The Herald News, Saturday, December 28, 2013 – Page A1

Fall River – ESPN, the cable sports network, will be leasing office space in the Cherry & Webb building for purposes of covering Aaron Hernandez’ court hearings, officials said.

Last week, ESPN signed the lease, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, with the Bristol County EDC, which owns the Cherry & Webb building at 139 South Main St., said Bristol County EDC Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola.

“Essentially it gives (ESPN) a place to be so that during coverage of the Hernandez trial, they have a location where they don’t have to be carting all their equipment back and forth,” Fiola said.

ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Conn., signed a six-month lease for 700 square feet of office space in the building’s first-floor, with options after the first six months. Fiola declined to say how much the lease is worth, other than to say that ESPN is paying “market rate.”

Fiola said the city approached ESPN about leasing the space. Fiola said the network will not use the space as a studio, but rather as a staging area for whenever Hernandez, 24, the former New England Patriots tight end, and his associates have motion hearings and trial dates at Fall River Superior Court, which is located across the street from the Cherry & Webb building.

“It gives them a place to work out from and put some equipment in,” Fiola said. “Most likely, they won’t be there all the time, just when there is activity taking place at the trial.”

Hernandez is charged with murder and firearms offenses for the June 17 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd, 27, in North Attleborough. Two of Hernandez’ alleged associates, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, along with Hernandez’ fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins, and his cousin, Tanya Singleton, are also facing assorted criminal charges that include conspiracy, contempt, perjury and accessory after the fact.

In Bristol County, on average, a murder case can take up to two years to reach trial, though prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Hernandez case have indicated a willingness for the high-profile murder trial to be scheduled as soon as possible.

“I would presume that if everything works out,” Fiola said, “(ESPN) will be there for the duration of the Hernandez trial.”

An ESPN spokesman said the company is simply preparing in advance for a potentially large-scale news event.

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