Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez already had been charged by prosecutors with first-degree murder and several weapons violations in the June 17 death of Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player from the Boston area. Prosecutors say Hernandez and two other men drove with Lloyd to a North Attleboro industrial park, where Lloyd was shot multiple times and left for dead.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty.
The Bristol County clerk of the court said the grand jury brought six charges against Hernandez: first-degree murder and five weapons violations.
The indictment essentially reaffirms the charges already brought by prosecutors against Hernandez. It mostly was a procedural step that helps push things closer to a trial.
Hernandez's attorney, Michael Fee, expressed confidence in his case after the court proceedings in Attleboro.
"There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case based on innuendo," Fee said. "Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man as we stand here today. ... Based on evidence we're aware of today, we don't believe the Commonwealth has significant evidence to carry the burden of proof."
The grand jury also indicted two others connected to Hernandez, The Associated Press reported. Hernandez associate Ernest Wallace, 41, is charged with accessory to murder after the fact, according to The AP. Hernandez's cousin, Tanya Singleton, is charged with criminal contempt.
Prosecutors say Hernandez killed Lloyd because Hernandez was mad at him for what happened a few days before the murder, when Lloyd talked to people the former Patriot had problems with at a Boston nightclub. On Thursday, 12 family members and friends of Lloyd showed up to the courtroom wearing pins that read, "Legends never die," according to the New York Daily News.
Investigators have not explicitly said who fired the fatal shots, but court records filed in South Florida indicated that another man who was there that night, 25-year-old Carlos Ortiz, told authorities that Wallace called Hernandez the shooter.
Ortiz has pleaded not guilty to a charge of illegally carrying a firearm.
The Patriots released Hernandez hours before the initial murder charge was announced.
Along with the North Attleboro case, Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson told NFL Network in June that Boston police also were investigating Hernandez in connection to a 2012 double homicide.