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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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Arizona judge denies bail for Darren Sharper

Sharper AP

Former NFL player Darren Sharper currently has so many legal problems that even former NFL player Aaron Hernandez would say, “That guy’s got a lot of legal problems.”

Sharper’s problems became more complicated on Thursday.

Via Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, a judge in Arizona determined on Thursday that Sharper should not be released on bail for the rape charges he’s facing in that state.  Sharper also has been accused of rape in California and Louisiana, with potential charges also in Nevada and Florida.

In Arizona, Sharper’s conduct resulted in three alleged victims, labeled as A, B, and C.

“The court finds proof evident and the presumption great that Victim B was the victim of a sexual assault committed by Mr. Sharper,” Granville said. “The court will therefore affirm the no-bond finding with respect to [sexual assault].”

The evidence consists of DNA material matching Sharper.

He currently remains in jail in California while the wheels of justice churn in three different jurisdictions.  He is expected to be tried initially in California.

Sharper played for the Packers, Vikings, and Saints.  He was a key member of the 2009 New Orleans team that won Super Bowl XLIV.  Most recently, Sharper worked as an analyst for NFL Media.  Initially suspended after the California case came to light, the league fired Sharper after an arrest warrant was issued in Louisiana.

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Aaron Hernandez investigation leads to an arrest in Florida

Aaron Hernandez AP

Two of Aaron Hernandez’s alleged accomplices have been indicted in connection to Odin Lloyd’s murder in Massachusetts last year and now an arrest connected to the case has been made in Florida as well.

Oscar Hernandez Jr., who is not related to Aaron Hernandez, has been arrested on federal charges of lying to a grand jury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston released a statement saying that the arrest was related to gun trafficking between Florida and Massachusetts and that the case is “related” to a June 17, 2013 murder in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. 

The Boston Globe reports that a source briefed on the investigation confirms that Lloyd was the victim of that murder and that the case against Hernandez Jr. is part of the ongoing effort to find the murder weapon. Hernandez Jr. is accused of lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice when he said he didn’t have anything to do with purchasing and shipping a Toyota Camry to Hernandez’s North Attleboro home. A gun was found inside the Camry, which was parked in Hernandez’s garage, when police searched the former Patriots tight end’s home.

Hernandez Jr. is also accused of trying to influence the testimony of the person he allegedly bought the Camry from in Florida and will be brought to Massachusetts to face the charges at a later date.

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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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Aaron Hernandez associates indicted in murder of Odin Lloyd

Hernandez AP

Two associates of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez have now joined him in being indicted in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd.

The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office announced today that a grand jury indicted both Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace on murder charges. Hernandez was already charged with murder in Lloyd’s death, and Ortiz and Wallace had been charged with being accessories after the fact.

According to reporter Wesley Lowery, who has covered the Hernandez story, under Massachusetts law prosecutors will not have to prove which of Hernandez, Ortiz and Wallace actually shot Lloyd in order to secure murder convictions against all three. Lowery describes the indictments as “Not good for Aaron Hernandez.”

Hernandez was arrested in June and remains in jail, where he has been for 10 months.

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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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Talib: Pats offer had language that was a “little shaky” compared to Denver’s

aqib-talib Getty Images

When assessing the recent assault by Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib on his former team’s injury-reporting habits, it’s important to account for the possibility that he’s a little disgruntled.

And here’s why he could be a little disgruntled.  Talib recently told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that the offer made by the Patriots to keep him in New England “had language in there that definitely was a little shaky” in comparison to the offer made by the Broncos.

Talib, who has a history of off-field issues, undoubtedly is referring to devices aimed at protecting the Patriots against another Aaron Hernandez-style situation, with per-game roster bonuses or voided guarantees or any of the other permissible things a team can do to avoid the embarrassment of giving a guy millions and then having him land in, you know, jail.

The Pats simply couldn’t afford another situation to Hernandez.  The Broncos, who are going all in with the goal of winning a Super Bowl or two before Peyton Manning retires, have no such concerns.  Taking a chance on Talib and having it blow up in their faces would be as bad as not taking a chance and now winning a Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Talib’s position that he was listed as having a hip injury when he actually had a quad injury conflicts with the reports, originating from sources close to Talib, that he suffered a strained hip flexor.  Besides, and as Tom Curran of CSN New England pointed out during Thursday’s PFT Live, the quad and the hip are basically in the same area.

It unclear how disgruntled Talib really is.  He definitely seems to be happy about the season-plus with the Pats.

“I loved my time there,” Talib told King.  “I loved playing for Bill.  He’s a great leader. I’ll be able to tell my kids I played for Bill Belichick someday and I was Tom Brady’s teammate.  Really, it’s just a dream I’m experiencing, when two great organizations want you like this.”

If Talib is willing to take shots publicly at the team’s injury reporting habits when he’s happy to have been there, we’d hate to see what he’d say if he really was upset.

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Talib, Revis wins game of cornerback musical chairs, DRC loses

DRC Getty Images

The free-agency frenzy can be dizzying for the media and fans.  Agents and teams have to keep their wits about them while in the blender, playing a game that is part checkers, part chess, part chicken.

For the players, there’s also a strong element of musical chairs.  In this year’s cornerback class, Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis won.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lost.

As of Tuesday afternoon, it appears that Talib would be the odd man out, relegated to doing a so-so multi-year deal with a new team or another one-year contract in New England.  As a league source explains it to PFT, when the Broncos were getting nowhere with DRC, Talib’s camp reached out to inquire about doing a deal.

Within two hours, a deal was done.

For Talib, he crafted the ultimate sweet spot.  A day before, a deal that pays him $12 million this year was regarded as an impossibility.  A day later, the Patriots would have been able to at least squeeze Talib by threatening to sign Darrelle Revis.

Talib jumped at the right time, getting a contract that few believed he’d ever get.  The Patriots never could have done it, given his off-field history and their misadventures with the unfortunately incarcerated Aaron Hernandez.  Other teams weren’t inclined to do it, because Talib’s reputation preceded him into most NFL cities.

The Broncos had a compelling need.  And they weren’t able to get Rodgers-Cromartie signed for an amount they deemed acceptable.

The swift move for Talib forced the Patriots to perhaps pay Revis more than the Pats wanted to pay.  Either way, both Talib and Revis are getting $12 million in 2013 — twice the $6 million-per-year market that existed in 2013.

Meanwhile, DRC is SOL.  He’ll eventually get signed, but not for the money he could have gotten two days ago in Denver.

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Talib deal shows Broncos are going all in to catch Seattle

Talib Getty Images

On February 2, the Broncos learned the hard way the importance of having a top-flight secondary.  To repeat a Groundhog Day-style repeat of what happened on Groundhog Day, they spent the first day of free agency spending on help for the last line of defense.

Not long after the market opened, the Broncos added safety T.J. Ward.  Then came the stunner:  Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, knocked out of the AFC title game by a supposed cheap shot from Denver receiver Wes Welker, has joined the three-time defending AFC West champs.

The bogarting by the Broncos of Talib becomes one of the most fascinating developments of the day, for plenty of reasons beyond the fact that Talib, who tested positive for marijuana multiple times in college at Kansas, will now live in a state where the substance is legal for recreational use.

First, the money paid to Talib — reportedly $57 million over six years with $26 million guaranteed — takes the Broncos out of the running for Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, who’ll be cut Wednesday if not traded before then.

Second, the move puts even more pressure on the Patriots to make a play for Revis.

Third, perhaps the decision of New England coach Bill Belichick to publicly cry foul about Welker’s hit on Talib was aimed at souring Talib on the possibility of signing with the Broncos.

Fourth, the Patriots never could have given Talib the contract he has received in Denver, not in the wake of the decision to give millions to tight end Aaron Hernandez months before he landed in jail while awaiting murder charges.  While Talib has been a model citizen since being traded from Tampa to New England in 2012, concerns linger regarding his temper and demeanor in the locker room and on the practice field.  Then there’s the lingering concern that Talib doesn’t show up in big games.

For the Broncos, it doesn’t matter.  They needed to go all in if they want to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning still on the team, and the only real chance to begin closing that 35-point gap with the Seahawks comes via the available free agents.  While Ward and Talib may not be Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, Ward and Talib were the best that Denver could currently do.

And if they can land DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos will be closer to simulating the devastating Seattle front seven.

And if the Broncos sign Vince Young, he can call it a Dream Team.

Actually, this team is less about fulfilling a dream and more about avoiding another February nightmare.

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Teams intrigued by, concerned about Talib

Talib AP

Yes, Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is getting all the calls.  But Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib is generating the buzz.

Talib, who hit the open market in 2013 after being traded from Tampa to New England during the 2012 season, signed a one-year, $5 million contract to stay with the Patriots last year.  After a solid season and an extended stretch of staying out of trouble, Talib figures to cash in significantly.

And for good reason.  The cornerback market has recovered significantly, thanks in large part to the spike in the salary cap and the return of a defense-wins-championships mentality to the NFL.  With 30-something cornerback Brent Grimes getting $32 million over four years and Packers cornerback Sam Shields getting $39 million over four from the extremely-careful-with-money Ted Thompson, the top shelf could spring past $10 million per year, this year.

With Talib, the concern for some is whether a significant payday will provoke a return of the off-field concerns that helped run him out of Tampa.  Thanks to the Aaron Hernandez debacle, the Patriots can’t make a huge investment of guaranteed money in Talib without risking an I-told-you-so moment if/when Talib finds trouble away from the field, again.

Washington, by multiple accounts, has emerged as a potential player for Talib’s services, given the connect-the-dots presence of former Bucs coach Raheem Morris as the defensive backs coach there.  Morris, who once described Talib as a “wild child,” would have to believe Talib can be trusted to stay on the right path while millions are raining down.  More importantly, G.M. Bruce Allen would have to be willing to make the investment of cash and cap dollars necessary to lure Talib.

Some think Allen intends to wait and shop for bargains, and to resist signing anyone to a big-money contract right out of the gates.  If that’s the case, Talib becomes a player they won’t be pursuing — unless no one else signs him and he becomes a de facto bargain.

For now, it’s hard to know which teams are interested, because Talib’s camp isn’t leaking the phone logs to the media.  Even without that info, it’s safe to say that plenty of interest exists.  The question is whether a team will be willing to take the leap of faith that the Talib of recent months has trumped the “wild child” that wore out his welcome in Tampa.

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Why hasn’t Graham filed a grievance?

Divisional Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Last month, it was reported that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham would file an “immediate grievance” if tagged as a tight end and not a receiver.

It’s been four days since the NFL’s Management Council applied the tight end version of the tag to Graham.  And yet there has been no grievance, immediate or otherwise.

So what’s going on?  We’ve identified two possible explanations.

First, Graham and his agents may be waiting for a possible offer sheet.  If, as of 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, another team presents Graham with a multi-year deal that he accepts, it doesn’t matter whether he’s tagged as a tight end or a receiver.  The offer sheet trumps the designation, if/when Graham signs it.

Second, Graham and the Saints could be working toward a long-term deal.  By not pulling the pin on the grievance grenade, the process can proceed with Graham being valued as a hybrid tight end/receiver on a long-term deal that pays Graham with the stroke of a pen much more money than he has earned in his entire four-year NFL career.  And if the possibility of a grievance that Graham could win merely looming but not activated, it’s easier for both sides to proceed in an amicable way, without the Saints having to make arguments at arbitration that could get under Graham’s skin.

Graham doesn’t seem to be looking for a fight.  He has never complained about his situation, even after two tight ends drafted in his class (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) got long-term contract.  Graham didn’t point out that he hasn’t gotten paid when Gronkowski suddenly couldn’t stay on the field and when Hernandez couldn’t stay among the free.  Graham never complained about bearing the risk of injury for four full seasons of football.

The only thing Graham ever has said about his situation is that he’s not “keen” on the franchise tag.  That’s it.  He hasn’t said the Saints aren’t treating him fairly, and he hasn’t tried to ruffle feathers via media leaks.  He’s happy in New Orleans, he wants to stay, and he’s not inclined to push the situation to the limit.

So it’s possible that Graham himself has decided not to finalize the battle lines by filing the grievance, in the hopes that the Saints will make him a fair offer on a long-term deal.

The only problem with that possibility is that the Saints, like most teams, operate on deadlines.  The deadline, under the labor deal, arises in 50 days from the application of the tight end version of the franchise tag.  Graham may not want to wait 50 days for the deal to get done, especially once other players start signing big-money contracts starting Tuesday.

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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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Shockingly, Pats keep cards close to the vest on Talib

aqib-talib Getty Images

The clock is ticking on the annual application of the franchise tag.

Regarding the possibility of tagging Aqib Talib, the Pats are keeping their intentions tightly guarded.  As they usually do.

About pretty much everything.

Last year, Talib wasn’t tagged.  He hit the market, eventually rejoining the Patriots on a one-year, $5 million deal.

This time, a far more robust market is expected for Talib.  The problem for the Pats is that, thanks to Aaron Hernandez, it becomes very difficult to invest big money over the long haul in a guy with a history of off-field issues.

And that could be why some believe that Patriots are interested in shaking Darrelle Revis away from the Buccaneers.  With Revis costing $16 million and the tag for Talib costing $11.834 million, it could make more sense to pay the extra $4.166 million to Revis.

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Pats, Broncos could be trying to shake Revis free from Tampa

Revis Getty Images

Last year, as the Jets prepared to trade cornerback Darrelle Revis, the process originated from within the team.  Specifically, from the owner.

As Revis once again becomes the subject of trade talks, the process possibly is getting kick started from beyond Tampa.

New Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith remains resolute that Revis fits the defense Smith will be running, even though new G.M. Jason Licht has avoided the question of whether Revis could be traded, calling the player an “asset” to the football team.  For now, the Bucs seem to be inclined to keep Revis around.

There’s a theory in league circles that, this time around, other teams want Revis more than his current team wants to trade him.  While the $16 million cap figure remains a lot to allocate to a cornerback who prefers playing full-time man-to-man in a system that relies heavily on zone coverage, the sense is that the chatter is coming from teams that would pay the amount for a year or two as part of an all-in effort to win a Super Bowl.

The speculation has centered most prominently on the Patriots and Broncos.  Both teams have aging franchise quarterbacks who have managed to contend but not conquer in recent years.  Both teams are running out of chances to finish the job.

For New England, paying Revis a $1.5 million roster bonus, a $1.5 million workout bonus, and a $13 million base salary could be a much more desirable alternative than giving a big-money, multi-year deal to Aqib Talib.  Thanks to Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots would be taking a huge risk by making a big investment in another player with a history of off-field trouble.  With the market for Talib believed to be more robust this year than last, the Pats likely won’t be able to pull off another one-year, $5 million can-kicking contract.

Enter Revis.  With Tom Brady’s 2013 contract extension giving him $30 million up front but giving the team a more manageable cap profile, the Patriots could absorb the pay-as-you-go Revis contract, for 2014 and maybe 2015.  The boost to the defense would justify the addition, and the ability to stick it to the Jets would be icing on the cake.

Indeed, that’s one of the reasons why the Jets traded Revis a year ago.  If he’d completed his contract in 2013 and become a free agent, he could have made a beeline to Foxboro.  One year later, the same outcome could arise.

Then again, the Broncos could make a more attractive offer.  Dumping cornerback Champ Bailey and his $10 million cap number and swapping in Revis would result in a net cap increase of $6 million — but a dramatic increase in on-field ability.  While Revis may not give the Broncos enough to close the 35-point gap with the Seahawks, it’s not a bad start.

It needs to start soon, if it’s going to happen.  If the Buccaneers still have Revis on the roster as of March 13, they owe him $1.5 million — and thire fourth-round pick that currently belongs the Jets becomes a third-round pick.

For Tampa, the biggest question is whether it’s worth $16 million from a football standpoint to keep Revis.  From a business standpoint, the question is whether the Bucs have built up enough equity via the hiring of Lovie Smith to offset the criticism that would come from running off last year’s swing-for-the-fences acquisition.

Then again, having Revis on the team didn’t really help the Bucs knock the ball out of the park.  Or to help fill the place up.

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