FALL RIVER Mass. (Reuters) - An associate of former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of a semi-pro football player in June of last year.
Carlos Ortiz, 28, entered the plea and was ordered held without bail at his arraignment before Judge Susan Garsh at Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Ortiz and another Hernandez associate, Ernest Wallace, were indicted by a grand jury in April in connection with the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was shot five times at close range, in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Ortiz and Wallace had previously been charged as accessories to Lloyd’s murder.
Hernandez was a star tight end for the New England Patriots with a $41 million contract when he was arrested at his home in North Attleboro days after Lloyd’s murder on June 17. He was cut from the team within hours of his arrest.
Prosecutors said Hernandez, Ortiz and Wallace shot Lloyd after driving him to an industrial area near Hernandez’s mansion. Hernandez, who is in jail awaiting trial on murder and weapons charges, has pleaded not guilty.
Hernandez is due in court in Boston on Wednesday to face separate charges for the 2012 murder of two men he met in a Boston nightclub.
Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayana Jenkins. Prosecutors say he and Hernandez had argued after Lloyd socialized at a nightclub with people Hernandez disliked.
Ortiz’s attorney, John Connors, said after Tuesday’s arraignment that the evidence in the case had not changed, and that he was concerned for his client.
“I‘m worried that I have an innocent guy who was along for the ride, and now he faces the most serious charges he could possibly face, somebody who looked up to Aaron Hernandez as a hero, just like everybody in Bristol, Connecticut did,” he told reporters outside the courthouse, referring to the town where Hernandez grew up and was a high-school football star.
Connors said earlier on Tuesday that Ortiz had been friends with Hernandez and his family and had played basketball with his brother.
Editing by Scott Malone and G Crosse