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Judge blocks prosecution’s attempt to get Hernandez’s jailhouse conversations

Hernandez AP

The murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could be crumbling.

With prosecutors already deciding to punt on supposed star witness Carlos Ortiz, a judge has now blocked an attempt to obtain recordings of Hernandez’s conversations from jail.

According to the Associated Press, the judge said the prosecution didn’t make a sufficient case to obtain the communications, which allegedly contain “coded messages” regarding Lloyd’s murder.  Defense counsel call it a fishing expedition.

It’s a bit of a surprise — given the whole “anything you say can and will be used against you” thing — that Hernandez has any privacy at all regarding things he has said in jail.

Is it a fishing expedition?  Sure.  Should the prosecutors be entitled to fish if the end result is pursuing justice for Odin Lloyd?  Hell, yes.

Ultimately, Hernandez is protected by the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  If Hernandez has said anything in custody that helps remove the doubt, prosecutors should be entitled to use it.

But they can’t use it until they know it exists.  They should be allowed to find out whether it exists.

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Man allegedly shot by Hernandez gets shot again

Bradley AP

Tony Soprano.  Walter White.  Aaron Hernandez.

Guilty or innocent of murder and other alleged misdeeds, Hernandez could be the anti-hero of a compelling TV series in which ancillary cast members routinely gets involved in various predicaments.  Like shootings.

The latest twist involves a man Hernandez allegedly shot in Florida last year.  Via the Associated Press, Alexander Bradley was shot multiple times in the right thigh on Sunday night in Hartford, Connecticut.  Bradley then allegedly returned fire outside the Vevo Lounge Bar & Grill.

“Evidence revealed there was a disturbance in the club that was pushed outside by staff,” Lt. Brian Foley said, via the AP.  “At this point, Bradley was shot.  Bradley went to a vehicle, got a gun, then shot up the front of the club.”

Some will suspect that Bradley was targeted by associates of Hernandez, given that Bradley has sued Hernandez for the shooting that happened last year — and that Hernandez has performed the legal equivalent of crying “uncle” by invoking the Fifth Amendment in response to the suit.  If Bradley isn’t, you know, alive, he can’t testify against Hernandez in that case, or in any others.

For now, Bradley is expected to survive.  It’ll be interesting to see what he says about who shot him this time.  If he’s willing to say anything about it at all.

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Prosecutors give up on Carlos Ortiz as witness against Hernandez

Ortiz AP

The case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez may not be as strong as once believed.

Carlos Ortiz, once believed to be the star witness against Hernandez in the murder of Odin Lloyd based on the extent to which information apparently obtained from him was used to support search warrants and arrest warrants, will now not be called as a witness at all.  Via the Taunton (Mass.) Daily Gazette, paperwork filed Friday in court indicates that prosecutors view Ortiz as “completely unreliable” based on the fact that his once-damning story has dramatically changed.

As a result, prosecutors could now be attempting the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.

Via the Associated Press, prosecutors want to review Hernandez’s phone conversations in search of “coded messages” that could show Hernandez was talking about the murder of Odin Lloyd with his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, and/or his cousin, Tanya Singleton.

Prosecutors contend Hernandez discussed Lloyd’s murder in cryptic fashion.  Topics allegedly included Hernandez’s “belief about his criminal liability” and the “extent of his control over persons charged as accessories.”

Even if that’s what happened, it could be a challenge to use “I took care of that thing”-style remarks to show guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  But that may be all they have, if neither Ortiz nor Ernest Wallace, the two men allegedly in the car with Hernandez and Lloyd before Lloyd was shot to death, will be testifying against Hernandez.

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Hernandez can’t watch Pats in jail

aaron-hernandez-getty-t Getty Images

As the Patriots prepare to finish their first season since 2010 without tight end Aaron Hernandez by playing in the AFC title game, the accused murderer (and suspect in two other killings) won’t be permitted to spectate.

He’s not allowed to watch any TV,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Friday, via the Associated Press.  “As far as finding it out, if they hear an officer talking about it, they might find out that way.  He could probably hear about it if some other inmate were to call home and he were to yell out.”

Hernandez remains in a “special management” classification, which keeps him in his cell 21 hours per day.  When he’s not in his cell, Hernandez can’t interact with other inmates.

The Patriots have adapted very well to the absence of Hernandez, who was with the team throughout offseason workouts.  His arrest came in the middle of June, after the voluntary program ended.

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Search warrant confirms Hernandez is a suspect in July 2012 murders

Hernandez AP

Not long after former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez found himself accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013, Hernandez’s name surfaced in connection with an unsolved double murder from eleven months earlier.

If it wasn’t already clear that Hernandez is a suspect in the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu (and it should have been), it now is.  Via the Associated Press, a search warrant released Thursday confirms that Hernandez is the suspected shooter.

The warrant and accompanying affidavit initially were executed on June 28, less than two weeks after Lloyd was killed in an industrial park close to Hernandez’s home in Massachusetts.

Another recently-released warrant suggests that Hernandez may have killed Lloyd to prevent him from spilling the beans on Hernandez’s involvement in the July 2012 shootings.

Hernandez has been held without bail since June on charges of murdering Lloyd.  No trial date has been set.

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Warrant suggests Hernandez killed Lloyd to cover up double murder

Hernandez Reuters

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to await trial on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd in June 2013.  And he continues to be a suspect in a double murder that occurred 11 months earlier.

According to the Hartford Courant and other publications, a search warrant executed in connection with the July 2012 murders of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado reconfirms that Hernandez is a suspect in the case.

The warrant explains that Sharif Hashem, a security supervisor at a Boston night club, advised police that the murders of Lloyd and Abreu/Furtado could be related, and that a patron of the club “accidentally spilled the beans in front of me.”

Lloyd and Hernandez attended the club in question two days before Lloyd was killed.

The information supplies a clear motive for Hernandez’s alleged killing of Lloyd.  If Hernandez feared Lloyd would “spill the beans” on Hernandez, Hernandez had a reason (warped and misguided as it may have been) to permanently silence Lloyd.

If it can be proven that Hernandez killed Lloyd to prevent Lloyd from giving evidence and testimony against Hernandez in the prior murders, the federal government could get involved — and the death penalty could be in play.

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Odin Lloyd’s family files wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has enough legal entanglements to keep a mid-size law firm fully employed.  He’s now got another one.

According to the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News, the family of Odin Lloyd has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez.  Lloyd allegedly was killed by Hernandez in June 2013.

While Hernandez enjoys constitutional protections like the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to the question of whether he’ll be imprisoned for most if not all of the rest of his life for killing Lloyd, civil cases turn on the much lower legal standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.”

A generation ago, O.J. Simpson walked away from murder charges but found himself liable for a $33.5 million civil verdict.  Hernandez could see the same outcome, with an acquittal in criminal court and an eight-figure judgment in civil court.

The question now will be the timing of the civil litigation.  In most situations, the lawsuit will be put on hold until after the criminal case ends, since at that point the defendant wouldn’t be able to rely on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  In this case, there may be no money left by the time a jury decides Hernandez’s fate.

Hernandez surely still has ample assets, and he’s seeking $3.25 million in earned but unpaid signing bonus from the Patriots and another $2.96 million in guaranteed pay from the team.  Lloyd’s family — along with the families of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado — should move aggressively on all of Hernandez’s available property before the money ends up being consumed by his legal bills.

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Prosecutors allege Hernandez’s fiancee lied 29 times to grand jury

Jenkins AP

Shayanna Jenkins, the girlfriend of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, faces charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd.

According to prosecutors, Jenkins lied 29 times.

Via the Boston Globe, prosecutors outlined the various alleged falsehoods in court papers filed in connection with the case.  The alleged untruths include lies regarding conversations with Hernandez on June 18, when he allegedly called from his lawyer’s office and told her to remove items from the house.

She also allegedly lied about why she removed the things, about her lack of knowledge as to what the objects were, and about how she got rid of the objects.

With 29 different swings of the proverbial bat, the prosecution needs to connect only once to get a conviction.  The overriding goal could be to get Hernandez to strike a deal in order to protect the mother of his young child.

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Hernandez invokes Fifth Amendment in Florida shooting case

Hernandez AP

One of Aaron Hernandez’s various legal complications has become somewhat more complicated for the former Patriots tight end.

As explained earlier this week by Wesley Lowery of the Boston Globe, Hernandez has relied on his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination in the civil suit that claims he shot a friend in the face in February 2013.

The use of the Fifth Amendment comes in Hernandez’s formal written response to the civil complaint.  Per Lowery, Hernandez uses the following sentence 13 times:  “Defendant asserts his rights under the Fifth Amendment and, therefore, declines to respond to the allegations.”

Unlike a criminal case, where juries are told that silence cannot be used against a defendant, folks who refuse to testify in a civil case do so at their own financial peril.  If/when the case filed by Alexander Bradley goes to trial, the jury likely will be told that it can draw an adverse inference from Hernandez’s refusal to testify.

In other words, the jury will be entitled to conclude that, by declining to say anything about the situation, Hernandez must have done something.  Combined with the 51-49 “preponderance of the evidence” standard for civil cases, Bradley loses the case only if the jury finds his story to be so incredible that it overcomes Hernandez’s refusal to say, “I didn’t do it.”

The bigger challenge for Bradley will be getting compensated.  Hernandez’s money currently is being devoted to the defense against pending murder charges in Massachusetts, with another potential double-murder charge still lingering.

Bradley may end up having to rely on trying to get his hands on the earned but unpaid bonus money from the Patriots.  But Bradley may have to box out the families of up to three murder victims in order to receive compensation for being shot in the head by the man who currently refuses to say that he didn’t do it.

Hernandez’s willingness to throw in the towel on the civil suit suggests that he legitimately fears prosecution for the shooting in Florida.  As he should.  Especially if he isn’t able or willing to say, “I didn’t do it.”

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Mike Pouncey hasn’t testified in Massachusetts, yet

Pouncey AP

Nearly three weeks ago, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey received a post-game subpoena following a loss to the Patriots.  It was a command to appear before a grand jury reportedly investigating the involvement of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in the trafficking of illegal weapons.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Pouncey has not yet testified.

It’s unclear when he’ll appear before the grand jury for the purposes of answering questions under oath.  It’s also unknown whether he is viewed as a target of potential charges.

What is known is that, between the Hernandez situation and the ongoing Jonathan Martin controversy, Pouncey has plenty of things on his plate right now — none of which are all that appetizing.

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Report: Authorities are looking at Mike Pouncey as more than a witness

Mike+Pouncey+g0hwub0Gbh9m Getty Images

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey apparently is more than a mere witness in the ever-growing case(s) against Aaron Hernandez.

Greg Bedard of SI.com, who with Pete Thamel reported on Sunday that Pouncey has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating Hernandez, gave a more dire assessment to Pouncey’s potential predicament during a Monday morning appearance on WQAM’s The Joe Rose Show.

“Overall, I would say this is a serious situation for Mike Pouncey,” Bedard said.  “This is not a situation where they just think he might have evidence towards the charges against Aaron Hernandez.  If he goes in there [to testify before the grand jury] thinking that’s what it’s about, he will be underprepared.  He should be prepared that the authorities are looking at him in regards to some charges.”

It’s not clear what the charges would or could be, but Bedard at one point made reference to the issue of finances.  Bedard also said that Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (Mike’s twin) could be summoned to testify at some point, too.

With one murder case pending against Hernandez and a double-murder case possible, authorities reportedly are exploring whether Hernadnez was engaged in the illegal trafficking of weapons.  That detour from the murder charges has the feel of an effort to ensure that there will be a way to put an actual or perceived “bad guy” away, in the event the murder charge(s) don’t stick.

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Pouncey subpoena comes from state court, not federal court

Pouncey AP

On Sunday, authorities served Dolphins center Mike Pouncey with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury investigating potential weapons offenses involving former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Per a league source, the subpoena was issued by a state court, not a federal court.

The possibility that the subpoena came from federal court arose from the SI.com report that authorities are investigating Hernandez’s potential involvement in interstate gun trafficking.  The word “interstate” implies the application of federal laws.

The distinction is important, for Hernandez.  If the subpoena had come from a federal court, it would have meant that a federal grand jury had been convened.  Which would have meant that the federal grand jury could have been investigating an array of potential offenses, including the possible allegation that Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd in June 2013 because he had knowledge regarding the possible allegation that Hernandez killed Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.

Which could have exposed Hernandez to a penalty not currently available under state law:  the death penalty.

It doesn’t mean that the feds aren’t investigating the case.  And it doesn’t mean that Hernandez won’t be prosecuted for federal offenses.  It only means that Pouncey has been ordered to appear, for now, before a Massachusetts grand jury exploring possible violations of Massachusetts law.

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Mike Pouncey receives subpoena for grand jury testimony in Hernandez gun case

pounceys

When Dolphins center Mike Pouncey went to Massachusetts on Sunday, he left with a loss.  And with an invitation to return.

Involuntarily.

According to Pete Thamel and Greg Bedard of SI.com, Mike Pouncey was served with a grand jury subpoena after Sunday’s game.  Per the report, police are focusing on Hernandez’s “potential involvement in interstate gun trafficking, which is being investigated by several agencies in multiple states — at least Massachusetts, New York and Florida.”

It’s unclear whether the subpoena comes from an existing Massachusetts grand jury, or a federal grand jury.  The reference to interstate gun trafficking suggests that it’s possibly a federal grand jury.

That said, the subpoena was served by the Massachusetts State Police, which would suggest that it comes from one of the existing state-level grand juries.

It’s unknown whether Pouncey is simply a witness or also a target.

“Organizationally, we do not have a comment,” Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene told SI.com.  “And Mike Pouncey does not have a comment.”

Per the report, “signs that Hernandez was involved with a large-scale, multi-state gun running operation began to emerge” shortly after the investigation began regarding the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

The possibility of additional weapons charges (Hernandez already has been indicted on several weapons-related offenses) provides a potentially valuable fallback for prosecutors who may have a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez killed Lloyd — or that he killed Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.

As to the July 2012 murders, Hernandez is believed to be the target of a grand jury investigation.  While he has been indicted for the murder of Lloyd, he has not been indicted for the murders of Furtado and Abreu.

Mike Pouncey and his twin brother, Maurkice, made waves in July when they wore “Free Hernandez” hats at their birthday party.  Maurkice Pouncey later apologized; Mike didn’t.

It’s unknown whether Maurkice Pouncey, who plays for the Steelers, is also a potential witness in any of the potential cases against Hernandez.

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Hernandez files grievance for his guaranteed pay, signing bonus

Hernandez AP

In the aftermath of Aaron Hernandez’s arrest for murder and release from the Patriots, the NFLPA believed that Hernandez would be unable to recover his otherwise guaranteed base salaries for 2013 and 2014.

The NFLPA now believes otherwise.

The NFLPA has filed on Hernandez’s behalf a grievance seeking payment of $1.323 million in guaranteed 2013 base salary, along with $1.137 million in guaranteed 2014 base salary.  The union also seeks payment of $500,000 for a guaranteed 2014 workout bonus.

The argument is simple; the amounts were fully guaranteed, Hernandez was cut, and Hernandez should still get the money.

The Patriots will argue, we believe, that the guarantees applied only to terminations made due to injury, skill (i.e., perceived lack of it), and the salary cap.  Because the Patriots cut Hernandez pursuant to paragraph 11 of the standard player contract, which permits termination of employment when the player “has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club,” the guarantees evaporate.

Again, the NFLPA agreed with that interpretation in June.

The grievance was filed on the same day that Hernandez filed, also through the NFLPA, a grievance seeking recovery of the final installment of his $12.5 million signing bonus.  The $3.25 million isn’t due until March 14.  Citing the refusal to pay the guaranteed base salary for 2013, the NFLPA has opted to seek a ruling on the $3.25 million right now.

That’s an argument Hernandez is more likely to win.  The money was earned when he signed the contract in August 2012.  The only potential argument against paying him hinges on whether he is charged with — and convicted of — the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.  If he signed the contract knowing that he had murdered two people, there’s likely a potential legal argument that, if successful, would void the deal.

As to Furtado, Abreu, and Odin Lloyd, their families should promptly hire counsel and file suit demanding that any proceeds from these grievances (up to $6.21 million) be held in escrow pending the outcome of the wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez.  If they don’t, any money recovered by Hernandez could be long gone by the time the civil litigation ends.

He has a good chance the get the $3.25 million.  The other $2.96 million arising from guaranteed salaries and workout bonuses will be much harder to recover.

Our guess is that the NFLPA opted to pursue both prongs in the hopes of making it more likely that Hernandez will at least get the $3.25 million.

Regardless, the families of the men he allegedly killed should be the ones who get that money.  If/when “allegedly” is replaced with “actually.”

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Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee pleads not guilty to perjury

131015-hernandez-jsw.380;380;7;70;0 AP

As expected, Shayanna Jenkins has pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury.

As also expected, she’s specifically accused of lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Prosecutors contend, via NBCNews.com, that Jenkins lied to the grand jury about conversations with her fiancee, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Prosecutors also believe she lied when she claimed she didn’t recall what she did with the gun safe or lock box that she removed from the home she shares with Hernandez, allegedly at his request, after Lloyd was killed.

She admitted, with a grant of immunity, putting the box in a dumpster.  But she said she doesn’t recall which one, which prosecutors contend is a lie.

Doing what defense lawyers do, Jenkins’ lawyer has defended her client.

“Their relationship in many ways had elements of what I would call ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” lawyer Janice Bassil regarding the relationship between Jenkins and Hernandez.

Bassil also claimed that Jenkins was questioned in an “extremely aggressive” fashion before the grand jury.

Jenkins remains free without bail.  No trial date has been set.

It’s difficult to prove perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, because the jury has to essentially get inside the defendant’s mind.  It’s easy to charge someone with perjury and hope the extra pressure will make her tell the whole truth to authorities.

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