Aaron Hernandez denied bail

  • ESPN.com news services | June 28, 2013

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- A judge denied Aaron Hernandez's request for bail Thursday, one day after the former New England Patriots tight end was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a friend.

Hernandez's lawyer James Sultan argued that his client is not a risk to flee and that the case against him is circumstantial.

But Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley said the evidence is "overwhelming." A search of a condo leased by Hernandez turned up an ammunition clip matching the caliber of casings found at the scene of the killing of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, McCauley said.

Judge Renee Dupuis called the prosecution's case "circumstantial but very, very strong."

"The facts, as I understand it, suggest that basically a cold-blooded person killed another person because that person disrespected him," Dupuis said.

Outside the Fall River Courthouse, a crowd chanting "innocent!" gathered around defense attorney Michael Fee as he spoke to reporters.

Hernandez's fiancée and the mother of his 8-month-old baby, Shayanna Jenkins, exited the courthouse shortly after and was swarmed by reporters.

"We believe Aaron should be admitted to bail," Fee said. "We are going to review the judge's ruling and consider other alternatives. It's a shame that [Hernandez] is not available to assist in his defense.

"Beyond that, we do not comment on the case. We feel very bad for Aaron's fiancée, who is deprived of her husband and the father of her baby. We're going to continue to fight for him, and we look forward to the day that he is exonerated."

Hernandez's mother told the Bristol (Conn.) Press on Thursday, "All I can say is that he will be cleared of all these charges in the end. Just let it play out until the end."

Police were seeking another man late Thursday night, issuing a wanted poster for Ernest Wallace, who's considered armed and dangerous. Wallace is wanted in connection with the investigation.

Hernandez was cut by the Patriots less than two hours after he was arrested Wednesday and led from his North Attleborough home in handcuffs nine days after Lloyd's body was discovered. The team said in a statement that releasing Hernandez was "simply the right thing to do."

Hernandez officially cleared waivers Thursday, making him an unrestricted free agent, and also was dropped by another corporate sponsor, Puma, which ended its endorsement after signing him to a two-year deal this past April.

The NFL also issued a statement Thursday, asserting that commissioner Roger Goodell will consider suspending Hernandez if another team decides to sign him.

"NFL clubs were advised today that if Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing," the statement said. "The purpose of the hearing would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved."

Lloyd's body was discovered by a jogger in a remote area of an industrial park not far from Hernandez's home 10 days ago. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors called Lloyd's killing an execution-style shooting orchestrated by Hernandez because Lloyd talked to the wrong people at a nightclub. According to McCauley, Lloyd was shot three times at the industrial park as he twisted away in a futile attempt to avoid the gunshots, and then was shot two more times on each side of his chest.

Hernandez could face life in prison without parole, if convicted. A 2011 Pro Bowl selection, he had signed a five-year contract last summer with the Patriots worth $40 million.

Another man, Carlos Ortiz, 27, was arrested Wednesday in Hernandez's hometown of Bristol, Conn., as part of the murder investigation, New Britain State's Attorney Brian Preleski said Thursday. Ortiz was charged as a fugitive from justice and waived extradition to Massachusetts. Prison records show he is being held on $1.5 million bail at a Hartford jail.

Ortiz's public defender, Alfonzo Sirica, declined to comment about the case.

In the meantime, police have been searching a third-floor unit in a condo complex in Franklin, Mass., that Hernandez had visited in recent weeks, according to the unit's next-door neighbor.

Condo resident Carol Bailey said that, starting Wednesday and continuing Thursday, police removed items from the modest, two-bedroom rental unit and asked her questions about its occupants. She said a new tenant told her in May that he was moving in with his cousin, and she realized later that the second man he had referred to was Hernandez.

"I thought, 'This is Aaron Hernandez. He's renting a place here so he can have some peace and quiet,'" the retiree said Thursday.

The Ledgewood Condominiums resident said she didn't see the two men often, but Hernandez always had a hoodie pulled up when she saw him.

"I think all of us who recognized who it was didn't want to invade his privacy," she said of her neighbors.

Law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News that Hernandez also is being investigated for his possible involvement in an unsolved triple shooting in Boston that left two men dead last year. On July 16, a car was ambushed in Boston's South End, and two gunshot wound victims were pronounced dead at the scene, sources confirmed to ABC News.

Hernandez was seen in a nightclub altercation earlier that night, according to sources. Fox 25 in Boston earlier reported that Hernandez is being investigated in connection with the shootings.

Lloyd, a semipro football player with the Boston Bandits, had known Hernandez for about a year and was dating Jenkins' sister, McCauley said.

Police also conducted a search Wednesday night of a Bristol home linked to Hernandez, WFSB-TV in Hartford reported.

Hernandez jail cell
Bristol County Sheriff's OfficeIf Aaron Hernandez remains in jail and joins the general population, he would stay in a two-bed cell such as this.

According to WFSB-TV, police from Massachusetts and Connecticut went through the house, owned by Hernandez's uncle, and its garage. Police were seen taking photos of a black folder that was removed from the house, according to the TV station.

The Patriots drafted Hernandez out of the University of Florida as a fourth-round pick in 2010. With the fan base, Hernandez had been a popular Patriot. His No. 81 jersey was fourth in sales last year among New England players after Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker.

But since the investigation surrounding Hernandez's involvement in Lloyd's death began last week, multiple media outlets have reported accounts of the star tight end's off-field issues.

The Boston Globe reported that Hernandez lost his temper and threatened Welker during an argument in the team's weight room shortly after he was drafted.

Former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light told the Dayton Daily News that he "never believed in" Hernandez.

"I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced -- never believed in -- anything Aaron Hernandez stood for," Light told the newspaper.

Light, who helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls during his 11-year career, was a teammate of Hernandez's for two seasons.

Despite his successful collegiate career, Hernandez slipped to the fourth round in the 2010 draft as a result of widely reported character issues.

During the draft, one team said it wouldn't take Hernandez under any circumstances. Afterward, Hernandez said he had failed a drug test in college -- reportedly for marijuana -- and was up front with teams about it.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN's Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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