A few hours before tight end Aaron Hernandez, right, was arrested and arraigned on charges of murder, he was released by the New England Patriots, who chose not to wait for Hernandez’s day and court and instead quickly cut the rising NFL star free.
ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — Pro football player Aaron Hernandez faces first-degree murder and five other charges in connection with the shooting death of 27-year-old acquaintance Odin Lloyd, whose body was found more than a week ago about a half mile from the North Attleborough, Mass., home of Hernandez.
“Based on the nature of the crime, the nature of the case, and the likelihood and the means” Hernandez has to flee, Bristol County, Mass., Assistant District Attorney William McCauley asked that Hernandez be held without bail, and the court agreed.
The judge also placed a gag order on the case. District Attorney Samuel Sutter met with the media after the court proceedings and said he will comply with the judge’s orders. However, Sutter did make a plea for information from anybody listening or watching who may have such information.
Shortly after he was arrested, and before charges were leveled in court, Hernandez was cut by the New England Patriots team he has played for since being drafted out of the University of Florida in 2010. Last year, Hernandez received a five-year, $39.8 million extension.
Soon after the arrest, the Patriots and the NFL — who conducted their own investigations of the situation — issued statements that distanced them from Hernandez.
The football player pleaded not guilty to all charges. In addition to murder, he was charged with carrying a firearm without a license; two counts of possession of a large capacity firearm; and two counts of possession of a firearm without a valid ID card.
Police claim to possess footage of Hernandez stating “you can’t trust anyone anymore,” while holding a firearm before picking up Lloyd after 2:30 a.m. with the two other men, according to the assistant district attorney. The case outlined against him points to an exchange between Hernandez and Lloyd at a club two nights earlier.
Hernandez is alleged to have arranged to pick up Lloyd in a rented vehicle along with two other men, whose names or status in this case have not been revealed. Both were questioned by authorities as they were leaving Hernandez’s home last week. However, the assistant district attorney referred to the men as “confederates.”
Lloyd allegedly texted a family member asking “did you see who I was with?” According to the assistant district attorney, Lloyd followed with a text that said “NFL.”
The prosecution claims that shots were heard near the Hernandez home between 3:23 and 3:27 a.m. the morning that Lloyd’s body was found.
Curiously, McCauley referred to Hernandez as “orchestrating” the shooting, but it is never stated who is believed to have done the shooting.
During the arraignment, it was also detailed that Hernandez was captured by surveillance video in the area claiming a rented Nissan Altima at the scene of the crime near his home and returning the car to the rental agency, where a shell casing and the same type of bubblegum Hernandez purchased at a gas station was found. That stop was also caught on camera.
Defense attorney Michael Fee called the case “weak” and evidence against his client circumstantial in asking for bail, which was denied. Fee also requested a gag order be issued.
Based largely on surveillance videos and cell phone texts, McCauley recited a lengthy and detailed account of actions and interactions involving Hernandez, Lloyd and the two other men during the days leading up to June 17 when Lloyd’s body was found.
McCauley, the assistant district attorney who made the full presentation in court, connected a black semi-automatic weapon and shell casings from that weapon found near the body to Hernandez based on fingerprints and other evidence.
The assistant district attorney also detailed the crime scene and autopsy, which revealed entry wounds in each nipple. Lloyd was first shot in the back but was still alive and bracing for impact by raising his arms when he was shot again, according to the DA. Two bullets that penetrated his chest passed through Lloyd’s body completely.
Hernandez is represented by well-known criminal attorney Jamie Sultan of Rankin and Sultan, as well as Boston law firm Ropes and Gray for whom Fee has been the most obvious spokesman. Despite Sultan’s expertise in criminal matters such as this, Fee is the attorney who answered the charges Wednesday.
The 23-year-old Hernandez was taken into custody by multiple officers Wednesday. Ninety minutes later, the Patriots announced he was released in a statement.
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss,” the statement read. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
Shortly after, the NFL issued its statement:
“The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling. The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends.”
As a three-year veteran, Hernandez is subject to NFL waivers and could be claimed by another team before today’s 4 p.m. deadline. He signed a five-year contract that included a $12 million signing bonus last year and partnered with All-Pro Rob Gronkowski to form the NFL’s top tight end tandem.