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Trial date set in Odin Lloyd murder case

Hernandez AP

Nearly one year to the day after someone shot and killed Odin Lloyd, a judge set a trial date in the case against Lloyd’s accused killer.

Buried at the bottom of an Associated Press story regarding Monday’s hearing in the Aaron Hernandez case comes perhaps the biggest, and most awaited, news of all:  The trial will start October 6.

The trial date is tentative, as all trial dates are.  But in a case where there hadn’t even been a tentative trial date in the months since Hernandez was first arrested, having a tentative trial date represents real progress.

Monday’s hearing also included an attack by Hernandez’s lawyers on the quality of the evidence against him in the Lloyd murder, through a formal motion to dismiss the charges.

“You can’t throw a bunch of stuff at the wall. That’s not probable cause,” attorney James Sultan said in court.

Sultan conceded that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove that Hernandez was with Lloyd the night Lloyd was killed, but that there’s no evidence beyond that to prove Hernandez killed Lloyd.

In response, the prosecution explained, among other things, that Lloyd’s body was found roughly 1,000 yards from Hernandez’s home in a town where Hernandez was the only person Lloyd knew.

The judge didn’t rule on the motion to dismiss the case against Hernandez.  It would be a surprise if the case doesn’t go to trial.

Hernandez also on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges that he attacked a handcuffed inmate earlier this year and that he threatened to kill a guard.  No trial date has been set in that case, or in the case claiming Hernandez killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012.

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Aaron Hernandez is running out of money

Hernandez AP

After spending nearly a year behind bars and dealing with an ever-growing list of legal issues, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez apparently is running out of cash.

As first reported by Kevin Vaughn of FOX Sports, Hernandez is having trouble paying his lawyers.  Two of the men who appeared at this week’s arraignment on double murder charges, Charles Rankin and James Sultan, filed court documents indicating they may no longer be representing Hernandez.

Rankin and Sullivan, along with Michael Fee, have served as Hernandez’s primary counsel.  Fee has not filed a similar motion.

On one hand, something doesn’t feel right about lawyers bleeding a millionaire dry and then cutting him lose when he’s out of money.  On the other hand, lawyers will end up being out of money if they work for free.

Complicating matters is that Hernandez has been unable to sell his house in North Attleboro, due to the wrongful-death civil lawsuits filed by his three alleged victims.  The home, purchased by Hernandez for $1.3 million in November 2012, could eventually be sold to provide compensation to the families.

Hernandez also could see an infusion of $3.25 million.  That’s the remaining installment of his 2012 signing bonus, which the Patriots refused to pay in March 2014.  While the labor deal gives teams the ability to recover signing bonus money when a player becomes incarcerated, the Patriots chose to quickly cut ties with Hernandez, arguably forfeiting their ability to keep the $3.25 million or to pursue other money from Hernandez.

On Friday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft refused to elaborate on the situation during an event at Gillette Stadium.

“When he was arrested, we cut him from the team, I was very clear about it,” Kraft said, via Tom Curran of CSNNE.com.  “You can go back and read what I said then. That’s the way I feel, and will continuously feel.”

Feelings of being “duped” may not be enough to allow Kraft and the Patriots to keep their $3.25 million.  The only good news for the team is that, if/when the money is paid, Hernandez will likely never actually get any of it, not with three wrongful-death lawsuits and at least three lawyers who have been spending a lot of time working on his various cases.

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Hernandez pleads not guilty to new murder charges

Hernandez AP

To no surprise, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to charges that he murdered Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu in July 2012.  Hernandez also pleaded not guilty to the other charges emerging from an incident allegedly sparked by an altercation at a Boston nightclub.

The hearing included an explanation from prosecutors that the murders were the culmination of a chain of events that began when one of the two men accidentally bumped into Hernandez, causing him to spill a drink.

Prosecutors explained in court that Hernandez believed de Abreu deliberately bumped into Hernandez.  He allegedly tracked down de Abreu, opening fire on the SUV in which de Abreu and Furtado were riding.

The defense objected to the details shared by prosecutors in court, contending that those allegation will unfairly prejudice Hernandez.  Magistrate Gary D. Wilson responded with a forceful, matter-of-fact explanation that it’s standard practice for the Commonwealth’s representatives to share with the court some of the facts of the case, adding that the arraignment was ultimately no different than the 1,900 other capital-murder arraignments over which Wilson has presided since 1983.

Hernandez will return to court of June 24 for a scheduling hearing.  It’s possible but not likely that a trial date will be set at that time.

Charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez has been held without bail since being arrested in June 2013.

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Hernandez will be facing more than murder charges on Wednesday

Hernandez AP

When arraigned on his latest collection of criminal charges in a Boston courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will formally hear that he has been indicted for the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.  But Hernandez will hear more than that.

Albert Breer of NFL Network, citing the Suffolk County District Attorney, reports that Hernandez also will be charged with three counts of armed assault with intent to murder, and that he will be charged with a count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The seven total charges all arise from the allegation that Hernandez fired bullets into the automobile in which the deceased and others were sitting on the evening in question, after leaving a Boston nightclub.

The authorities apparently became aware of Hernandez’s role in a case that was growing cold last June after the murder of Odin Lloyd.  With Lloyd unable to testify in connection with the Furtado and Abreu murders, another guy who allegedly was once shot by Hernandez, Alexander Bradley, could end up being a key witness.

Bradley sued Hernandez last year for allegedly shooting Bradley in the face in February 2013.  Via CNN, Bradley allegedly was with Hernandez on the night Furtado and Abreu were shot.

Regardless of the outcome of the various charges pending against Hernandez, he stands accused of committing at least three murders while playing for an NFL team.  As NFL crime sprees go, it’s unprecedented.  Even if his lawyers find a way to conjure reasonable doubt at trial as to each of the killings, it’s hard to imagine any team in the league ever taking a chance on him again.

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Hernandez to be arraigned on double murder charges Wednesday

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will return to court on Wednesday.  While that’s a statement that has been made many times in the past year, this week’s visit could be the most significant yet.

Hernandez will be arraigned on charges that he shot and killed Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.  As the movie-watching world learned from My Cousin Vinny, the options are simple — guilty or not guilty.  But there’s a chance that more details will emerge regarding the contention that Hernandez opened fire on the pair of men after an encounter of some sort in a Boston nightclub.

Hernandez has been incarcerated since he was arrested last June for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  Through the process of investigating a possible motive, police apparently tripped over the potential connection of Hernandez to the earlier crime.

No trial date has been set for the Lloyd murder.  It’s unclear when Hernandez will be tried in connection with the latest charges.

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Police seek evidence against Hernandez from tattoo artists

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

In criminal cases, the notion that “anything you say can and will be used against you” applies to anything the criminal defendant says, at any time.

Witnesses can testify about things they heard the defendant say; under the rules of evidence in most if not all American jurisdictions, it’s not hearsay because the defendant can always take the stand and respond to the testimony.

As to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, police hope to speak to the folks who applied some of the tattoos to his body.  Specifically, to his right arm during the period from February 2012 to June 2013.

“It’s the tattoo artist who gave him a tattoo on his right forearm, but we’re not saying what the tattoo was,” a spokesman from the Suffolk County DA’s office told Jim Corbett of USA Today.

“We don’t want to influence the statements of anyone who might have this information.  So we’re not being specific in which tattoo we’re looking at.  What we hope to learn, really we want to get unvarnished, unrehearsed observations from any tattoo artists.  It could provide information of an evidentiary value.”

Of course, the mere mention of their desire to speak to the tattoo artists regarding tattoo art placed on Hernandez’s right forearm could influence statements and/or result in varnished, rehearsed observations.  But since the police obviously don’t know who supplied the tattoos, they need to say something in the hopes of generating leads.

And so, as Corbett noted in his article, anyone out there who may know something about Hernandez’s tattoos on his right forearm obtained from February 2012 through June 2013 should call Boston Police Sgt. Marc Sullivan at 617-343-5839.

The fact that they’ve had to go public with this request demonstrates the complexity of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Based on something on Hernandez’s arm, police believe that he may have said something to someone to suggest that he was responsible for the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.  If the case was open and shut, they wouldn’t be fishing.

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Hernandez contractual clause may not help Patriots get money back

Hernandez Reuters

With Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez facing double murder charges from an incident occurring before he signed a long-term deal that paid a $12.5 million signing bonus, the team surely will do whatever it can to try to recover as much of the money as possible.

As explained Thursday, their decision to cut him makes that effort much more difficult.  The Patriots should have retained his rights (like the Falcons did from 2007 through 2009 with Mike Vick), which would have allowed them to recover up to $10 million in signing bonus money, if Hernandez ultimately was unable to play from 2013 through 2016 due to incarceration.

CBS Boston has offered up a different take, based on a January 2013 report from former agent Joel Corry.  Said Corry at the time:  “Hernandez’s contract contains a clause where he represents and warrants that there weren’t any existing circumstances when he signed his deal that would prevent his continued availability throughout the contract.  Committing or participating in a double murder should meet this standard.  There’s another clause explicitly stating that the Patriots wouldn’t have entered into the contract except for Hernandez’s representations.”

The language cited by Corry doesn’t appear in the Standard Player Contract, which means that (if the report is accurate), the Patriots and Hernandez separately agreed to that language.  Even so, the presence of the language doesn’t mean that the Patriots will be able to recover bonus money in a way that conflicts with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Paragraph 21 of the Standard Player Contract states that, if the player’s contract conflicts with the CBA, the CBA prevails.  And the CBA sets forth the exclusive procedure for obtaining a forfeiture of money paid to the player.

At Article 4, Section 9, the CBA spells out the circumstances that allow money to be recovered.  A “forfeitable breach” happens when a player under contract, for one of several reasons (including being in jail), fails to show up for work.  If the Patriots hadn’t cut Hernandez, and if he had been unable to show up for work from 2013 through 2016, they could have recovered up to $10 million of his $12.5 million signing bonus.

But they cut him.  By cutting him, they lost the ability to recover any of his signing bonus based on his failure to show up for work in any of the five years of the contract that the bonus covered, at $2.5 million per year.

The language Corry mentions, if it’s indeed in the contract, shouldn’t matter.  The CBA takes precedence.

And if the Patriots push the issue of the contractual language too aggressively, they’ll at some point invite more pointed questions from the media and fans about why they gave Hernandez a $12.5 million signing bonus without knowing everything there was to know about whether Hernandez had done or would do something that would keep him from working by virtue of his employment in a state-run license-plate factory.

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New murder charges likely won’t help Pats recoup money from Hernandez

Hernandez Getty Images

After the authorities arrested former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013, the team swiftly terminated a big-money contract Hernandez had inked the prior August.  In October, Hernandez filed a grievance seeking payment of fully guaranteed money along with the final $3.25 million installment of his $12.5 million signing bonus.

With Hernandez now accused of killing two men more than a month before signing the contract, an interesting question arises.  Does the fact that Hernandez allegedly (or, based on the outcome of the trial, actually) gunned down two men before signing the contract enhance the team’s case?

Probably not, based on the relevant language of the labor deal.  The biggest problem for the Patriots flows from the fact that they cut Hernandez.  If they’d kept Hernandez during an inevitable league-imposed suspension, the Patriots eventually could have recovered $10 million in signing bonus money at the rate of $2.5 million per year from 2014 through 2017.  By cutting him, the Patriots arguably have waived the ability to claim that Hernandez has forfeited any of his signing bonus money.

But, as they saw in the legal profession, bad facts make bad law.  The extreme circumstances involving Hernandez could result in an arbitrator twisting and distorting the terms of the labor deal to allow the Patriots to pursue the $10 million in signing bonus money that had not been fully earned by Hernandez before they cut him.

On the other hand, they cut him.  They didn’t have to cut him.  The Falcons didn’t cut Mike Vick when he went to jail in 2007 for dogfighting, and the Falcons eventually recovered significant bonus money from him.  The Patriots easily could have handled the potential P.R. problem by explaining that they had to keep Hernandez on the roster in order to be able to recover their money.

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Report: Hernandez indicted for July 2012 double murder

Hernandez Reuters

If Aaron Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013 to avoid scrutiny for the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu, it didn’t work.

The death of Lloyd, whom Hernandez perhaps was hoping to silence about the drive-by shooting that killed Furtado and Abreu, resulted in Boston police focusing on Hernandez as a suspect.  Now, according to Ted Daniel of FOX 25 in Boston, Hernandez has been indicted for the killings.

It means that a grand jury has concluded based on a one-sided presentation of evidence from prosecutors that sufficient evidence exists to believe that Hernandez is guilty.  At trial, Hernandez’s interests will be represented by lawyers who can secure his acquittal merely by creating “reasonable doubt” regarding the prosecution’s case.

The Furtado and Abreu murders happened before Hernandez signed a big-money, long-term deal with the Patriots.  If he’s convicted, the team could end up successfully cutting off any remaining guaranteed payments due to Hernandez, including the final installment of his signing bonus.

Hernandez now faces three murder charges, which will entail at least two high-profile trials.  No trial date has been set for the killing of Odin Lloyd, and Hernandez has been jailed without bail since late last June.  He’ll undoubtedly continue to be held without bail pending the outcome of both indictments, even if he’s acquitted in the first case that actually makes it to court.

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Carlos Ortiz faces new murder charge

Ortiz AP

The man who at one point appeared to be on track to serve as the star witness in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial has not one but two murder charges of his own to worry about.

According to the Taunton (Mass.) Gazette, Carlos Ortiz will be arraigned later this month on a new murder charge.  While the article provides no details, it’s unrelated to the Odin Lloyd murder case.

A grand jury indicted Ortiz last month on charges of murder in connection with the death of Lloyd, who was fatally shot in June 2013.  Hernandez has been imprisoned without bail while awaiting trial for Lloyd’s murder.

Early in the investigation, it appeared that Ortiz would provide key details leading to a conviction of Hernandez.  Prosecutors reportedly have abandoned plans to rely on Ortiz as a witness, given conflicts in his version of the events and an alleged history of drug use and abuse.

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Hernandez indicted for assault of another inmate

Aaron Hernandez Court Appearance Getty Images

Yes, Aaron Hernandez officially now has enough legal issues to keep a midsize firm busy on a full-time basis.

Via multiple reports, the former Patriots tight end has been indicted on charges of assault, battery, and threats to do bodily harm.  The indictment results from a February fight with an inmate in the Bristol County Jail.  Hernandez got 30 days in isolation as a result of the incident.

The indictment means that a grand jury has concluded based on a one-sided presentation of evidence from prosecutors that enough evidence of guilt exists to support a conviction.  Regardless of the eventual outcome, it’s the least of Hernandez’s problems, given that he’s current behind bars awaiting trial on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd last June.

Hernandez also faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lloyd’s estate, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the estates of two men who were shot and killed in July 2012, a possible prosecution for the murder of those two men, and a lawsuit from a Florida man who claims Hernandez shot the man in the face in February 2013.

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Report: Hernandez investigated for threatening to kill jail guard

Hernandez AP

When it comes to his various legal challenges, former Patriots right end Aaron Hernandez keeps adding new ones instead of resolving old ones.

According to TMZ, Hernandez is being investigated for allegedly threatening to shoot and kill a guard at the Bristol County Jail.  The threat allegedly was made in late 2013.

Hernandez has been imprisoned without bail since June 2013 for allegedly killing Odin Lloyd.

Per the report, investigators have met with another inmate to discuss the allegations.  The inmate was reportedly asked whether he heard Hernandez threaten to “kill the guard and shoot his family” once Hernandez is out of jail, or if Hernandez ever made noises similar to the sound of a machine gun at the guard.

The inmate said Hernandez never threatened the guard.  Which of course means the inmate now won’t have to worry about being shot by Hernandez when Hernandez gets out of jail.

If, of course, Hernandez ever gets out of jail.

Earlier this year, Hernandez was involved in an altercation with another inmate at the jail.  He faces assault charges, and he was placed in isolation for 30 days.

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Appeals judge refuses to modify Hernandez gag order

Hernandez AP

The lawyers handling the Aaron Hernandez slowly-churning prosecution will continue to be prevented from talking about the case.

In February, the judge presiding over the trial issued a so-called “gag order” aimed at slamming the door on leaks to the media from “law enforcement sources” that could tend to make people think that the available evidence against Hernandez in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd along with the complete lack of an alternate explanation means that Hernandez did it.

On Monday, an appeals-court judge declined to modify the gag order.  Prosecutors weren’t happy with the outcome.

“The district attorney is surprised and disappointed,’’ spokesman Gregg Miliote told the Boston Globe. “But he won’t be able to comment until he has read through the entire decision.’’

While none of it should matter if there’s no intention to engage in tomfoolery, shenanigans, or another fancy multi-syllabic word that refers to mischief, the prosecutor surely is concerned about being accused incorrectly of violating the order, especially since the prosecutor previously asked the judge presiding over the case to step aside due to concerns of general bias against the prosecutor’s office.

Still, nearly 10 months after the murder, the fact that the process remains trapped in procedural nuance should be surprising disappointing for everyone involved.  Hernandez remains in jail without bail.  He deserves to stand trial sooner rather than later.

Then again, the delay gives his lawyers a full and fair chance to come up with a way to conjure reasonable doubt.  The American protection against innocent people wrongfully being jailed (a concept which has been flawless in execution over the last 200-plus years) gives defendants who can afford it the opportunity to hire lawyers sufficiently smart, charming, and resourceful to mesmerize a jury into rejecting a mountain of evidence that should erase all doubt, reasonable and unreasonable.

But that never happensAnywhereFor anyoneIn any setting.

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Assault charges to be pursued against Aaron Hernandez

Hernandez AP

It’s time to add a line to Aaron Hernandez‘ rap sheet.

According to multiple reports, the former Patriots tight end will be charged with simple assault for a jailhouse altercation with an inmate last week.  The two men reportedly encountered each other at a time when Hernandez should have been encountering no one, and Hernandez proceeded to allegedly pummel the other inmate while the other inmate was restrained by handcuffs

Hernandez is being held without bail for the alleged murder of Odin Lloyd.  Hernandez also remains under investigation for the 2012 shooting deaths of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado.  The families of all three victims have sued Hernandez for wrongful death.

Hernandez likewise has been sued by a man who claims Hernandez shot him in February 2013, and Hernandez undoubtedly will face a lawsuit from the inmate he allegedly beat up.  The inmate will likely sue the jail for negligence in giving Hernandez the opportunity to beat up the inmate.

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Hernandez sued by families of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu

Hernandez AP

While former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez may not be sued by the handcuffed inmate Hernandez allegedly beat up earlier this week in jail, Hernandez has been sued by the families of two men he allegedly killed in July 2012.

According to Travis Anderson of the Boston Globe, a pair of $6 million lawsuits have been filed in Suffolk County Court against Hernandez by the families of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.

Hernandez is believed to be a suspect in the ongoing criminal investigation of the murders of Furtado and Abreu, who were shot while sitting in a vehicle on July 16, 2012.

“The criminal probe into [Abreu and Furtado’s] homicides remains very active,” a spokesperson for the Suffolk County District Attorney told the Globe.

The family of Odin Lloyd previously sued Hernandez for wrongful death; Hernandez is being held without bond pending trial on the charge of murdering Lloyd.

While Hernandez’s assets are shrinking as he pays ever-mounting legal bills, he’s still seeking $3.25 million in earned but unpaid signing bonus from the Patriots and another $2.96 million in guaranteed pay from the team.  It would be wise for all three families to take steps necessary to freeze Hernandez’s remaining assets in place.

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