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ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- Aaron Hernandez was given a head-fake by prosecutors Thursday.
With the former New England Patriots tight end expecting to come to district court to argue the evidence against him in a probable cause hearing, prosecutors instead dropped an indictment on him for the same charges he had faced - first-degree murder and five weapons charges.
The indictment, handed down by a Fall River, Mass. grand jury, was announced in a hearing by Bristol County (Mass.) District Attorney Samuel Sutter.
Hernandez, 23, had been charged with the June 17 shooting murder of 27-year-old semipro football player and friend Odin Lloyd. He pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since June 26.
If convicted, Hernandez faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.
A hearing for discovery motions has been scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m. ET.
More indictments could be coming for Hernandez. Sutter said there are ongoing investigations into a July 2012 double homicide in Boston, a drive-by shooting that killed two men, and an investigation into the claims of a Connecticut man who says Hernandez shot him in the face in Florida in March.
With Hernandez in court Thursday wearing a dark jacket and open-collar court, defense attorney Jamie Sultan asked District Court Stephen Ostrach for a gag order to stay in place so the case "won't be tainted by some explosion of publicity from the district attorney's office." Ostrach upheld the order.
Hernandez did not speak during the proceeding, nor did he look at Lloyd's family members, who sat in two front rows. The family members left without comment.
Michael Fee, another Hernandez attorney, said when asked about his client's state of mind, "He's doing as good as you could expect, bearing up under the pressure. He understands what's in front of him and he's committed to clearing his name."
Fee added: "Only a jury will have a say in this case, and a jury will have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the Commonwealth has carried its burden. We believe the burden has not been carried."
Kevin Manahan, USA TODAY Sports