Long-delayed trial of Barry Bonds now set for March

Bonds, who turns 46 today, accused of lying to federal grand jury

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 today, 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.

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