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Hernandez murder trial likely will happen next summer

Hernandez Reuters

Now that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has officially pleaded not guilty to six counts related to the death of Odin Lloyd, the case can begin to move toward a trial date.

Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the trial most likely will happen during the summer of 2014.

That window can shift, based on a variety of factors.  Hernandez could, in theory, change lawyers.  Issues could arise regarding the availability of the lawyers who are handling the case for either side.  The judge presiding over the case may have a scheduling conflict.

Regardless, that’s the time frame in which the trial currently is expected to unfold.  A trial date could be set at the next hearing in the case, which has been set for October 9.  Or it could come later.

Before or after the trial date has been set, it won’t be too early for the two sides to posture for the potential jury pool.  Charles Rankin, one of the members of Hernandez’s legal team, told reporters after Friday’s hearing that Hernandez eventually will be freed.

“[N]ot one shred of evidence has been presented yet,” Rankin said.  “At the end of the day, we’re confident that Aaron is going to be exonerated and we look forward to that process.”

Prosecutor Sam Sutter disagrees.  “There’s a tremendous amount of evidence,” Sutter said.

In the end, no one knows what will happen.  A jury will have to decide whether the Commonwealth can satisfy the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  That very high standard protects innocent persons from being wrongfully imprisoned, even if it raises the chances that a guilty man will go free.

In this case, the circumstances point strongly to a conclusion that Hernandez killed Lloyd.  But the absence of the murder weapon and the presence of a star witness (Carlos Ortiz) who may have severe credibility issues could lay the foundation for reasonable doubt.

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.  That mantra sums up in seven words the ease with which a skillful defense lawyer can persuade a jury to force the prosecution to present not just persuasive evidence but overwhelming proof of guilt.

Meanwhile, Hernandez continues to be investigated for a double murder occurring in July 2012.  While not connected on the surface, some reports have suggested that Hernandez may have killed Lloyd to keep him quiet about the other murders.

If that’s the case, the feds eventually could get involved — and they have the death penalty in their arsenal.

That creates a wide range of potential outcomes for Hernandez.  And no clear answers will be coming for a while.

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Hernandez pleads not guilty to all charges

Hernandez AP

To no surprise, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez delivered the words personally, with far less conviction and panache than O.J. Simpson, who declared himself to be “absolutely, 100 percent not guilty” in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman.  Hernandez spoke softly and at times shifted his eyes will repeatedly reciting the same two words in response to the six charges that formally were entered against him.

His lawyers will at a later date attempt to revisit the issue of bail.  Hernandez has been held without bail since his arrest in late June.

Hernandez is due in court again on October 9.  He could seek bail at that time.

Friday’s hearing also addressed requests by the defense to ensure that authorities in other jurisdictions (such as Connecticut) will preserve all evidence and to prevent the prosecution and others in law enforcement from disclosing information or evidence to the media.

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Report: Video shows Hernandez at same club as murder victims

The murder charges against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could eventually be tripling.

Already indicted for killing Odin Lloyd in July 2013, Hernandez remains under investigation for the murder of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.  According to Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant, police have obtained surveillance video of Hernandez in the same club with Furtado and Abreu “hours before” Furtado and Abreu were killed in a drive-by shooting.

A grand jury reportedly is investigating Hernandez’s role in the shooting of Furtado and Abreu.  Earlier this year, authorities found the gun they believe was used in the murders.  A car that had been connected to the shooting reportedly was found earlier this year at the home of Hernandez’s uncle.

These pieces of evidence may not be enough to meet the very high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  In both the Lloyd case and the Furtado/Abreu situation, compelling evidence will be needed, or Hernandez will not be convicted.

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Hernandez will be arraigned Friday

The words "blood" and "sweat" are seen tattooed on the hands of former NFL player Hernandez, as he appears in court for a motion hearing in Attleborough Reuters

On Thursday, the NFL season officially kicks off.  On Friday, the murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez does, too.

He’ll be arraigned in Fall River Superior Court at 2:00 p.m. ET, via FOX 29 in Boston.  As Fred Gwynne once showed Joe Pesci, it’s an easy process — guilty or not guilty.  Or, possibly “absolutely, 100 percent not guilty.”

Hey, it worked for the last NFL player who tried it.

Hernandez has been held without bail since late June.  Once he’s arraigned, a trial date likely will be set.

He also is being investigated in the July 2012 murder of two men who were shot in Boston.  A grand jury reportedly is exploring the case, and it could in theory indict him at any time.

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Prosecutors deny misleading Hernandez witness

Former NFL player Hernandez, accused of killing Lloyd, appears in court for a motion hearing in Attleborough Reuters

With former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez indicted for murder and prosecutors building their case, one of the witnesses claims that prosecutors crossed the line.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors deny a contention from defense lawyers that investigators told Everett Garcia, a Connecticut inmate, that they were trying “to help Aaron out.”

In paperwork contained within the court file, prosecutors claim that police officers never said that they were trying to help Hernandez, and that they repeatedly told Garcia the discussion was voluntary.

Prosecutors claim that Garcia belongs to a gang in Bristol, Connecticut.  Garcia’s specific connection to any pending or potential allegations against Hernandez is unknown.

Hernandez appeared in court today for a motions hearing.  He is scheduled to be arraigned next Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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Belichick doesn’t have anything to add about Aaron Hernandez

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick leads his team against the New York Giants during their NFL preseason game in Foxborough Reuters

I wonder if Patriots coach Bill Belichick has anything to add to the recent Rolling Stone story regarding his handling of Aaron Hernandez?

“I don’t have anything to add,” Belichick said three straight times last night when asked about the story during Thursday’s post-game press conference.

Eventually, Belichick went “next question” with reporters, prompting them to move on to Belichick’s second-least favorite topic:  Tim Tebow.

The Rolling Stone article reported, among other things, that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had flown to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to tell coach Belichick that Hernandez feared for his life — and that it was Belichick who told Hernandez to rent a “safe house” (which apparently became Hernandez’s well-publicized “flop house”).  Eventually, Belichick reportedly threatened to trade or cut Hernandez if there were any more offseason incidents.

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft disputed those contentions on Belichick’s behalf during a pregame radio interview, which in hindsight apparently represented the team’s effort to do what Belichick has no use for doing — publicizing the team’s version of the events.

The assembled reporters eventually swung back around for another crack at the Hernandez angle.

Asked if the Hernandez situation will linger over the course of the season, Belichick said, “I told you I don’t have any comment on that.  There’s nothing more I’m going to say about it.”

“I’m just saying as it relates to the football team,” the reporter said.

“Anything else?” Belichick responded.

It’s well known that Bill Belichick, when given the choice of saying something or saying nothing to the media, typically  chooses to say nothing.  But when a published report makes very specific allegations regarding his interactions with a former player who is now charged with murder, the failure to refute those allegations can become an implicit admission that the allegations are true.  Having someone else in the organization share his version on a second-hand basis doesn’t cut it, if Belichick truly believes that what was said about him in the article is false.

Regardless of whether Belichick understands that (and he surely does), the only thing we’ll likely ever know with certainty is that he doesn’t have anything to add.

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Patriots contend Hernandez failed to qualify for his workout bonus

Hernandez Getty Images

The Patriots are committed to never paying tight end Aaron Hernandez another penny, at least not willingly.

In some respects, such as Hernandez’s otherwise “guaranteed” salary for 2013, the Patriots are on firm footing.  In other ways, including the final $3.25 million due to Hernandez in March 2014 from his August 2012 signing bonus, the Patriots’ position holds less water than a leaky swimming pool.

As to Hernandez’s $82,000 workout bonus, which has become Round One in the Hernandez vs. Patriots cash clash, the Patriots believe they have a strong argument.

Via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft told 98.5-FM in Boston that Hernandez simply failed to participate in enough offseason workouts to earn the bonus.

“You have to hit 90 percent in our contract, and Aaron didn’t hit 90 percent, in our view,” Kraft said.

Kraft said Hernandez showed up for 25 of 33 workouts.  He needed to attend 30 of them.

If those numbers are right, Hernandez won’t get the $82,000.

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Report: Hernandez was on short leash before arrest

Hernandez Reuters

The folks at Rolling Stone have taken a close look at the life of former Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez.  The story has yet to be released, but Rolling Stone has offered up a six-pack of teases, via Deadspin.

The most significant unknown tidbit was that Hernandez already was on a short leash with coach Bill Belichick, to the point where Hernandez was “one misstep from being cut.”  The item points to “missed practices and thug-life stunts.”

That contention partially contradicts a report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that the Patriots had no qualms about Hernandez as a player, and that the only concerns arose from his lingering friendship with friends from his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.  It also makes us wonder when the concerns arose, given that the Patriots gave Hernandez a $12.5 million signing bonus in August 2012.

Also, Rolling Stone reports that Hernandez was a “heavy user of angel dust” (which may or may not have been purchased from Louis Winthorpe III), that Hernandez’s paranoia prompted him to carry a gun “wherever he went,” that he “surrounded himself with a cohort of gangsters,” that his parents and “much of his extended family” had criminal records, and that his mother, Terri, cheated on Hernandez’s father before he died with a “violent drug dealer” whom she would later marry.

Finally, the report contends that former Florida coach Urban Meyer “may have helped cover up failed drug tests, along with two violent incidents — an assault and a drive-by shooting outside a local bar.”

That last part likely is a reference to an alleged assault occurring in May 2007 and the shooting from September 2007, both of which happened in Gainesville.  While the report hedges with the use of “may have,” it’s the first time anyone has suggested that Meyer had an affirmative role in keeping Hernandez’s alleged misdeeds quiet.

We’ve got a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more on this one, from Foxboro to Columbus (where Meyer now works) to points in between and beyond.

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Round one of Hernandez bonus fight begins

Hernandez Getty Images

It’s no surprise that the NFLPA has filed a grievance for $82,000 in workout bonuses earned by tight end Aaron Hernandez before the Patriots cut him.  The money was earned, and it should be paid.

But the Patriots, as we explained back in June, won’t be inclined to willingly pay Hernandez another penny.  Instead, they’ll force him to fight for the money that he’s due to receive.

The workout bonus represents round one.  The stakes go up dramatically in March 2014, when Hernandez is due to receive the final $3.25 million of his August 2012 signing bonus.  Again, the money has been earned, but the Patriots will force Hernandez and the NFLPA to fight for it.

The union’s statement, issued to USA Today, comes off as almost apologetic for the effort to get money for a man who has been indicted for one murder and is being investigated for two others.  Still, the money has been earned, and it should be paid.  The NFLPA has every right and reason to pursue the situation.

Hernandez also has earned a $118,000 roster bonus; it’s unclear whether a grievance has been filed for that amount.  As we’ve previously reported, the NFLPA most likely won’t be contesting the team’s ability to void $2.5 million in guaranteed salary for the 2013 regular season.

Regardless, more that $3.3 million likely will be coming to Hernandez.  And the families of Odin Lloyd, Safiro Furtado, and Daniel Abreu would be wise to file a lawsuit ASAP seeking a court order forcing the money paid by the Patriots to be held in escrow pending the outcome of any wrongful-death lawsuits.

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Indictment of Ernest Wallace makes his probable cause hearing moot, too

Ernest Wallace AP

Of the four men who were in a car together on an early Monday morning in Massachusetts, one is dead, two have been indicted for his murder, and the fourth may be the key to putting the other two away for a long time.

Lost in last week’s news that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was indicted for killing Odin Lloyd was the indictment of Ernest Wallace for serving as an accessory after the fact to Lloyd’s murder.  On Monday, a judge bumped Wallace’s probable cause hearing, which like Hernandez’s probable cause hearing became moot after the indictment.

Also indicted last week was Tanya Cummings-Singleton.  The cousin of Aaron Hernandez faces charges of criminal contempt of court for refusing to testify before the grand jury.

Authorities believe Cummings-Singleton purchased a bus ticket for Wallace, who left the area after he murder.  Also, Carlos Ortiz reportedly told police that he discussed Lloyd’s murder with Cummings-Singleton.

Based on multiple police affidavits submitted in support of search warrants, Ortiz clearly has said a lot of things to police about the events of June 17, 2013.  Ortiz remains in custody without bail on only weapons charges, and he has not yet been indicted.

Ultimately, the ability to prove Hernandez’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt may turn on Ortiz’s willingness to testify at trial, and his ability to do so credibly.

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Hernandez indicted for murder of Odin Lloyd

Aaron Hernandez AP

As expected for weeks, a grand jury has indicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd, via the Boston Globe.

The indictment comes on the same day Hernandez was due in court for a probable cause hearing, making the hearing moot.

By indicting Hernandez, the grand jury has found that probable cause exists to believe Hernandez killed Lloyd.

Hernandez will remain jailed without bail.  Eventually, a trial date will be set.

Another grand jury reportedly is considering whether Hernandez killed two men in July 2012.  He could be indicted for those murders at any time.

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Hernandez due in court today for probable cause hearing

New England Patriots tight end Hernandez is led out of the North Attleborough police station after being arrested Reuters

Last month, prosecutors sought a one-month delay of the probable cause hearing in the murder case against Aaron Hernandez.  Today, their time is up.

As explained by the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News, the probable cause hearing remains set for today.  It’s a threshold test of the evidence against Hernandez; if probable cause exists to believe he killed Odin Lloyd, Hernandez will stand trial at a later date.  If a judge determines probable cause does not exist, the charges will be dropped.

From a strategic standpoint, the probable cause hearing gives Hernandez’s lawyers an advance crack at poking holes in the evidence, with the goal of creating reasonable doubt at trial.  It’s highly unlikely that a judge would find no probable cause exists to believe Hernandez killed Lloyd, given the evidence as previously outlined by prosecutors at Hernandez’s bail hearing.

The delay in the probable cause hearing likely arose from the anticipation that Hernandez will be indicted on the charges by a grand jury, which applies the same “probable cause” standard.  But Hernandez has not yet been indicted, and Hernandez’s lawyers strenuously objected to the delay when it was requested last month.

They’ll object even more strenuously to another attempt to run out the clock while the grand jury secretly hears evidence from the prosecution — with no opportunity to challenge the evidence for the defense.

Don’t be shocked, then, if the long-awaited indictment of Hernandez comes today, before the hearing is scheduled to begin.

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Report: Police find gun used in July 2012 double murder

Hernandez Reuters

Authorities are still looking for the gun used to kill Odin Lloyd, allegedly by or at the behest of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  But they’ve reportedly found the weapon used in a separate double murder linked to Hernandez.

According to CBS 3, the gun was recovered in connection with the June 21 arrest of 19-year-old Jailene Diaz-Ramos.  She had crashed her car in Springfield, Massachusetts, and police found a .38-caliber revolver upon searching the vehicle.  Ballistics testing determined that the gun matched the weapon that fired bullets found at the scene of the July 2012 murder of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston.

It’s unknown whether Diaz-Ramos, who lives in Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, has any connection to Hernandez.  She told police that the gun belongs to a friend she referred to only as “Chicago.”

But she also said she gave her friends a ride to work, and that her friends are football players.

Curiously, police also found a locked safe in the trunk of the car; a warrant to search the safe has not yet been issued.  But with the gun used to kill Lloyd still missing and with the arrest of Diaz-Ramos coming only a few days after Lloyd was shot, it’s hard not to wonder whether the .45-caliber Glock that killed Lloyd is inside that safe.

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UFC president takes shot at Patriots, Hernandez

White AP

The UFC currently faces some resistance from a politician in Boston.  And that has caused the guy who runs the UFC to take a shot at pro sports team headquartered, sort of, in Boston.

“[W]hen people ask me about it, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. We’re in Boston, aren’t we?” White told MMAJunkie.com regarding efforts by Boston City Councilman Steve Murphy to impose obstacles on a UFC event to be held Saturday in Boston.  “Don’t the Patriots play here?  F—ing Aaron Hernandez just murdered somebody and possibly murdered two other people.  Are the Patriots going to get chased out of town now?”

(Apparently not, given that White was hanging out with Pats owner Robert Kraft before Friday night’s game against the Buccaneers.)

The local push against UFC includes reliance on an obscure state law requiring foreign-born martial-artists and boxers to have Social Security numbers.

“They pulled this whole Social Security bullsh-t on us first,” White said. “How about f—ing hockey? Hockey players are from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Canada and all these other places. They get in here and do it. How about basketball? They’ve got guys from all over the world playing basketball.

“They’re trying to chase us out of here.  Are they going to do this to boxing events, too?  Are they going to try and chase boxing out of here?  How many boxing events are they doing here?  Not many.”

They do plenty of Patriots games near Boston, and firing at the Patriots isn’t exactly the best way for White to suck up to the local powers-that-be.

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Search in pond for gun used in Odin Lloyd murder comes to an end

APTOPIX Hernandez Police AP

Authorities in Bristol, Connecticut spent the last week searching a pond for the gun they believe was used to kill Odin Lloyd, but their search has come to an end without the evidence they hoped to retrieve.

The pond is near the previously searched Pine Lake and both bodies of water are two miles from the home of the uncle of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has been charged with murder. Two other suspects charged in the crime, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, stayed at the home and Ortiz was arrested there.

“No evidence was recovered and, at the present time, no more dives are planned,” Lt. Kevin Morrell of the Bristol Police Department said, via UPI.com.

Ortiz told investigators that Hernandez put two guns in a box in his basement after the shooting and court documents allege that Hernandez’s fiancee Shayanna Jenkins was seen on surveillance video leaving the house with a box and placing it in the trunk of her car. She returned less than an hour later without the box, which wasn’t enough time for her to drive to Bristol and back which make is unclear what evidence led authorities to believe that the weapon may have been disposed of in those waters.

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