Bonds grand jury testimony.
Cossack says some of the prosecutors questions were inartful and in some ways, open ended, yielding answers from Bonds that might not make him guilty of perjury.
Mr. ROGER COSSACK (Legal Analyst, ESPN): Perjury is a very specific charge, and they have to prove the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt that he specifically lied about a material fact. And if he does - if they can't do that, then they lose.
GOLDMAN: Barry Bonds has been dogged by doping allegations for the past seven or eight years. Late in his career, his body type changed - from lean to muscle-bound - and he became the most prolific power hitter ever. Bonds always has denied using banned drugs and moved on.
But if today is the first step leading to a trial, Bonds will not be able to brush off the controversy anymore.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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