SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds let one of his six lawyers say the words: "Not guilty."
No courtroom drama, no surprises.
Flanked by an entourage of lawyers and family members, baseball's home-run king smiled, waved and made eye contact with fans yesterday as he made his first court appearance since being charged with lying under oath about using steroids.
Bonds' new lawyer entered a not guilty plea in U.S. District Court to the four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice contained in the Nov. 15 indictment.
Afterward, defense attorney Allen Ruby didn't waste any time, saying he would soon ask a judge to toss out the case because of "defects" in the indictment. He declined to elaborate.
If convicted, legal experts say Bonds could spend up to 2 1/2 years in prison.
Bonds, 43, said little during the 30-minute hearing. He appeared relaxed as he smiled and chatted with his cadre of six attorneys. He then stood before the judge with his hands clasped behind his back and said: "I'm Barry Bonds."
He was allowed to go free without posting any bail, but if he violates the terms of his release or misses any required court appearances, he'll forfeit $500,000. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Feb. 7, but Bonds might not have to attend.
"Barry Bonds is innocent," Ruby told a crushing throng of television cameras and reporters outside the courthouse afterward. "He has trust and faith in the justice system."
Bonds made a similar statement on his Web site.
"I still have confidence in the judicial system and especially in the judgment of the citizens who will decide this case," he said. "And I know that when all of this is over, I will be vindicated because I am innocent."
Prosecutors wanted Bonds to turn over his passport and restrict his travel within the United States. But the judge declined after Ruby said such a restriction would interfere with his ability to make a living, preventing him from going to Toronto to play for or against the Blue Jays.
"Mr. Bonds is a Major League Baseball player," Ruby said.
Bonds, who played the past 15 seasons in San Francisco, is a free agent. His agent said Thursday he spoke formally to 24 teams at baseball's winter meetings this week. One possible destination for Bonds is across the bay with the Oakland Athletics, who open the 2008 season against the Boston Red Sox in Japan.
The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he testified he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs, even though prosecutors say he flunked a private steroids test in 2000. Bonds' personal surgeon, Dr. Arthur Ting, collected the blood sample and is expected to be called as a witness if Bonds' case goes to trial.
Former Giants teammates and other players, including Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, also could testify at the trial, which wouldn't begin until late next year at the earliest.
Investigators also say they seized other evidence, including an alleged "doping calendar" maintained by Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson, who spent about a year in jail for refusing to help investigators.
Bonds' new defense team, assembled in the days leading up to his first court appearance, is expected to attack the credibility of some of the government's key witnesses, including Bonds' former mistress and a one-time business partner who had a bitter split with the slugger over memorabilia sales.
Legal experts also say the reliability of the drug test, seized during a raid of the BALCO steroids lab, will be subject to fierce scrutiny by Bonds' lawyers.
Bonds quietly turned himself in to U.S. marshals on Thursday to be booked and have his mug shot taken, a process that typically occurs the same day as a defendant's initial appearance.
He arrived at the courthouse in a black sport utility vehicle with his wife, Liz. He pushed through the crowd of reporters and onlookers, went through the security checkpoint and made his way to the 19th-floor courtroom with his legal team amid a heavy security presence.
Bonds, who wore a dark, blue suit and tie, quietly answered "yes" when asked whether he understood his right to counsel. If he couldn't afford a lawyer, the federal magistrate judge told him, one would be appointed for him.