When Aaron Hernandez’s cousin was called to testify before grand juries investigating the former New England Patriots tight end, she chose family over the law, her lawyer said.
But Tanya Singleton, 38, is now battling a reoccurrence of breast cancer and wants to plead guilty to charges after she refused to testify for grand juries in Bristol and Suffolk counties.
“A lot of us would have made the same decision and would have made the same choice of family over civic duty,” Singleton’s attorney, E. Peter Parker, said Tuesday after a brief hearing in Suffolk Superior Court. Singleton was excused from appearing in court.
Parker disclosed on Monday that Singleton wants to plead guilty to charges of criminal contempt in both counties. In a motion filed in Bristol County Superior Court, Parker wrote that when she refused to testify, Singleton was motivated by her “love for and extremely close relationship” with Hernandez, 24, and his codefendant Ernest Wallace.
She had previously pleaded not guilty. Parker declined to comment on why Singleton wants to change her plea.
Suffolk County prosecutors say that Singleton refused to disclose what she knows about Hernandez’s alleged role in the killing of two Dorchester men, Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, on July 16, 2012.
Authorities say Hernandez shot the men while driving a 2006 Toyota 4Runner loaned to him by a Rhode Island car dealer. Last June, officers tracked the silver sport utility vehicle to Singleton’s home in Bristol, Conn., where it was parked in a garage and covered with cobwebs, officials said.
In Bristol County, Singleton is accused of refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the death of Odin L. Lloyd, 27, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home last June.
Prosecutors say they granted Singleton immunity to testify before both grand juries. When she refused to cooperate, Singleton was found to be in civil contempt and jailed for six months, Parker said.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of Lloyd, Abreu, and Furtado. He is being held without bail.
In the motion filed this week, Parker said that Singleton feared she would have been charged with perjury if she testified truthfully before the grand juries, because prosecutors might not believe her story. Parker cited the case of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who is accused of lying to a grand jury investigating Lloyd’s death. She pleaded not guilty to perjury.
Singleton was active in Hernandez’s upbringing and “loves him like she loves her own two sons,” Parker said. He wrote in his motion that she was so close to Wallace “that she considered him a part of her family.”
Wallace and another Hernandez associate, Carlos Ortiz, have been charged with murder in Lloyd’s killing and have pleaded not guilty.
“These are people that she cares for and loves very much,” said Parker, referring to Hernandez and Wallace. “You get subpoenaed to go into the grand jury to provide information about someone you love, it’s a very difficult and emotional thing to do.”
Parker hopes to consolidate the criminal contempt cases against Singleton, but Suffolk County prosecutors oppose that request, said Assistant District Attorney Patrick M. Haggan.
Singleton wants the cases to be combined because of her health, Parker said. Singleton had been in remission for breast cancer, but now the disease is back and there are concerns that it may be spreading, Parker said.
A hearing has been set for July 29 in Suffolk Superior Court to decide whether the two cases will be combined. Officials have also scheduled a hearing on Aug. 12 for Singleton to change her plea in Bristol County.
Parker expects prosecutors in both counties to seek prison time for Singleton.
“I’m going to work with every fiber of my being to keep her out of jail. She’s done six months. I think that’s enough,” Parker said.
Singleton also faces a conspiracy charge in Bristol County and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege that Singleton helped Hernandez’s “right-hand man,” Wallace, travel to Florida after Lloyd was killed. They also say she discussed helping Ortiz flee to Puerto Rico and got rid of a cellphone that Wallace had used.
Parker said Singleton does not intend to change her plea in that case.
“It’s kind of a novel legal theory to be a conspirator and accessory after the fact so that’s one we’re going to press,” he said. “We’re going to fight that charge.”