Bulk of government's charges against Bonds remain intact

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Barry Bonds perjury case continues to move toward a March 2 jury trial, the judge on Monday dismissed three of the 15 counts but left intact the bulk of the government's charges against the former Giants slugger.

Judge Susan Illston dropped one count because it was duplicitous, another because Bonds' answer before the BALCO grand jury was too vague and a third because the government's question was ambiguous. She also ordered two other counts merged.

Illston denied Bonds' lawyers' request to dismiss several other counts.

In the end, it appears Bonds will face 11 counts -- 10 for perjury and one for obstruction of justice stemming from his December 2003 testimony in the steroids case.

Monday's ruling was largely procedural and isn't expected to impact either potential sentencing in the case or the overall crux of the prosecution: Did Bonds lie to a federal grand jury when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs?

Still, Illston's decision does represent another blemish on the government's prosecution of the home run king. After indicting Bonds a year ago, the prosecutors were ordered to rewrite their indictment because Illston ruled it was both ambiguous and repetitive in many places.

After refiling, Bonds' lawyers again filed motions attacking the indictment, resulting in Illston's latest ruling. In addition, the government has been ordered to tweak another of the counts because it forgot to include the word "materiality" in the charge.

Mark Fainaru-Wada is a reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit.