FALL RIVER — An associate of Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty today to a charge of being an accessory after the fact of a June slaying that Hernandez, a former New England Patriots star, is accused of committing.
Dressed in a shirt and tie, Carlos Ortiz entered his plea during a brief arraignment in Bristol Superior Court. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Relatives of Ortiz and the murder victim, Odin L. Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester, attended the hearing. Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, appeared to watch Ortiz intently during the proceedings. Lloyd’s family had no comment outside the courthouse.
Ortiz’s sister and mother waved to him as he was led away by court officers, and his mother appeared to nod slightly when a reporter asked outside court if she believed her son was innocent.
Ortiz’s lawyer, John Connors, told reporters after the hearing that his client is “depressed and confused. He’s charged with a major crime.”
Prosecutors say Hernandez summoned Ortiz and another man, Ernest Wallace, 41, to North Attleborough on the night of the killing, and that the trio picked up Lloyd at his residence in Boston in the predawn hours of June 17.
The men allegedly drove Lloyd to an industrial park in North Attleborough, near Hernandez’s home, where Lloyd was fatally shot.
Ortiz initially told investigators in Connecticut that he stayed in the vehicle while Hernandez, Wallace, and Lloyd exited in the moments before the shooting, according to court records.
But prosecutors have since indicated that Ortiz now claims only Hernandez and Lloyd exited.
Connors downplayed his client’s apparent reversal. “I have no control over what he said in Connecticut,” Connors said. “I have no knowledge of what he said in Connecticut.”
Connors also noted that Ortiz was not represented by counsel when he spoke to investigators in Connecticut several days after the murder.
Ortiz’s statements to police have spurred speculation that he may be cooperating with authorities. Connors did not answer directly when asked if Ortiz will testify against Hernandez.
“At this point, my client’s not making any statements,” Connors said. “I can’t say what’ll happen in the future, but [now] he’s got his own case to worry about.”
Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, said outside court that prosecutors are pleased with the bail set for Ortiz.
He said prosecutors allege Ortiz was involved in certain activities after the murder, but he wouldn’t elaborate on what they were.
“Those [activities] will be detailed in open court,” Miliote said. He also declined to say whether Ortiz is cooperating with prosecutors.
“We’re not going to comment on who’s talking to who,” Miliote said. “This is a homicide investigation. We have a number of cases to try still, and we’re going to move forward with the cases without commenting on specifics.”
Wallace has pleaded not guilty to an accessory charge and is also being held on $500,000 bail. Hernandez, 23, has pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges and is being held without bail.