FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Six times on Friday a Superior Court clerk read a charge against Aaron Hernandez and asked for his plea, and six times the former New England Patriots tight end answered strongly:
Hernandez pleaded not guilty to the murder of his friend, 27-year-old semipro football player Odin Lloyd, and five accompanying weapons charges at his arraignment for an indictment handed down by a Fall River grand jury two weeks ago.
Hernandez, who will seek bail at an Oct. 9 hearing, will remain held in a Bristol County correctional facility, where he has been since his arrest on June 26. When Hernandez originally was charged, a Bristol County District Court judge ordered him held without bail, citing the seriousness of the charges and the convincing evidence.
Hernandez's attorneys will attack the circumstantial evidence against their client at the bail hearing next month, but bail is unlikely with other shooting investigations -- with possible links to Hernandez -- pending.
Still, Hernandez's attorneys, who has previously vowed that he would be "exonerated," asked the public not to jump to conclusions. The information and evidence that has been released on this case has all been one-sided and untested, they said.
"Not one shred of evidence has been presented (in court) yet," Hernandez attorney Charles Rankin said. He likened an arraignment to "a kickoff" in a football game.
If so, Hernandez's attorneys find themselves quickly behind in the score, and the prosecution points could keep piling up.
Last month, prosecutors divulged that police are probing Hernandez's possible ties to a double homicide in Boston in 2012 in which two men were shot and killed in a drive-by, and a February 2013 shooting in Florida in which one of Hernandez's friends said Hernandez shot him in the face and blinded him in one eye.
That friend, Alexander Bradley, has filed a lawsuit that says Hernandez shot him as they argued in a car, then dumped left him in an alley to die. This week, Hernandez was granted a stay in that case until criminal charges against him in Massachusetts -- and any other possible jurisdiction -- have been settled.
The former NFL star, dressed in a dark suit and a white short with an open collar on Friday, glanced occasionally at his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, as the charges were read. She sat in the first row of the courtroom. On the other side of the room, sat Lloyd's mother, weeping.
Hernandez's alleged accomplices also remain jailed. Ernest Wallace, 41, has been indicted as an accessory after the fact, and is being held in lieu of $500,000 cash bail. Carlos Ortiz, 27, has been charged with illegal possession of a firearm and, until now, has agreed to be held without a bail hearing.
Prosecutors say the three men were in the car on the night that Lloyd was shot five times and killed in an industrial park in North Attleborough, approximately a half-mile from Hernandez's mansion.
At Hernandez's first arraignment, prosecutors linked him to the murder with text messages, cell phone pings and surveillance video that tracked the car from North Attleborough to Boston to the industrial park and home, along with ballistics and forensic evidence that included chewed bubblegum that had been left in a rental car the four men used that night.
According to affidavits, Ortiz has told investigators that Hernandez and Lloyd had an argument in the car in the early-morning hours of June 17, and when the car stopped, the other three men got out to urinate. Ortiz said he heard shots but couldn't see who fired. He said the next day Wallace told him that Hernandez was the shooter.
The judge also addressed two other issues, continuing a gag order for everyone involved in the case and ordering all investigative agencies to preserve all evidence and notes pertaining to the case.