The long-delayed federal trial of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds on charges of lying to a grand jury will probably take place in March.
At a hearing in San Francisco Friday, prosecutors, defense lawyers and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston targeted March 2011 as the likely date when all will be available.
The attorneys will return to Illston's court on Aug. 6 for setting of a final date.
Bonds, who turns 46 on Saturday, is accused of lying to a federal grand jury on Dec. 4, 2003, when he said he never knowingly took steroids.
The panel was investigating illegal drug distribution by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. Bonds faces 10 counts of false statements and one count of obstruction of justice.
A March trial would be two years after the former Giants star's original trial date of March 2, 2009. That trial was abruptly halted three days before its start when prosecutors decided to appeal an unfavorable evidence ruling issued by Illston.
Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, and prosecutors gave up any further appeals, thus clearing the way for scheduling a new trial date.
The disputed evidence was three drug tests from 2000 and 2001 that allegedly showed the use of steroids.
Illston ruled, and the appeals court agreed, that prosecutors couldn't use that evidence unless Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, testifies to link urine samples used in the tests to Bonds. Anderson has refused to testify.
Bonds was not present at the brief hearing, but four of his seven defense lawyers and two of the four prosecutors were on hand.
Outside of court, the defense attorneys reiterated their previous assertions that Bonds is innocent and there won't be a plea bargain.
"Absolutely not. No chance," said defense attorney Cristina Arguedas in answer to a question about a possible plea agreement.
Lead defense attorney Allen Ruby said, "Barry Bonds is innocent. We felt from the first day that the government's evidence proves nothing."
Prosecutors declined to comment outside of court.
Illston offered a trial date in September, but the defense attorneys said they would not be available then. The judge said the next opening in her trial schedule is in March.
In addition to allegedly lying when he said he never knowingly took steroids, Bonds is accused of making false statements when he told the grand jury he never received testosterone or human growth hormone from Anderson and never was injected by Anderson.
He is one of 11 people charged with either perjury or the illegal distribution of sports drugs in connection with the BALCO probe. The others have been convicted or pleaded guilty.
Bonds set the Major League Baseball career home run record while playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2007. He also set the single-season record with 73 home runs in 2001.