Aaron Hernandez pleads not guilty to murder and gun charges
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of Bristol, Conn., pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he orchestrated the June 17 execution of his friend Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez was arraigned Friday in front of a packed Fall River courtroom. His mother and fiancee sat in the front row, directly across from nearly a dozen members of the victim’s family, who were dressed in purple, Lloyd’s favorite color.
A judge ordered Hernandez held without bail, after his lawyers announced their intention to argue for bail at a later date. He was indicted last month for murder and five illegal firearms charges, and is next scheduled to appear in Fall River Superior Court for a hearing Oct. 9.
“We’re confident ... Aaron will be exonerated,” said one of his lawyers, Charles Rankin, after the brief arraignment. “Not one shred of evidence has been presented in court.”
Defense attorneys declined comment on why they agreed that Hernandez continue to be held without bail.
District Attorney Samuel Sutter said prosecutors would “absolutely” argue that Hernandez continue to be held.
The former Patriot was cut from the team hours after his June 26 arrest and twice refused bail. Two other Connecticut men, both from Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, also were charged in Lloyd’s slaying.
Prosecutors already have disclosed much of the evidence they used to build their case against Hernandez, which includes surveillance footage of him carrying a gun, believed to be the murder weapon, into his house minutes after Lloyd’s death. The .45 caliber Glock pistol still has not been recovered. Investigators found .45 caliber shell casings at the crime scene and matching ammunition at a Mass. apartment leased by Hernandez.
The victim sent text messages to his sister minutes before he died to tell her he was out with Hernandez. “NFL,” Lloyd typed. “Just so u know.”
The ex-NFL star also has become a target of investigations in two other shootings: a July 2012 double homicide in Boston and a February shooting in Florida that left an East Hartford man without an eye.
Surveillance footage shows Hernandez and the two men killed in Boston last summer at the same nightclub hours before the drive-by shooting, law enforcement sources said. Investigators who searched a Bristol home for evidence in the Lloyd case found a car, rented in Hernandez’s name, that matched the description of the vehicle authorities sought in that case. No charges have been filed, but Boston authorities in June searched Hernandez’s North Attleboro mansion.
Alexander Bradley, of East Hartford, filed a civil lawsuit two days after Lloyd’s death that accuses Hernandez of shooting him in the eye outside a Florida nightclub in February. Attorneys representing Hernandez in the civil suit requested a stay pending criminal action in Bristol County, Mass.
The grand jury investigating the Lloyd homicide also returned indictments for Ernest Wallace, one of Hernandez’s alleged accomplices, and Tanya Cummings-Singleton, a cousin of the former Patriot who refused to testify.
An arraignment date has not been set for Wallace, who was charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Cummings-Singleton was arraigned last week on a criminal contempt charge, and, after a closed-door hearing between the defense and the prosecution, agreed to be held until Oct. 3.
Carlos Ortiz, the third suspect, has not been indicted. He faces an illegal firearms charge and is next scheduled to appear in Attleboro District Court for a Sep. 27 hearing.