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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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Eyewitness emerges in Hernandez double murder investigation

Hernandez AP

The case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd may be getting a little wobbly, but the potential case against him for the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu may be getting stronger.

An alleged eyewitness to the double murder recently told FOX 25 in Boston that the witness, whose identity has not been disclosed, was in the car with Furtado and Abreu at the time of the shooting.

They just came up and started firing for no reason at all,” the witness, who was shot in the arm, told FOX 25.  “We never had any trouble.  We were not those kind of people.  We were just having fun.”

The witness said he recognized Hernandez after he was arrested for the murder of Lloyd.

“When I see his face, I just recognize his face,” the witness explained.  “Compare his face that night to his face now.  It’s that face that I remember. . . .  I just want to know, what’s the reason?  What’s the point?  Why us?”

A grand jury has been investigating the murders, with Hernandez reportedly the target of the probe.

“We’ve got the best homicide team in the city working on that,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis recently told FOX 25.  “They are putting pieces of information together and presenting it to the grand jury, working very closely with the District Attorney’s Office on that case.  I’m satisfied with the direction it’s going in, and I think that we’ll come to the right conclusions on that.”

The right conclusions for the authorities could be the wrong conclusions for Hernandez, ultimately requiring him to face a jury not once but twice with a life sentence hanging in the balance.

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Prosecutors in Hernandez case ask judge to step aside

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

On the surface, it appears that the prosecution has a strong case against Aaron Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  If it were that strong, however, the prosecution perhaps wouldn’t be trying to get the judge assigned to the case to step aside.

At Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, the prosecution acknowledged that a formal request will be made to Judge Susan Garsh that she recuse herself from the case.

The specific reasons for the request aren’t yet known, but this item from the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News points to a rocky history between Judge Garsh and the prosecutors handling the case.

In 2010, lead Hernandez prosecutor Bill McCauley “accused Garsh of being antagonistic toward prosecutors” during a different murder trial.

Per multiple Twitter reports, Judge Garsh didn’t seem to be thrilled by the prosecution’s intended course of action, which will be addressed at a future hearing.  And it likely won’t be easy to persuade her to step aside, or to force a higher court to force her out.

Even so, if the prosecutors have concerns about Judge Garsh, calling her out could force her to be careful not to do anything that could be viewed as showing antagonism to the prosecution’s case.

The fact that the prosecution even has to make the request shows that the case as currently postured is far from perfect.  With a very high standard of proof required for a conviction, it won’t take much to allow Hernandez’s lawyers to deliver an acquittal.

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Hernandez’s fiancee claims prosecutorial abuse

Jenkins Reuters

Last week, a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd indicted Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancee of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, for perjury.

This week, her lawyer claimed that prosecutors are being unfairly abusive in their pursuit of Jenkins.

“The government actions in this case are abusive and overreaching,” attorney Janice Bassil said, via the Boston Globe.  “I don’t believe they have sufficient evidence.”
Bassil believes prosecutors are simply squeezing Jenkins in order to squeeze Hernandez.

“I believe they are just simply trying to add pressure,” Bassil said. “They are trying to pressure her, but perhaps they are also trying to pressure [Hernandez] through her.”

The perjury charge strongly suggested that Jenkins had testified before the grand jury, which typically operates in secrecy.  Bassil confirmed that Jenkins testified before the grand jury for two days.

“There is a famous saying, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,” Bassil said. “I look forward to challenging this in court. I really do.  If a grand jury is supposed to protect citizens from overreaching prosecutors, then there is a lot of work to be done here.”

Bassil may indeed be right.  With Carlos Ortiz changing his story about whether only Hernandez or both Hernandez and Ernest Wallace exited the car just before Lloyd was shot, the prosecution may fear a jury will conclude that reasonable doubt exists.  Putting pressure on Jenkins, and in turn on Hernandez, becomes an obvious strategy for shoring up a murder case that ultimately could be hard to prove, if Ortiz will be the star witness.

Besides, perjury cases are tough to prove.  At trial, the prosecution will have to show — beyond a reasonable doubt — that Jenkins knowingly made a false statement to the grand jury.

And so the question becomes whether Jenkins and Hernandez will be unmoved by these developments, or whether the pressure applied to Jenkins will prompt her, or Hernandez, to crack.

If Hernandez did indeed kill Lloyd, some would say he should admit it, if that will get the charges dropped against the mother of his young child.  Then again, folks who have killed people don’t necessarily approach such dilemmas with logic, reason, and/or a concern for anyone other than themselves.

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Grand jury indicts Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee

Jenkins AP

Prosecutors have believed that Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancee of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, engaged in “overt attempts to hide evidence . . . and to hinder and mislead” their investigation into the murder of Odin Lloyd.

A grand jury now agrees.  Via the Boston Globe, Jenkins has been indicted for perjury.

The grand jury also indicted Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, on charges of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact.  She had been jailed on contempt of court charges after refusing to testify before the grand jury.

Carlos Ortiz, who previously faced weapons charges, has been indicted as an accessory after the fact.  The weapons charges have been dropped.

The charge against Jenkins means that she lied under oath.  Which likely means that prosecutors believe she lied when testifying before the grand jury.

The news charges will serve to put increased pressure on persons who have collateral roles in the case, with the hope that someone will provide clear and persuasive testimony or evidence that can be used to convict Hernandez for murder.

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Carlos Ortiz changes story regarding Odin Lloyd shooting

Ernest Wallace AP

If the prosecutors’ plan for convicting Aaron Hernandez of murder is to rely on Carlos Ortiz, they may need a better plan.

Via the Boston Herald, prosecutors disclosed during the bail hearing for Ernest Wallace (pictured) that Ortiz now claims that only Hernandez exited the car before Odin Lloyd was shot and killed in an industrial park near Hernandez’s Massachusetts home.

Previously, Ortiz supposedly said that both Hernandez and Wallace got out of the car, and that Wallace later told Ortiz that Hernandez had admitted to shooting Lloyd.  (That’s an odd admission for Hernandez to make to Wallace, since Wallace presumably was aware of the shooting.)

The summary of evidence presented without testimony from Ortiz successfully kept Wallace behind bars subject to $500,000 bail.  But the contradiction in Ortiz’s testimony could help give Hernandez’s lawyers enough ammunition to create reasonable doubt, via the Chewbacca defense or otherwise.

It’s a low bar, and it Ortiz can’t get his story straight as to the most critical moment for the case, why should a jury believe anything he says?

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More evidence could be coming today in Odin Lloyd murder case

Wallace AP

With no trial date in sight for Aaron Hernandez and the NFL season firmly up and running, it’s easy to forget about the Odin Lloyd murder investigation.

On Thursday, we’ll be reminded of it, because more evidence could be released regarding the prosecution’s theory of the events surrounding Lloyd’s death.

It’ll happen at a bail hearing for Ernest Wallace.  Charged with being an accessory after the fact, Wallace remains jailed on $500,000 bail.  Prosecutor Sam Sutter says, via the Associated Press, that more evidence aimed at justifying the high bail amount will be released when the hearing convenes.

“I think it is a very safe ­assumption that during the bail hearing you will learn about matters that you’re not aware of right now,” Sutter said. “This is a very serious ­offense. Accessory after the fact of murder [carries] a seven-year state prison sentence. We allege that he assisted, in a material way, Aaron Hernandez after the fact of the murder of Odin Lloyd.”

This strongly implies that the prosecutors believe Hernandez pulled the trigger. Proof and accusations stronger than implications apparently will be coming, as prosecutors have a legitimate vehicle for circumventing the gag order preventing the leakage of information about Hernandez’s role in the case.

On Thursday, it’s unavoidable that more proof linking Hernandez to the crime will emerge, since Hernandez’s commission of the crime is the thing to which Wallace allegedly was serving as an accessory.

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Other Hernandez grand jury continues to investigate double murder

Aaron Hernandez, former player for the NFL's New England Patriots football team, stands during his arraignment in the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River Reuters

It’s never a good thing to be the subject of a grand jury investigation.  It’s much worse to be the subject of two of them.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who already has been indicted by a Bristol County grand jury for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, continues to be the focal point of a Suffolk County grand jury investigating the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.

Via the Associated Press, a pair of men connected to Hernandez have been ordered to testify before the grand jury.

Alexander Bradley, who has sued Hernandez in Florida for a February 2013 shooting, has failed to appear at a hearing regarding the question of whether he should testify, prompting a judge to issue an arrest warrant.  Bradley testified earlier this year before the grand jury that was investigating Lloyd’s death.

The judge also ordered John Alcorn to appear Thursday before the grand jury.  Per the AP, Alcorn is related to Thaddeus Singleton III, the late husband of Hernadez’s cousin, Tanya.  Thaddeus died in a car accident in June, and Tanya continues to be held without bail after refusing to testify in the grand jury that was investigating Lloyd’s death.

Published reports have indicated that the Suffolk County grand jury is exploring whether Hernandez killed Furtado and Abreu.  The judge’s orders regarding Bradley and Alcorn make the connection as clear as it could be.

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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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