Former NFL player is charged with first-degree murder, weapons charges
He's charged in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd, 27
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges
The football star has been in police custody since he was arrested on June 26
A Bristol County, Massachusetts, grand jury indicted former NFL player Aaron Hernandez on a first-degree murder charge and five weapons charges Thursday.
Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, is charged in connection with the slaying of his friend, Odin Lloyd, 27.
Prosecutors say Hernandez, 23, orchestrated Lloyd’s shooting death. Hernandez and two other men allegedly picked Lloyd up on the morning of June 17; his body was found later that day in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home.
Hernandez appeared in court Thursday afternoon to hear the court announce the indictment. He was handcuffed and wearing a white collared shirt under a dark sports coat.
As he sat down, Hernandez mouthed, “I love you” to a family member sitting in the gallery. Hernandez showed no emotion during the brief hearing.
“There’s an incredible rush to judgment in this case,” defense attorney Michael Fee told reporters outside the courthouse.
Fee said he was pleased with the indictment because it gives his client “a path to trial,” and that a jury will find Hernandez “innocent.”
The former football star has been in police custody since he was arrested on June 26.
Prior to the indictment, Hernandez pleaded not guilty.
The indictment circumvented the need for the scheduled probable cause hearing that was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Upon reviewing the case, a grand jury determined that prosecutors had enough evidence to constitute probable cause, or that the charges are reasonable based on the facts presented. The case against Hernandez is now one step closer to trial.
The judge scheduled a hearing for next Friday to deal with two outstanding defense motions.
The next step in Hernandez’s case is his arraignment, during which he’ll be informed of the crimes he is charged with. He also will have the opportunity to enter a formal plea with the court. No date has been set for Hernandez’s arraignment.
Co-defendant Ernest Wallace, who was allegedly in the car with Hernandez the night Lloyd was killed, also was indicted. He was charged with being accessory after the fact to murder.
The grand jury has also indicted Tanya Singleton, Hernandez’ cousin, for contempt of court. She’s charged with refusing to testify before a grand jury, despite being granted immunity.
Her attorney, Peter Parker, declined to comment.
The Hernandez case has thrust prosecutors into the national spotlight. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter downplayed any additional pressure.
“My career … will be defined more by this case than all of the other things we’ve done. So to that extent there is added pressure, but I can’t say in any way that we shirk from it. I think we welcomed it,” Sutter told CNN.
CNN’s Lawrence Crook III contributed to this report.