FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI/AP) — An associate of Aaron Hernandez has been cleared of murder in a 2013 killing but found guilty as an accessory, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn announced Thursday.
Ernest Wallace was facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Odin Lloyd, for which Hernandez is now serving a life sentence without parole.
The jury returned a split verdict Thursday having been handed the case one day prior. They deliberated for about eight hours.
Judge E. Susan Garsh sentenced Wallace to serve four and a half to seven years in state prison for a charge of accessory to murder, after the fact. With credit for the three years he’s served since his arrest in June 2013, Wallace could be out of prison as early as late 2017.
“Mr. Wallace is very grateful to [the jury] for the verdict they returned this afternoon,” Wallace’s defense attorney, David Meier, said outside court. “He’s looking forward to returning to his family, to living in Florida and contributing to society there.”
Wallace’s sister, who didn’t want to share her first name, expressed relief at the verdict as well as condolences for the family of Odin Lloyd.
“We’re just grateful that he’ll be home with the family and moving forward,” Ms. Wallace said. She and Wallace’s mother traveled from Florida for the trial.
Members of Odin Lloyd’s family were also present for the verdict, but declined to comment outside of court.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn praised the jury’s work on a lengthy trial.
”I very much respect the jury’s verdict,” Quinn. “They apparently felt that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Wallace and Hernandez were acting in concert to kill Odin Lloyd. I am happy the jury found that the defendant was guilty of accessory after the fact to murder and was involved in the attempt to cover up the crime.”
During the trial, prosecutors argued Hernandez could not have killed Lloyd without help from Wallace.
Prosecutors say Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, who is still awaiting trial, drove together to Boston to pick up Lloyd, and then took him to an industrial park in North Attleboro near Hernandez’s home, where the NFL star shot him six times.
“It was a cooperative effort,” Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg said.
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But Meier said his client had no idea that Hernandez planned to kill Lloyd that night.
“Did he actively participate? Did he know what Aaron Hernandez was going to do? Absolutely not,” Meier said.
Hernandez was convicted last year of first-degree murder in Lloyd’s slaying and sentenced to life in prison. Lloyd, a construction worker and semi-professional football player, was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
Prosecutors have described Wallace as Hernandez’s “right-hand man,” hired to run errands for the Patriots star, and say they knew each other because both were from Bristol, Connecticut.
Carlos Ortiz, the second accused accomplice, is set to face trial for Lloyd’s murder in October.
Hernandez is also awaiting trial in the killings of two men he encountered at a Boston nightclub in 2012. He pleaded not guilty.