The attorney for Shayanna Jenkins accused Bristol County prosecutors Monday of using “abusive’’ legal tactics in an effort to pressure Jenkins into providing information against her fiance Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player who is accused of orchestrating the murder of Odin L. Lloyd in June.
Jenkins, 24, who has a child with Hernandez and who began dating him when both were high school students in Bristol, Conn., was indicted last week by a Bristol County grand jury on a single count of perjury.
Under state law, Jenkins faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of lying before the grand jury, lawyers said. If she is accused of perjury during a murder trial, she could face a life sentence, lawyers said.
“The government actions in this case are abusive and overreaching,’’ said Janice Bassil, a veteran Boston criminal defense attorney representing Jenkins. “I don’t believe they have sufficient evidence’’ to charge Jenkins with perjury, she said.
Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and gun charges, allegedly summoned two friends from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to Massachusetts in the hours before Lloyd was found shot to death in a North Attleborough industrial park.
Those two men, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, are both now charged with being accessories after the fact to Lloyd’s murder. They have both pleaded not guilty.
Also Monday, Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, was arraigned in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River, where she pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact of Lloyd’s murder. Singleton, 37, of Bristol, Conn., was ordered held without bail. She is also charged with contempt for refusing to testify before a Bristol County grand jury after getting a subpoena Aug. 1.
But the perjury indictment is the first criminal charge Jenkins has faced since authorities started investigating Hernandez and his associates. Bassil, her lawyer, said Jenkins is now being targeted because of her connection to Hernandez.
“I believe they are just simply trying to add pressure,’’ said Bassil. “They are trying to pressure her, but perhaps they are also trying to pressure him [Hernandez] through her.’’
Bassil said she has not seen the indictment, and was not informed that her client had been charged by Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, whose office is investigating the Lloyd murder. Instead, she said, she learned about it because she follows Sutter on Twitter.
“I think it would be more appropriate to notify counsel, rather than to release it on Twitter,’’ Bassil said.
Bassil said her client testified before a Bristol County grand jury for two days. Nothing her client said, Bassil insisted, supports accusing Jenkins of perjury in a capital case.
“There is a famous saying, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,’’ said Bassil. “I look forward to challenging this in court. I really do. If a grand jury is supposed to protect citizens from overreaching prosecutors, then there is a lot of work to be done here.’’
Bassil said Jenkins is tentatively slated to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River on Oct. 15.
Sutter spokesman Gregg M. Miliote fired back at Bassil.
“The grand jury is the best judge of whether the defendant gave truthful testimony,” Miliote said. “They obviously felt her testimony was untruthful and we respect their judgment.”
He defended the grand jury process that led to the charge against Jenkins, noting that the indictment was voted on by the grand jurors, who are citizens of Bristol County.
“The individuals who voted on this indictment are citizens of the community,’’ Miliote said. “[Bassil’s] comments prior to any recitation of the facts in open court are an affront to the good work these citizens did in examining the evidence in the case.’’ He added, “The evidence will speak for itself and we welcome the opportunity to outline the real facts in this case on Oct. 15.’’
The indictments of Singleton, Jenkins, and Ortiz were disclosed Friday by Sutter’s office. Ortiz had previously faced gun charges stemming from the investigation.
Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez, 23, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and several gun charges, orchestrated Lloyd’s June 17 killing after the two had a disagreement in a Boston nightclub in June.