A Massachusetts grand jury has indicted ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez on a first-degree murder charge in the June shooting death of his friend Odin Lloyd.
Murder and weapons charges against Hernandez — and indictments against two other people connected to him — were announced one hour before the former New England Patriots star made a brief appearance in Attleboro District Court.
Hernandez, who is being held without bail, wore a dark suit and white shirt, with his wrists shackled in front of him. He will be arraigned in Superior Court next Wednesday or later, prosecutors said.
The 23-year-old athlete, who faces life in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty. He did not speak but mouthed "I love you" to someone in the spectator seats.
His lawyer, Michael Fee, told reporters he was disappointed the indictment scrapped a probable cause hearing where the prosecution would have laid out its evidence, but said he is looking forward to the trial.
"Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man as we stand here today," Fee said.
He said he had not yet seen the indictment and could not comment on specific evidence because of a gag order.
"There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case. It has been based on innuendo and misrepresentation of facts," Fee said. "Today we are one step closer to a trial where the evidence will be tested...We do not believe the Commonwealth has sufficient evidence to carry its burden before a jury."
The indictment said Hernandez "did assault and beat Odin Lloyd with intent to murder him" but Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said that language was boilerplate used in most murders, including shootings.
Asked whether he was happy the indictments were in, Sutter said, “I don’t think happy is the right word. This was a very grave case. My heart goes out to the Lloyd family.”
Lloyd, a semi-professional football player, was found shot five times in an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleboro, Mass., on June 17.
Prosecutors say Hernandez orchestrated the killing because he was upset Lloyd had been hanging out with people he didn't like.
Court documents unsealed since then have outlined some of the evidence against Hernandez, including a security-camera image of him with a gun, video of a Nissan he rented near the crime scene, and text messages.
A Hernandez pal, Carlos Ortiz, told police that he stayed in the Nissan when the football player, Lloyd and another man, Ernest Wallace, got out to urinate. He heard gunshots and then only Hernandez and Wallace got back in the car, according to court documents.
Ortiz, who is being held on a gun charge, told police that Wallace said Hernandez shot Lloyd, the documents said.
Wallace was indicted as an accessory after the fact, and Hernandez's cousin, Tanya Singleton, was charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury after she received immunity.
Hernandez remains the subject of two other shooting investigations: a 2012 drive-by in Boston that left two immigrants dead, and a February incident in Miami in which Alexander Bradley lost an eye. Bradley, who has filed a civil suit, claims Hernandez shot him after they left a strip club.