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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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Hernandez gets 30 days in isolation

Hernandez AP

On Tuesday, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was involved in an altercation with another inmate in the Bristol County Jail.  On Wednesday, Hernandez landed in isolation for 30 days as a result of the incident.

According to NECN.com, Hernandez will spend 23 hours per day in a cell located in a more restricted area of the facility.  When he leaves the cell, he’ll be required to wear handcuffs and leg shackles.

The problem occurred Tuesday when Hernandez exited his cell without handcuffs and encountered the other inmate, who was wearing handcuffs.

“We’re investigating it now to find out why two inmates would have been out at the same time in that unit,” Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told NECN.com.  “I’m not happy that there may have been a breakdown in our system and our protocols.”

Hernandez, who has been jailed without bail pending trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, and the other inmate had been taunting each other in the days leading up to the altercation.

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Sherriff confirms altercation between inmate and Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez AP

Bristol County Sherriff Thomas Hodgson confirmed to NBC 10 News in Cranston, R.I. that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was involved in a prison altercation on Tuesday.

TMZ first reported Tuesday afternoon that Hernandez “beat up the guy pretty good” after the inmate allegedly involved in jawing with Hernandez throughout the day.

Hodgson didn’t elaborate on the nature of the altercation.

Hernandez remains segregated from the remainder of the prison population but still was brought into close enough proximity with the inmate to get into a fight.

He said the two are being investigated by the Bristol County House of Corrections.

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Report: Aaron Hernandez attacks another inmate in jail

Hernandez AP

The fairly significant legal portfolio of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could be growing by a case.  Or two.

According to TMZ, Hernandez attacked another inmate in the Bristol County Jail on Tuesday.  Per the report, Hernandez “beat the guy up pretty good.”  (Rocky Balboa apparently was reporting from the scene.)

Hernandez normally remains apart from other inmates, ostensibly for his own protection.  It was the other inmate who needed the protection.

TMZ explains that the other inmate had been jawing all day with Hernandez.  And then, coincidentally, the same inmate who was jawing with Hernandez was in a hallway where Hernandez happened to be walking.

It’s funny how thing like that sometimes work out.

Jail officials have not yet confirmed the reported attack by Hernandez, who is imprisoned without bail in connection with the alleged murder of Odin Lloyd.

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Judge imposes gag order in Hernandez case

Judge Garsh issues her ruling denying a prosecutor's motion to recuse herself as judge in the murder trial of former New England Patriots NFL football player Hernandez in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River Reuters

Cases pending in a court of law routinely play out in the court of public opinion.  In criminal cases especially, facts supporting the prosecution’s case can be leaked under the broad cover of “law enforcement sources.”

In the murder case pending against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, the door has been slammed on any further leaks.

On Friday, Judge Susan Garsh issues a so-called “gag order,” which requires both sides to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent prejudicial disclosures.  The order also requires prosecutors to investigate any reported leaks.

Via the Boston Globe, the order provides in part that “[n]one of the lawyers appearing in this case or any person with supervisory authority over them shall release or authorize the release of information about this proceeding that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by any means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing potential trial jurors or witnesses or will have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

That’s a long, convoluted standard with plenty of nooks and crannies, for both sides.  The prohibition on the release of information “that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated” publicly if the lawyer “knows or reasonably should know” that the information will have a “substantial likelihood” of swaying jurors or increasing “condemnation” of Hernandez ultimately can be more of a sword for the defense than a shield for the prosecution, because terms like “reasonable person” and “reasonably should know” and “substantial likelihood” ultimately will be assessed by Judge Garsh.  Given that the prosecution at one point tried to have Judge Garsh removed from the Hernandez litigation due to alleged bias against prosecutors in a past case, the prosecution likely will try to avoid any situation in which she would have the ability to conclude that this complex standard was violated.

Which means that the prosecution should stay as far away from the line as possible, providing no information to the media. Moving forward, the media will get its information on the case from the court filings and the courtroom proceedings, like the media does in virtually every other criminal case.

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Hernandez’s barber could be a key witness in Lloyd murder case

Hernandez AP

With prosecutors concluding that Carlos Ortiz won’t be a credible source of evidence and few if any in former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s inner circle cooperating, it could be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd last June.

As explained by FOX 25 in Boston, that could make Hernandez’s barber a central figure in the eventual trial.

Robby Olivares has testified before the grand jury that indicted Hernandez, identifying the apartment Hernandez maintained in addition to his large home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Per FOX 25, Olivares may have information regarding the events of June 14 at the Rumor nightclub in Boston, where something said or done by Lloyd allegedly prompted Hernandez to conclude Lloyd needed to be silenced.

Olivares visited Hernandez’s home and cut his hair two days before Hernandez was arrested for murdering Lloyd.  While details remain scant, Olivares could emerge as someone who knows things about the murder — and who may be willing to share that information in court.

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Mike Williams charged with minor damage to woman’s door

Mike Williams AP

There are a few more details regarding the misdemeanor charges against Buccaneers Mike Williams, but nothing particularly salacious.

According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, Williams’ upcoming court date stems from a Dec. 13 incident in which he damaged a woman’s door.

Court documents filed with Hillsborough County said Williams “without being authorized, licensed or invited, willfully enter[ed] or remain[ed] in the property of Gabrielle Edwards.”

The report also said Williams “did willfully or maliciously injure or damage real or personal property belonging to Edwards, resulting in damage of $200 or less.”

Williams faces misdemeanor trespass and criminal mischief charges. It’s not exactly Aaron Hernandez (or even Kellen Winslow in the Target parking lot), but it’s also not the kind of first impression Williams wanted to make on a new coach and a new General Manager.

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Kraft believes Patriots would provide “most supportive system” for Michael Sam

Kraft Getty Images

Last May, after NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he’d welcome gay players to the Patriots.

Now that an incoming rookie has come out as gay, Kraft has reiterated — and elaborated on — his position.

We’re about winning,” Kraft said, via the Boston Herald.  “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference.  If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.”

Kraft, who said he previously has talked to coach Bill Belichick about adding an openly gay player, also thinks that being with the Patriots would help Sam.

“If a player were gay and came into this locker room, it would be the most supportive system,” Kraft said.  “He’d gain strength by being in here.  And it wouldn’t be divisive and he’d make friends for life and they could help him win. . . .

“I really believe that.  And it was interesting to me that this young man announced to his teammates that he was gay before the season started.  And they had a 12-2 record, they were in the SEC championship game, like us being in the AFC championship game, and they lost to Auburn and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

“And he was co-defensive player of the year in the SEC.  And that was after full disclosure.  And that makes me happy. . . .  I think it’s good for America.”

NFL teams ultimately are looking for what’s good for them.  The Patriots want to win, and they know how to absorb potential distractions without distractions occurring.  From drafting Ryan Mallett (a much-scrutinized rookie three years ago) to adding Tim Tebow (whose presence wasn’t a major issue last offseason) to dealing with the aftermath of the Aaron Hernandez arrest, the Patriots know how to navigate waters that would capsize other NFL organizations.

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Patriots face a big decision with Talib

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Getty Images

Last year, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib hit the open market.  And he ultimately returned to New England on a one-year, $5 million deal.

Next month, that contract expires.  And Talib once again will become a free agent.

Per a league source, early indications are that the market will be more robust for Talib in 2014 than it was a year ago.  Which will require the Patriots to step up, if they want to keep him.

It’s unclear whether that will happen.  Owner Robert Kraft recently addressed the situation on 98.5 The Sports Hub from Radio Row in New York.

“Well, we want to retain all the good players we can retain,” Kraft said, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.  “It’s not like we have unlimited funding so . . . He wasn’t on the field a lot of the time since he’s been with us. It’s a balance of us balancing all that out and what is he worth.  I think he’s happy here and would like to be here and we’re happy with him and we’d like to have him here and now it’s just about doing business.”

Last year, Talib appeared in 13 regular-season games.  And after he exited the AFC title game following a hit from Broncos receiver Wes Welker that prompted an uncharacteristic outburst from coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ defense simply couldn’t keep up with the Denver offense.

Talib’s situation presents a separate concern.  Although he has been well behaved since being traded to New England in 2012, Talib has a history of off-field incidents that could make the team less inclined to make a long-term investment, given the Aaron Hernandez fiasco.  If they do — and if Talib reverts to his past behavior — the Patriots will look even more foolish for trusting a guy with a bad track record.

Other teams may be willing to take that risk, especially since other teams didn’t pay Aaron Hernandez big money less than a year before he allegedly committed murder.

The Pats have an exclusive opportunity through March 8 to negotiate with Talib.  As of March 11, he hits the market.

The reality is that, by if not before the Scouting Combine, Talib will have an idea as to what will be behind Door No. 2 as of March 11, if he chooses not to accept whatever the Pats put behind Door No. 1.

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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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Jimmy Graham isn’t “keen” on the franchise tag

Graham AP

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has spent the last couple of years not complaining at all about the team’s failure to reward his stellar play with a long-term extension.  Even as players like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, drafted the same year as Graham, received their rewards after only two seasons, Graham didn’t say a word.

With his rookie contract completed and the franchise tag looming, Graham has broken his silence.

I’m not keen on the franchise tag,” Graham recently told NFL Network, via ESPN.com.  “That would be really unfortunate, but that is really all I have to say about that one.”

Graham shouldn’t be surprised.  Two years ago, the Saints used the franchise tag on franchise quarterback Drew Brees, declining to sign him to a long-term deal until only days before the July deadline for working out a multi-year contract.

Graham has played it out this far, and barring the outcome of the Pro Bowl he has managed to make it to free agency at full health.  He simply needs to let his agent navigate the process, fighting the tight end version of the tag if need be, and remain patient.

Unless Graham wants to leave — and some think there’s a chance another team may be willing to give up a pair of first-round picks to sign him away from the Saints — there’s no reason to get antsy now, not after playing two full seasons since the moment the 2010 rookie became eligible for a new contract he’s yet to get.

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Tom Brady: We had plenty there yesterday

9ec93cb3c513d001432c13cb0cc49f0d AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick had plenty to say about the early collision between former Patriots receiver Wes Welker and current Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib in the first quarter of Sunday’s 26-16 Broncos win.

Belichick castigated Welker for laying out Talib, but quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t willing to vilify his former teammate on Monday. Brady said he “didn’t really see the play” and hasn’t watched any replays since the contest, but Brady did have a bit more to say when asked if he might like to have a big-play receiver on the outside of the offense.

Brady certainly sounds open to the idea, but was careful not to say anything negative about Julian Edelman, Austin Collie or Danny Amendola while pointing out that the Patriots missed chances to do more on offense.

“Yeah, I had Randy Moss and he was pretty good at that,” Brady said on WEEI, via the Boston Herald. “Those are really unique players and we have a very good skill set of receivers in Julian, Austin played yesterday, Danny played his heart out. We had plenty there yesterday, we just couldn’t do enough early in the game to put pressure on the team to play from behind. And we got behind and it was just too much to dig ourselves out of a hole. I’m proud of the way we fought. Our guys played with a lot of toughness and a lot of resiliency. All the way up to the end we fought. That’s really the mark of coach Belichick and what he talks about.”

Two of the biggest misses came when Brady couldn’t find the range on deep throws to Edelman and Collie, with the Edelman miss possibly costing the Patriots six points in the first half because the receiver was behind the Denver defense.

The Patriots offense certainly missed the dimension that Moss brought to the team years ago, to say nothing of what Rob Gronkowski did when healthy and what Aaron Hernandez did before he was a guest of the state. As much as players like that would help, failure to execute across the offense was a bigger issue in Sunday’s loss because, as Brady said, there were opportunities for the Patriots to change the way things played out on the field.

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Broncos need to load up against the run

Manning Getty Images

As Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio attempts to reverse an 0-7 lifetime drought against the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, Del Rio’s best chance to win may be to force Brady to beat him again.

Ludicrous as it sounds, the Broncos’ defense must pick a poison in Sunday’s AFC title game.  It can be slow death at the hands of a power running game, or a quicker demise by loading up against the run and giving the Pats no option but to throw.

Bill Belichick has employed for years a brilliantly simple defensive philosophy:  Take away what the other team does best.  Right now, the best thing that Patriots are doing is running the ball.  Against a team like the Broncos, who have a high-powered offense that can at any given moment put the pedal to the metal and points on the scoreboard, running the ball well means longer drives and fewer opportunities for Denver possessions.

So Del Rio and company will need to force the issue, drawing extra men into the box, hoping that the players will be able to execute well enough to get to the ball carriers quickly and make tackles for short gains or none at all, and daring Brady to throw to a collection of weapons that doesn’t include Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, or Wes Welker.

With Peyton Manning running the offense, the Broncos would be able to respond to the scoring drives that may result from making Brady pass.  But the drives will be shorter and the Denver defense won’t be slowly and methodically demoralized by LeGarrette Blount, who has more than 350 rushing yards in his last two games and eight rushing touchdowns in his last three.

If that’s what the Broncos do, the stage will be set for a back-and-forth, up-and-down shootout that will hinge on which defense can make the most stops and/or who makes the mistake at the worst possible time.

Still, that may be the best way for the Broncos to win.  Otherwise, the man who served as the winning defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXV will do what the Giants did to the Bills nearly 23 years ago — pound the rock, control the clock, and make Peyton Manning hold his, um, horses.

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