The cousin of Aaron Hernandez pleaded guilty Tuesday to a contempt charge and was sentenced to two years' probation for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating the death of Odin Lloyd.
Bristol resident Tanya Singleton, 38, will be confined to her home, required to wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet, and prohibited from speaking to other witnesses in the case -- with the exception of her father, her sister, and two other Bristol residents, none of whom faces charges.
In Massachusetts, Fall River Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh, citing the deteriorating health of a woman suffering from cancer, decided not to impose the maximum sentence of 2 1/2 years in jail.
Singleton's sentence is the first handed down in the Odin Lloyd murder case, which has resulted in the arrests of five Bristol, Conn. natives, including Hernandez, the former New England Patriot tight end charged with murder in Lloyd's June 2013 slaying.
Dressed in a black shirt with a black scarf tied around her head, Singleton appeared in court for a morning hearing and entered her guilty plea in a hoarse, raspy voice. The mother of five is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and her condition has worsened since she was indicted for contempt last August. She pleaded guilty to the charge that she refused to cooperate with the government, despite being offered immunity from prosecution.
Judge Garsh said probation with home confinement is "proportionate to the offense" and does not "endanger Ms. Singleton's life or health."
Singleton's defense attorney, E. Peter Parker, wrote in a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court that "requiring Ms. Singleton to return to jail likely would hasten her death."
Last year, Singleton was incarcerated for six months in Massachusetts after she was found in contempt of court. She was moved to home confinement in February to ensure that she would receive adequate cancer treatment that could not be provided at the jail where she was being held.
"Ms. Singleton's rapidly deteriorating condition was caused by her previous incarceration -- the treatment and medication regime she had been receiving was discontinued ... and the recurrence of her cancer at its present intense level is the result," said Parker. He wrote that the cancer, which was in remission before she was held in contempt of court, has since spread to her liver and lymph nodes.
"She chose family loyalty and family love over civic duty ... that's a choice many of us would make," the defense lawyer said, and asked the court to impose a jail sentence of one year with credit for time served and the balance suspended for one year of home confinement.
William McCauley, assistant district attorney in Bristol County, Mass., told the court Tuesday that Singleton repeatedly thwarted efforts by the government to investigate the case. He said Hernandez called Singleton last year after she was subpoenaed to testify and told her "don't say anything."
"I'm not saying anything," Singleton told her cousin, according to McCauley, who said Singleton was adhering to a "code of the street" because she did not want to be labeled an informant. McCauley said that Singleton had been given every opportunity to "purge herself of contempt," but she refused, motivated by family and financial reasons. She was financially dependent on her cousin's NFL salary, he said. McCauley said the maximum sentence was "absolutely warranted," but justice would be better served through two years of home confinement due to Singleton's health condition and her children's needs.
Singleton also faces a charge of conspiracy to commit accessory to murder, accused of working with others to conceal evidence in the Lloyd case. She frequently opened her Lake Avenue house in Bristol to Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, the two other Bristol men charged with murder in Lloyd's death. Court records reveal that Singleton purchased a bus ticket for Wallace to flee south to Florida the week after the shooting. She was married to Thaddeus "T.L." Singleton, who was killed in a late June car crash before Mass. authorities could interview him. T.L. Singleton, friends and authorities say, is the man through whom Hernandez became friends with Wallace and Ortiz.
Authorities who searched the Lake Avenue home as part of the Lloyd investigation last summer recovered key evidence in a Boston double homicide cold case. The suspect vehicle in the 2012 drive-by shooting was found parked in the garage in Bristol, and prosecutors in Suffolk County, Mass. used that evidence this spring to file two new murder charges against the former New England Patriot. Individuals close to the family have said that Hernandez was like a son to Singleton, and 114 Lake Ave. has been described as his "second home." Singleton faces a separate contempt charge in the Boston case.
Hernandez has been held without bail since his murder arrest 14 months ago. His trial in the Lloyd case is scheduled to open next January.
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