The massive Rolling Stone investigation of Aaron Hernandez is now online, and one of the major takeaways of the piece is that the Patriots shoulder a lot of the blame for looking the other way about Hernandez’s off-field issues, and failing to see that Hernandez was a legal mess waiting to happen.
Hernandez now sits in jail awaiting trial, accused of murdering Odin Lloyd. The article, written by Rolling Stone contributing editor Paul Solotaroff and Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges, suggests that the Patriots botched the process of keeping their own house in order.
Specifically, coach Bill Belichick is blamed for replacing the team’s security chief, a former Massachusetts state trooper named Frank Mendes, with Mark Briggs, a Brit whose background was in providing security for Wembley Stadium. The story suggests that if the Patriots had kept Mendes, they would have known a lot more about Hernandez’s dealings with what Rolling Stone describes as “thugs” and “stone-cold gangsters.”
Rolling Stone also goes hard on Patriots owner Robert Kraft, calling his claim that he was duped “arrant nonsense.” According to Rolling Stone‘s reporting, Hernandez was regularly using illegal drugs, hanging out with criminals and getting mixed up in so many bad situations that the only way the Patriots wouldn’t have known is if they didn’t want to know.
In fairness to the Patriots, however, it’s a lot easier to recognize Hernandez’s warning signs with 20/20 hindsight after he has already been charged with murder. Hernandez was, after all, a free man, so it wasn’t just the Patriots he was hiding these alleged illegal activities from. It was law enforcement as well. And Hernandez had managed to last three years in the NFL without ever being suspended under the league’s substance-abuse or personal-conduct policies.
Rolling Stone also details a confrontation Hernandez had with the Lloyd two days before Lloyd was shot and killed, and the magazine’s investigation offers some evidence that hadn’t previously been publicly disclosed, including that Hernandez’s home-security system caught him screaming “You can’t trust anyone anymore!” shortly after he and Lloyd exchanged angry words at a nightclub. (Hernandez apparently destroyed some, but not all, of the footage from his home security system before police searched his house.)
Despite the chilling murder scene Rolling Stone describes at the opening of the article, the end of the article quotes legal experts suggesting that the prosecution’s case is not open-and-shut, and that Hernandez could be acquitted by convincing a jury that it was actually one of his friends, Ernest Wallace or Carlos Ortiz, who killed Lloyd.
The Hernandez story is far from over, but the Rolling Stone story is one of the deepest looks yet at what has transpired so far. And it’s a story that does not reflect well on anyone involved. Certainly not the Patriots.