FALL RIVER, Mass. — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge Friday following his indictment in the killing of a friend authorities say was shot five times in an industrial park.
Hernandez firmly answered “not guilty” to six charges, including murder and weapons and ammunition possession charges.
His attorneys agreed that Hernandez, 23, will continue to be held without bail but reserved the right to request bail later. His next court hearing was set for Oct. 9.
Defense attorney Charles Rankin said Hernandez’s lawyers are confident that Hernandez will be exonerated during a trial. “Not one shred of evidence has been presented yet,” he said.
The arraignment “is like the opening kickoff,” Rankin said, and he encouraged people to keep an open mind and let the lawyers do their work.
A Massachusetts grand jury last month returned the indictment against Hernandez in the death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player from Boston who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend.
Hernandez was arrested in June and pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges in district court. The indictment moves the case to superior court, where jury trials in murder cases are held.
Hernandez, who was cut from the Patriots within hours of his arrest, has been held without bail.
Prosecutors say the former NFL star orchestrated Lloyd’s killing because he was upset at Lloyd for talking to some people with whom Hernandez had problems at a nightclub a few days earlier.
Defense attorneys say the evidence is circumstantial and that the state’s case won’t hold up.
Two other men who prosecutors say were with Hernandez when Lloyd was killed are also facing charges. Ernest Wallace was indicted on a charge of accessory to murder after the fact. He earlier pleaded not guilty to the same charge in district court and was held on $500,000 bail.
Carlos Ortiz pleaded not guilty to a firearms charge and is being held without bail. He has not been indicted.
Lloyd’s body was found by a jogger on June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, about a mile from Hernandez’s home. Authorities say Lloyd was killed with a .45-caliber Glock, which they have said hasn’t been recovered. But prosecutors say they have video footage of Hernandez at his home holding what appears to be a Glock in the hours before and just after the killing.
Prosecutors have not identified the triggerman, but according to court documents, Ortiz told police Wallace said it was Hernandez.
Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, also was indicted on a criminal contempt charge after prosecutors say she refused to testify before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case, even after they offered her immunity. Her attorney has agreed she be held without bail.
Hernandez is also connected to the investigation of a 2012 double homicide near a Boston nightclub. While probing Lloyd’s death, police found an SUV, sought in the earlier killing, at the home of Hernandez’s uncle in Bristol, Conn., the former football player’s hometown. It had been rented in Hernandez’s name.