Aaron Hernandez’s cousin pleads guilty to contempt, gets two years’ probation

Tanya Singleton pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal contempt in connection with the investigation of murder charges against her cousin, Aaron Hernandez. Singleton refused to testify before a grand jury even though she had been granted immunity.  

Michael Dwyer/AP

FALL RIVER, Mass. – A cousin of Aaron Hernandez who refused to testify before a grand jury about the murder of Odin Lloyd will be confined to her home for a year and spend two years on probation, after her guilty plea Tuesday to a contempt charge.

Tanya Singleton, 38, is battling what her doctor has diagnosed as terminal cancer, and Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh made it clear that absent that fact she would have been sent to jail for as much as 2½ years.

“Ms. Singleton’s willful conduct constituted an assault on the rule of law,” Garsh said in handing down the sentence.

Singleton, who has described Hernandez as like a brother to her, was called before a grand jury investigating the murder of Lloyd, a 27-year-old semipro football player. His bullet-riddled body was found in a secluded field less than a mile from Hernandez’s North Attleboro home on June 17, 2013, and Hernandez and two other men have been charged in the murder.

She initially refused to answer questions – and two days later refused again, even after a judge gave her immunity from prosecution.

In between, First Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said in court, she had a phone conversation with Hernandez in which he said, “Don’t say anything,’ and she said, ‘I’m not saying anything.’ ”

Instead, she prepared to go to jail rather than testify, McCauley said.

She also had a conversation with another man implicated in the killing, Ernest Wallace Jr., “and indicated she wasn’t going to cooperate she wasn’t going to say anything and she had already made arrangements for her children (while she was in jail).”

Her attorney, E. Peter Parker, told Garsh that when called to testify, Singleton faced a quandary.

“She chose family loyalty and family love over civic duty,” Parker said. “And I’ve said it before in my pleadings and I’ll say it again, it’s a decision many of us would make in similar circumstances.”

Speaking in a hoarse voice, with a scarf covering her head, Singleton answered numerous questions from Garsh about her decision to plead guilty to the contempt charge. Again and again, she said she understood the ramifications of her decision, said no one had coerced her to make it and said she was ready to accept the consequences.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Garsh ordered that Singleton leave her home only for medical appointments, court hearings and meetings with her probation officer – and that she wear a GPS monitor to track her whereabouts.

Garsh also denied a request from Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, that she be allowed to address the court, concluding that she was not entitled to make a statement because she was not a victim of Singleton’s decision not to testify.

Outside the courthouse, Ward stepped before reporters and talked about what she had wanted to say to Singleton in the courtroom, then was overcome with emotion.

“I have one question to ask: How would you do, or what would you do, if you had information about your son’s murder, or the truth about your son’s murder?” Ward said. “How would you address that question? How would you address the court or help the other family here with the truth?

“This is from a mother to another mother. My baby was my only son, my first one. My baby’s gone without me saying goodbye. I need to know how a mother is going to feel, losing a child like that …. not being able … thank you.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez, angered at Lloyd after an incident at a nightclub in Boston, summoned two friends from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his mansion late in the night of June 16, 2013. At the same time, according to court documents, Hernandez allegedly contacted Lloyd and arranged to pick him up at his home in the Dorchester section of Boston for a night out.

Hernandez, joined by Carlos Ortiz, 28, and Wallace, 42, allegedly drove to Boston, picked up Lloyd, and then returned to North Attleboro, pulling into a secluded field in an industrial park that was surrounded by trees and piles of gravel and asphalt.

There, Lloyd was gunned down with multiple shots from a .45-caliber handgun.

Ortiz and Wallace also have been charged with murder in Lloyd’s death.

Prosecutors have asserted in court that Hernandez orchestrated the killings, but they have not divulged their theory of the crime – including their belief about who fired the fatal shots – and they don’t have to until they present their case at trial.

Hernandez is separately charged with the July 16, 2012, killings of two men in south Boston.

In that case, the former New England Patriots star has been charged with multiple counts of murder and assault in the deaths of Brian de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, and the wounding of a third man. Prosecutors have alleged Hernandez, angered that de Abreu bumped him on a nightclub dance floor, spilling his drink, seethed for more than an hour before he saw the men leaving the club. At that point, Hernandez allegedly circled the block several times waiting for the men to emerge from a parking garage, followed them several blocks and then opened fire on their vehicle as they sat at a traffic light.

Hernandez is scheduled to be in court Thursday in Boston in that case.

Singleton still faces a charge of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact to murder, an allegation based on her actions in helping Wallace leave Connecticut and travel to Florida.

She additionally faces a contempt charge in Boston, where she also refused to testify before a grand jury.