September 26, 2013

$500K bail for associate of ex-Patriot Hernandez

The Associated Press

FALL RIVER, Mass. — A defendant alleged to be the right-hand man of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez was ordered held Thursday on $500,000 bail, and prosecutors revealed that a key witness in their murder case against Hernandez has changed his story about the night of the killing.

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Ernest Wallace, left, an associate of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, looks toward his attorneys as he appears in Bristol Superior Court for a bail hearing on a charge of accessory to murder after the fact in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd in Fall River, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. A cash bail of $500,000 was set for Wallace. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

A Bristol County Superior Court judge sided with prosecutors in ordering the bail amount for Ernest Wallace, who pleaded not guilty last week on a charge of being an accessory to murder in the killing of Odin Lloyd. The judge cited in part his lack of ties to the state and a record that included giving false names to police.

Wallace's attorney David Meier, who argued for $10,000 bail, said the state has presented "little to no evidence" about how Wallace was an accessory. Meier had no comment outside court.

Lloyd was found shot to death on June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and weapons charges in Lloyd's death and is being held without bail at a county jail.

Prosecutors say Hernandez was upset with Lloyd for talking to people at a nightclub a few days earlier with whom he'd had problems. Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston semi-professional football player, was dating the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend.

During the hearing in Fall River, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg also revealed new information about another man alleged to have been with Hernandez and Wallace on the night of Lloyd's killing.

Bomberg said the man, Carlos Ortiz, had told authorities at least a half-dozen times that both Hernandez and Wallace got out of a car along with Lloyd at the industrial park before he heard shots ring out.

Now, Bomberg said, Ortiz says he doesn't believe Wallace got out of the car.

Wallace's attorney, in turn, tried to call into question the credibility of Ortiz, who had told authorities he did not get out of the car on the night of the murder, according to court documents.

But Meier said a white towel that Ortiz allegedly can be seen wearing around his neck in video surveillance from before the killing was found within 5 feet of Lloyd's body.

Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter declined to comment on the towel.

Hernandez's attorneys have said the state's case won't hold up during a jury trial and that they're confident he will be exonerated.

Sutter said outside the courthouse Thursday he was pleased with the bail set by the judge. Asked if he was concerned about Ortiz changing his story, he replied: "Not at all."

Ortiz is facing a gun charge in relation to the case. He is scheduled to appear in Attleboro District Court for a dangerousness hearing Friday. He has not been indicted.

Prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing and that additional charges against Wallace could be coming.

Hernandez has also been linked to a 2012 double homicide near a Boston nightclub. While investigating Lloyd's death, police found an SUV, sought in the 2012 case, at the home of Hernandez's uncle in Bristol, Conn., the former football player's hometown. The vehicle had been rented in Hernandez's name.

Massachusetts authorities have not commented on the grand jury investigation into that case.


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