July 8, 2013

Co-defendant in Aaron Hernandez case ordered held

Ernest Wallace pleaded not guilty Monday to accessory to a murder that the ex-Patriots star is accused of committing.

The Associated Press

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — A man facing an accessory to murder charge in the case involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was ordered held without bail on Monday, and a judge ruled that search warrants that had earlier been sealed may be released.

click image to enlarge

Ernest Wallace, of Miramar, Fla., stands in handcuffs in Attleboro District Court, in Attleboro, Mass., during his arraignment, Monday, July 8, 2013. Wallace, who pleaded not guilty, is facing an accessory to murder charge in the case involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and has been ordered held without bail. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

Ernest Wallace pleaded not guilty in District Court in Attleboro, Mass. The Miramar, Fla. man will be held without bail until another hearing on July 22, under an agreement between his attorney and prosecutors.

Details of the charge against Wallace — accessory to murder after the fact — were not released during the brief proceeding. Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter declined comment on the specific allegations outside the courthouse, citing the ongoing investigation into the death of Odin Lloyd.

Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, was found slain on June 17 at an industrial park in North Attleborough not far from Hernandez's home. The 27-year-old Lloyd's relatives say he was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee and that the two men were friends.

Prosecutors say Wallace, 41, and another man, Carlos Ortiz, were with Hernandez when they drove with Lloyd to the industrial park. Authorities say Hernandez orchestrated the killing because he was upset at Lloyd for talking to certain people at a nightclub a few days earlier; they have not said who fired the fatal shots.

Wallace did not speak during the hearing but mouthed "I love you" to some people sitting in the courtroom before he was led out. Defense attorney David Meier did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A member of the Lloyd family declined to comment outside the courthouse, saying she would wait until the case was over.

Meanwhile, during a separate hearing Monday in the same courthouse, a judge lifted an impoundment order on search warrants related to the case. Motions to unseal the material were filed by The Patriot Ledger and Taunton Gazette newspapers and their parent Gatehouse Media, supported by The Associated Press and The Boston Globe.

Gregg Miliote, Sutter's spokesman, said the judge allowed for their release as of 2 p.m. Tuesday unless there is an appeal. It was not immediately clear whether Hernandez's legal team would mount a challenge. A message left for attorney James Sultan wasn't immediately returned.

Sutter had opposed the search warrants' release but said outside court his office accepted the ruling.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder and gun charges. His lawyers argue the case against him is circumstantial and say he is eager to clear his name. A judge has denied bail for Hernandez, and he is being held in a Massachusetts jail.

Ortiz, who lives in Hernandez's hometown of Bristol, Conn., was arraigned last month on a charge of illegally carrying a firearm on the day of the shooting. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Ortiz is due in court Tuesday morning for a so-called "dangerousness" hearing. Defendants who are deemed by the court to be a danger to the community may be held without bail for 90 days.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday that if the charges against Hernandez are true, his organization has been "duped." The Patriots last year signed Hernandez to a five-year contract worth $40 million but released him the day of his arrest.

"If this stuff is true, then I've been duped and our whole organization has been duped," Kraft said in a session with reporters from The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and ESPNBoston.com. "When he was in our building, we never saw anything where he was not polite. He was always respectful to me. We only know what's going on inside the building. We don't put private eyes on people."

Kraft also said the Patriots will "be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things" with regard to character reviews.

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