NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder Wednesday afternoon in the death of an acquaintance, a semi-pro football player from Boston, the dramatic culmination of several days of what appeared to be patient evidence-gathering by investigators.
Mr. Hernandez was arrested at his home Wednesday morning following an investigation that began last week with the discovery of a body, later identified as a Odin Lloyd, in a North Attleborough, Mass., industrial park near Hernandez's home.
In a hearing Wednesday at a district court in Attleboro, Mass., prosecutors alleged that Hernandez had “orchestrated [Mr. Lloyd’s] execution” after a disagreement at a Boston nightclub June 17, citing evidence from surveillance videos taken the night of the murder, according to Boston.com.
Shortly after video of a handcuffed Hernandez being led out of his home was broadcast, the New England Patriots issued a statement saying he had been cut from the team.
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss,” the team wrote. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation…. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
As the investigation into the 23-year-old’s alleged involvement in Lloyd’s death progressed, police made repeated searches of the Hernandez home and surrounding areas, and a daunting list of potential links between Hernandez and the murder mounted.
The player had been with Lloyd on the night of his murder, and reportedly had his home professionally cleaned just hours after Lloyd was shot. Authorities also reported that Hernandez had intentionally smashed his cell phone and home security system following the death.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez from the University of Florida in 2010, and in 2012 he was awarded a five-year, $40 million contract from the team.
But his time as a college and professional football player had been marred by repeated allegations of violence and drug abuse.
Most recently, a Connecticut man filed suit this month alleging that Hernandez shot him outside a Florida strip club in February, destroying his right eye and leaving him “substantially disabled,” according to the Boston Globe.
Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that on the night of the murder Hernandez and two others drove Lloyd to the industrial park and shot him five times. Surveillance cameras at the industrial park captured the arrival of the car with Lloyd and his shooting, and video taken in Hernandez’s own home showed the player entering the house with a pistol around 3:30 a.m., the prosecution alleged.
For Hernandez's part, his attorney, Michael Fee, said the evidence against his client is “circumstantial ... not strong. However, Judge Daniel J. O’Shea ruled to hold Hernandez without bail, according to Boston.com.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement that Hernandez’s ties to the murder investigation were “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,” he said.
In less than 13 hours, Wendy Davis rocketed from being a Democratic state senator little known beyond heavily Republican Texas to a global social media celebrity, as her filibuster helped defeat a major abortion bill with a last-minute boost from hundreds of noisy supporters packed into the State capitol.
Ms. Davis’ raised profile – her Twitter account jumped from 1,200 to more than 46,000 followers in a day – and the defeat of a stroke-of-midnight vote on the bill by the deafening roar of supporters in the gallery, are moments that Texas Democrats are relishing, but ones that may not last long, analysts say.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry could call another legislative session with more time to pass the abortion law, and Davis faces an uphill battle if she wants to channel the attention into a bid for statewide office.
“It's over. It's been fun. But see you soon.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters after the bill's defeat early Wednesday, hinting that Governor Perry may soon call legislators back for another 30-day special session.
Davis earned substantial exposure during her 11-hour filibuster. Twitter reports that there were at least 730,000 tweets about the filibuster on Tuesday, with 5,776 tweets per minute at the height of the drama around 11:58 p.m. central time as Senate Republicans were trying for a last-minute vote before the midnight deadline. Hashtags including #StandwithWendy and #WendyDavis trended worldwide, while a YouTube live stream drew more than 180,000 viewers.
“Something special is happening in Austin tonight,” tweeted President Obama’s official twitter account at about 8 p.m. central time Tuesday as Davis entered the ninth hour of her attempt to block passage of the bill, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and closed nearly every abortion clinic in the state.
Some political analysts were impressed with Davis’ star-power Tuesday, but question whether she can sustain a lasting statewide or national role.
“The biggest question is whether Democrats are really ready to compete statewide,” Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
There is both a governor and US Senate race in 2014, but the last time Democrats in Texas won a major statewide race – for president, senator, or governor – was in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor.
"I think the Republican leadership in both chambers of the Legislature unwittingly helped create a national Texas Democratic star," Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, told the Texas Tribune.
Mr. Mackowiak called Davis’ fundraising potential “unlimited,” and suggested she can raise millions of dollars over the next couple of months, but questioned whether she has the ideology to win over wide swaths of the heavily Republican public.
"Wendy Davis does not have the profile of a Democrat that's going to win statewide in this interim period where Democrats are trying to become competitive again," he said. "It's going to be a pro-business, moderate, big-city Democrat."
Supporters hope Davis could emerge as a face of a burgeoning Democratic attempt to move Texas ever so slightly to the left. In January, national Democrats started “Battleground Texas,” an organization run by Jeremy Bird, the former national field director for Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign.
Mr. Bird told Politico the group would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.” Sources told Politico that Bird "plans to engage the state’s rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles," and that the organization's budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several year.
Yet the track record for Democrats seeking statewide office points to a difficult path.
“The GOP boasts comfortable majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and controls every statewide office; in fact, Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, a 19-year losing streak that spans 101 defeats,” the Texas Observer wrote in May.
“Since that time, the party has struggled mightily to even be competitive,” wrote The Washington Post when it examined chances for Democrats in Texas in 2012. “The story at the gubernatorial and Senate level is no better for Democrats [than at the presidential]. Richards took 45.9 percent when she lost her bid for a second term to George W. Bush in 1994. And no Democrat for Senate has won more than 43.9 percent of the vote in the last twenty years.”
Over the past decade, several candidates with substantial funds were defeated in their bids for statewide office. Hispanic businessman Tony Sanchez spent $67 million of his own money on a gubernatorial run, but earned just 40 percent of the vote in his loss to Perry in 2002.
Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former Houston Mayor Bill White drew money to their campaigns for senator and governor in 2002 and 2010, respectively, but neither earned more than 42 percent of the vote, notes The Washington Post.
None of those candidates drew attention like Davis, say other consultants. "I have never seen a Texas senator suddenly make world news over the course of 13 hours," longtime Democratic consultant Harold Cook told the Texas Tribune. "I'm not sure it was possible before Twitter, honestly. At the start of the day, this was a local story. By the end, it was an international story."
"It's too early to tell, but I will say that it is episodes like tonight that are potentially game-changers and that change the electorate fundamentally,” he said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
A bankruptcy judge ruled Tuesday that the two defamation suits against Casey Anthony be heard in bankruptcy court and not in Orange County Circuit. The ruling was a small win for Anthony, whose attorneys had asked that the lawsuits be treated as a federal matter.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May’s ruling, issued at a hearing in Tampa, is the latest step in two ongoing defamation suits brought by Zenaida Gonzalez and Roy Kronk against Casey Anthony, claiming that the repeated use of their names in the 2011 trial has associated them with the high-profile murder and smeared their reputation, The Orlando Sentinel reported.
The cases against the former defendant in one of America’s most sensational murder trials had been proceeding in Orange County, until Ms. Anthony filed for bankruptcy protection in January, citing substantial accumulated debt incurred from the hunt for her missing daughter and the ensuing six-week trial about two years ago.
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Kronk discovered the remains of Ms. Anthony’s toddler, Caylee Anthony, when he was a meter reader in Orange County, and says that Ms. Anthony’s lawyers suggested during the trial that he was somehow involved in the girl’s murder.
Gonzalez, a Florida resident, says that her reputation was damaged after Ms. Anthony said in court that a nanny with a similar name was the last person to be seen with her daughter and likely kidnapped her. Resulting confusion subjected her to public humiliation, she said.
Both plaintiffs are suing for financial compensation.
Ms. Anthony, who was acquitted in 2011 of killing her two-year-old daughter, has largely kept out of public view. But her life appears to have become an enormously difficult one. She filed for bankruptcy in Florida in January, claiming about $1,000 in assets and $792,000 in liabilities.
Her debts include some $500,000 for attorney fees incurred during the trail; $145,660 for the Orange County Sheriff's Office for a judgment covering investigative fees and costs related to the case; $68,540 for the Internal Revenue Service for taxes, interest and penalties; and $61,505 for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for court costs.
Court papers list her as unemployed, with no recent income.
Anthony did not attend Tuesday’s hearing, and her whereabouts and circumstances remain unknown to the public.
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Prosecutors in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman argued Tuesday that the judge should allow the jury to hear about five phone calls Mr. Zimmerman made to police dispatchers in the six months before his fatal confrontation with teenager Trayvon Martin complaining about “suspicious” characters in the neighborhood.
Defense and prosecution arguments over the neighborhood watch phone calls took place before the all female jury was seated for the second day of testimony in the Sanford, Fla., trial. In each of the calls, Zimmerman described the suspicious characters as black males, the Associated Press reports. Trayvon is black. Judge Debra Nelson said she would rule after reviewing prior cases.
Tuesday’s events featured fewer fireworks than both sides’ opening arguments on Monday, which featured the prosecutor quoting profane statements Zimmerman made to a police dispatcher about Trayvon just before the shooting and a "knock knock" joke from a defense attorney that was poorly received by the jury.
Some of the most dramatic testimony of the day came from police Sgt. Anthony Raimondo, who was the second officer to respond to the scene of the shooting. Along with his partner, Sergeant Raimondo performed CPR on Trayvon, who was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical personnel. The jury heard Raimondo describe in graphic detail Trayvon's wounds and, for the first time, the prosecutor showed jurors several photos of the dead teenager lying in the grass.
The debate over the phone calls began late Monday when, according to CNN's live blog, the court adjourned after the prosecution introduced a nonemergency call made by Zimmerman in August 2011. He is heard reporting a suspicious person in the neighborhood.
Prosecutors said the call helps illuminate Zimmerman's state of mind the night Trayvon was killed, but the defense questioned the call's relevance. The judge asked attorneys on both sides to research the issue overnight and to argue their positions Tuesday morning.
In this morning’s arguments, prosecutors said calls made in the six months prior to the Feb. 26, 2012, incident in which Zimmerman shot an unarmed Trayvon show Zimmerman’s growing frustration with repeated break-ins in his gated community. It supports the prosecution theory that Zimmerman viewed Trayvon as a suspicious character and was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” as the Associated Press quoted prosecutor Richard Mantei as saying.
The calls that the prosecutors want the jury to hear are mentioned in a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, released by the state attorney’s office, which shows Zimmerman had a pattern of complaining frequently to authorities about events in his neighborhood.
Trayvon's family alleges that Zimmerman was profiling a black teenager as he followed him through the gated community where Zimmerman lived and where Martin was visiting the home of his father’s girlfriend. Zimmerman has entered a plea of not guilty, claiming he shot Trayvon in self-defense.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued the previous calls were irrelevant and that the jury should focus on the seven or eight minute confrontation when Zimmerman shot Trayvon. “They are going to ask the jury to make a leap from a good, responsible citizen behavior to seething behavior,” Mr. O’Mara said.
The witnesses who testified Tuesday were all called by the prosecution. In addition to Raimondo, they included Wendy Dorival, who ran the Sanford Police Department’s neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman functioned as “neighborhood watch coordinator” of his gated subdivision. Ms. Dorival testified that neighborhood watchers are "the eyes and ears of law enforcement.” She added, “They are not supposed to take matters into their own hands.”
Also testifying was Donald O’Brien, president of the Homeowners Association at Twin Lakes, the subdivision where Zimmerman lived. “Everybody was supposed to watch out for their neighbors. If they see something suspicious, stay away and call the police," CNN quoted Mr. O’Brien as saying. The Grio’s live blog quoted Mr. O’Brien as saying he did not feel the neighborhood watch was necessary.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) must speak nonstop for 13 hours – without bathroom breaks or leaning on anything – if she wants to halt passage of a major abortion bill that would solidify Texas’ status on a growing list of states passing restrictive abortion measures.
Senator Davis and fellow Texas Democrats are seeking to thwart a bill passed by the Texas House on Monday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion doctors to have visiting rights at nearby hospitals. While supporters say the bill protects women’s health, critics reply that the bill will effectively close 37 of the 42 state abortion clinics.
Davis’s filibuster caps several days of legislative drama that will end Tuesday night at midnight with the expiration of a special legislative session – after which no further laws may be passed.
"We want to do whatever we can for women in this state," state Sen. Kirk Watson, leader of the Senate Democrats, said Monday.
Texas joins several states including Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Virginia, and Pennsylvania that have passed or proposed restrictions on abortion. Critics say the Texas legislation is particularly notable because it would become the most stringent set of abortion laws to affect the largest number of people in the United States.
In addition to banning abortion after 20 weeks, the bill limits abortions to surgical centers and requires doctors to monitor nonsurgical abortions. Opponents say a requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles is problematic because most hospitals in Texas do not grant privileges to doctors who perform abortions – either for religious reasons or for fear of becoming the target of protests.
"If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of the late Ann Richards, a former Texas governor.
“The woman had five months to make that decision. At this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development,” said state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) in the legislation's defense on the House floor. Ms. Laubenberg stopped participating in her chamber's debate after comments about the use of rape kits to prevent abortion drew fire for inaccuracy.
The measure passed the Texas House Monday by a vote of 95 to 34, with the support of four Democrats. House Democrats, mindful that a 24-hour waiting period was needed after passage in their chamber, had delayed their vote until 11 a.m. Monday after a rowdy debate Sunday. Senate Democrats then looked poised to kill the legislation in their chamber with Davis’s filibuster.
"If the majority can't pass the legislation that they believe is important and the people believe is important ... then that's of great concern to me," said state Sen. Dan Patrick (R). Senator Patrick said the Democrats should not have been allowed to put Republicans "in a box."
The bill came about at the request of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who called a special legislative session after the regular session ended May 27. Governor Perry, who is the only one who can legally add issues during the extra session, added abortion to the agenda June 11.
Perry’s request to add abortion came on the same day another state that recently passed stricter abortion measures was sued. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to block enforcement of a new Alabama law that critics say would force the closure of three of the state’s five abortion clinics on July 1.
The Alabama law, passed in April, also requires that all physicians in the state who perform abortions have staff privileges at a local hospital – something clinic officials in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Mobile say they can not comply with.
This is part of national strategy by antiabortion activists to exploit novel ways to shut down abortion clinics at the state level, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Monitor.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight state legislatures have banned abortions after 20 weeks, Arizona has done so at 18 weeks, and Arkansas passed a ban after 12 weeks. Federal judges have thrown out the laws in Arizona and Iowa, and judges have blocked similar measures in the other states.
Mississippi and Tennessee also passed laws requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The only abortion clinic still operating in Mississippi is battling to stay open because of new facility requirements and because of the requirement that doctors have privileges at a local hospital. In North Dakota, abortion clinics are suing against similar laws passed this year to remain open.
In 2011, 92 abortion restrictions were enacted in state legislatures, and in 2012, the number was 43, according to Ms. Nash, who says those are the two highest totals of the past decade. In 2000, Guttmacher classified 13 states as being “hostile” to abortion. By 2011, half the states were hostile. To gauge “hostility,” Guttmacher identified 10 classifications of abortion restrictions, and if a state reached four of them, it was called hostile.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Opening statements in the murder trial of George Zimmerman featured sharply different versions of the events that led to the death of teenager Trayvon Martin and offered major stylistic contrasts, with the prosecutor beginning with curses and the defense attorney telling a joke.
Mr. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of the 17-year-old while serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer in February 2012. Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious person” in the neighborhood and has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense.
Prosecutor John Guy's first words to jurors quoted what Zimmerman told a police dispatcher in a call shortly before the fatal confrontation with Mr. Martin. "F------ punks. These a-------. They always get away,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying. A Fox News reporter in the room said “jaws in the jury box dropped” in response to the unusual courtroom language.
In his 34-minute opening statement, prosecutor Guy disputed Zimmerman’s assertion that he acted in self-defense after being attacked by Martin. Zimmerman “didn’t have bruised knuckles, he didn’t have swollen hands. The only injury to his hand that was capable of being photographed was a small abrasion on his left ring finger,” Mr. Guy said, according to a CNN live blog.
The prosecutor argued that Zimmerman was profiling Martin, who is black, as he followed him through the gated community where Zimmerman lived and where Martin was visiting the home of his father’s girlfriend. He said Zimmerman viewed the teen, who was wearing a dark hooded shirt on a rainy night, “as someone about to a commit a crime in his neighborhood."
Zimmerman did not have to shoot Martin, Guy said. “He shot him for the worst of all reasons: because he wanted to," Guy said, according to the AP.
After a brief recess, defense attorney Don West began a statement that lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the judge ordered a lunchtime recess. “This is a sad case, of course," Mr. West said. "A young man lost his life, another is fighting for his.”
However West then noted that “sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. So let me, at considerable risk…. I’d like to tell you a little joke,” which the defense attorney sought to use to illustrate the difficulty of picking a jury in a case that has attracted so much publicity.
"'Knock. Knock,'" West said.
"'Who is there?'"
"'George Zimmerman who?'"
"'Ah, good. You're on the jury.'"
According to courtroom observers, the joke fell flat with the jury.
It was met “with compete, life-sucking silence in the courtroom,” Mediaite said.
West told jurors that in a confrontation Martin “sucker punched” Zimmerman in the face and “pounded” his head into the concrete sidewalk. Only then, the defense attorney said, did Zimmerman “wind up shooting and tragically killing Trayvon Martin.” The defense played for jurors the call to a police dispatcher in which Zimmerman used the obscenities.
The defense also argued that Martin had opportunities to go home after Zimmerman followed him and then lost track of him, West said. But, said West, “Trayvon Martin decided to confront George Zimmerman. That instead of going home.”
"The evidence will show that this is a sad case," West said. "There are no monsters here."
When the courtroom proceedings resumed after lunch, West resumed his opening statement by apologizing to jurors for the knock-knock joke. "No more bad jokes, I promise that. I was convinced it was the delivery," CNN quoted him as saying.
When the opening statements end and the jury hears testimony in the case, two police dispatch phone calls are expected to be important. In the first call, Zimmerman talks to a non-emergency police dispatcher as he follows Martin and is told he does not need to follow him. The second call is to 911 and includes screams from the confrontation. The defense says they are screams from Zimmerman. The prosecution contends Martin is screaming.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled over the weekend that experts for the prosecution will not be allowed to testify that the screams came from Martin, saying the methods they used were unreliable. But the jury will be allowed to hear the call and judge its meaning.
Material from the Associated Press was used in preparing this report.
Everyone in the National Football League knew that Aaron Hernandez was likely to come with baggage. Elite tight ends from major college programs like the University of Florida do not drop into the fourth round of the NFL draft – as Hernandez did in 2010 – unless there are lingering questions. Big ones.
Now those questions are coming to the fore as a murder investigation swirls around Hernandez.
Local and state police intensified their investigation of Hernandez Saturday, searching his house and grounds for nearly four hours and leaving with about 10 bags of evidence, according to the Los Angeles Times. Moreover, a paper warrant for Hernandez's arrest on obstruction of justice charges has been issued but not yet executed, reports FOX 25 Boston.
A paper warrant is often issued as a way to persuade defense attorneys to cooperate, said FOX 25's legal analyst, Brad Bailey.
"It may be that this is a squeeze tactic," he said. "It may be telling Mr. Hernandez that we have a warrant, a warrant for a crime that has a potential maximum penalty of seven years in prison, is a tactic to get him to come to the table, start talking and start cooperating. And that's where the lawyers may be saying, 'OK, we got it. You got our attention. We're willing to respond.' "
ABC originally reported that Hernandez "destroyed his home security system,'' and that he handed over his cellphone to authorities "in pieces." Numerous reports also note that Hernandez had a cleaning service scrub his house Monday.
Other media reports have established a cursory timeline in the case. The Boston Globe has reported that video images show Hernandez with Odin Lloyd, a semipro football player, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston early Monday morning. The Fox 25 report cites sources saying there is video evidence of Hernandez and two men in hooded sweatshirts walking into Hernandez's home between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Monday.
Police say Lloyd was murdered – shot in the back of the head – at an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough, Mass., home before dawn Monday.
Hernandez has found himself tailed by trouble since his days as a member of the University of Florida Gators.
In 2007, Hernandez was one of four Gators interviewed by police after the shooting of two men, one fatally, in Gainesville, Fla., the night after the Gators lost to Auburn, 20-17. He was never charged with any crime.
Before the NFL draft in 2010, Hernandez admitted to NFL teams that he had failed numerous drug tests, and concern among NFL personnel about Hernandez's potential connection to people with gang ties led him to drop to the fourth round, reports Sports Illustrated.
More recently, on May 18, police found a handgun apparently discarded under a vehicle near where Hernandez was accosted by a New York Jets fan at 2:26 a.m. in Providence, R.I. Police were never able to identify whose gun it was or how it got there, according to the Sports Illustrated report.
Then last week, a civil lawsuit against Hernandez was filed, alleging that Hernandez shot a man, Alexander Bradley, in south Florida in February, injuring Bradley's arm and causing him to lose an eye. "Hernandez shot him," said Bradley's lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, in a phone interview with Sports Illustrated. "It's either a negligence case or a deliberate shooting. We'll see if Hernandez wants to come in and raise his right hand and tell us what happened."
Some who know Hernandez say is has a good heart but had a difficult time coping after his father's death in 2006 and has fallen in with the wrong crowd. University of Florida coaches always worried when Hernandez returned home to Bristol, Conn., according to Sports Illustrated.
"There were always people that were trying to surround themselves with him that weren't in his best interest and they were around him," one former coach said. "For him, it's like anything else. He's a good-hearted kid who had a hard time saying no."
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was accused in court documents last week of shooting a man in Florida in February, even as he remains linked to a homicide investigation in Massachusetts.
A lawsuit filed in federal court on June 13 accuses Mr. Hernandez of shooting a Connecticut man in February after an argument at a Miami strip club.
The lawsuit, first reported by TMZ, was brought by Alexander Bradley, whose lawyer has done personal assistance work for Hernandez.
Mr. Bradley did not name Hernandez as the shooter when Florida police investigated the incident at the time, and the case was closed without filing charges, reports The Boston Globe.
Bradley’s lawyer told ABC News that the lawsuit was voluntarily discontinued because the language describing the injuries was incorrect, but that it was being refiled Wednesday.
In the Massachusetts homicide investigation, the name of the man found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home Monday was released. The man was 27-year-old Boston resident Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, according to the office of Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.
Mr. Lloyd’s family told reporters he was an “associate” of Hernandez but refused to comment further.
The Boston Globe reports that an autopsy ruled Lloyd's death a homicide, although police did not confirm that with the Associated Press.
Neighbors told The Boston Globe that Lloyd was often seen in the neighborhood driving cars with Patriot decals and was thought to be dating the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend. Police searched Hernandez's home Tuesday night in connection with the investigation.
At a different time, state troopers found a gun while searching the woods and yards of homes between the crime scene and Hernandez’s house, but ballistics tests determined it was not the weapon that killed Lloyd, reports ABC News.
The Bristol County district attorney’s office released a statement Wednesday asking the public for help finding a silver side-view mirror that may have broken off a car between Dorchester, Mass., and North Attleborough, Mass., but did not release information about why the mirror is important or whose car it may have come from.
While Sports Illustrated cited an anonymous source saying Hernandez is not a suspect in the homicide, sources told CBS Boston that he has not been ruled out as a suspect.
Ropes & Gray, the law firm representing Hernandez, issued a statement Wednesday declining to discuss the case. “It has been widely reported in the media that the State Police have searched the home of our client, Aaron Hernandez, as part of an ongoing investigation,” Michael Fee of the law firm said in a statement. “Out of respect for that process, neither we nor Aaron will have any comment about the substance of that investigation until it has come to a conclusion.”
North Attleborough, where Hernandez owns a $1.3 million, 5,600-square-foot home, is about 40 miles south of Boston and 10 miles away from Foxborough, Mass., where the New England Patriots play. The town is home to several Patriots players, and Hernandez bought his house from former Patriot Ty Warren.
Hernandez, a fourth-round draft pick for the Patriots in 2010, paired with Rob Gronkowski to form one of the top tight end duos in the National Football League. A Pro Bowl selection in 2011, Hernandez has 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns in 38 games. He missed 10 games last season with an ankle injury and had shoulder surgery in April, but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Last summer, the Patriots gave him a five-year contract worth $40 million.
NFL team sources told The Boston Globe in 2010 that multiple failed drug tests for marijuana as a college player at the University of Florida may have caused Hernandez to drop in the NFL draft.
Hernandez "told teams at the NFL Scouting Combine that his drug use stemmed from the 2006 death of his father, Dennis, who died of complications following surgery while Hernandez was a junior at Bristol Central High in Connecticut," writes the Globe.
“Depending on who you talk to, some people thought he was a late first- or early second-round prospect. Eventually, the risk was overcome by the value,” one pro scout told the Globe at the time.
On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Mr. Assange confirmed reports that WikiLeaks is helping Mr. Snowden’s effort to gain asylum in Iceland.
“We have been in contact with Snowden and have been helping him,” he said. “I feel a great deal of personal sympathy with Mr. Snowden.”
Assange also implied that WikiLeaks may well publish future revelations that Snowden says are forthcoming. WikiLeaks is best known for making public vast amounts of classified information provided by US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is now in the midst of a court-martial for the largest leak of classified documents in US history.
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“As a matter of policy, we don’t speak about investigations or upcoming publications,” Assange repeated several times Wednesday, refusing to say whether he had spoken directly with Snowden. But, he hinted, “significant material will be published in coming weeks.”
For his part, Assange is marking the one-year anniversary of being holed-up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid questioning about alleged sexual offenses in Sweden. Rather than hampering his WikiLeaks work, he said, his self-imposed isolation means that he has nothing else to do but continue with the controversial whistle-blower organization’s efforts.
Assange was joined in the 90-minute phone conference by prominent whistle-blowers and their advocates, who are highly critical of the Obama administration’s crackdown on government leakers as well as its recently reported secret probing of the phone records of Associated Press journalists and a Fox News reporter.
Snowden’s more recent revelation that the NSA has been collecting vast amounts of metadata on phone records and Internet use means the Obama administration has taken government spying on Americans further than any previous administration, said Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the top secret Pentagon Papers to the media in 1971 when Richard Nixon was president.
“President Obama has gone farther than any of the others in using the power of the government,” Mr. Ellsberg said. “What’s new is not only prosecutions under the Espionage Act but criminalizing the process of investigative journalism.”
But Ellsberg also said he remains hopeful that the examples of Manning, Assange, and Snowden will prompt others to become leakers and whistle-blowers.
“This is our last chance, I think, to keep our press and thus our democracy from becoming like China’s or the Soviet Union,” he said.
For critics of domestic spying, FBI Director Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony Wednesday, acknowledging that his agency has been using surveillance drones over American soil, came as a matter of suspicions confirmed.
"I think the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone and the very few regulations that are on it today and the booming industry of commercial drones,” CNN quotes Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California as saying. (Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has defended the NSA’s electronic-surveillance program.)
As reporters and government officials try to track down Snowden – last located in a hotel in Hong Kong – the debate over the benefits and dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programs continues.
In a USA Today interview earlier this week, three former NSA whistle-blowers – Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe – were said to “feel vindicated” by Snowden’s revelations.
“They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who worked as a systems administrator, proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing,” USA Today reports. “They say those revelations only hint at the programs' reach.”
“We are seeing the initial outlines and contours of a very systemic, very broad, a Leviathan surveillance state and much of it is in violation of the fundamental basis for our own country – in fact, the very reason we even had our own American Revolution,” said Mr. Drake, a former NSA executive who was charged under the Espionage Act. (The most serious charges were dropped, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misuse of a government computer.)
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State and local police spent several hours at Mr. Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Mass., a day after a body was discovered in an industrial park in town, according to preliminary media reports.
State police told The Boston Globe they could not confirm whether troopers had questioned Hernandez. An anonymous source with knowledge of the investigation told Sports Illustrated that Hernandez is not a suspect in the death, but that a car rented in his name is linked to the investigation. Some media have reported that the deceased was a Boston man in his 20s.
Unidentified sources told ABC News that police found a rented 2013 Chevrolet Suburban with Rhode Island license plates near the scene, which led investigators to Hernandez. Investigators planned to execute a search warrant on the rental car Wednesday, ABC said.
At about 5:30 p.m. Monday, a body was found in the industrial park, the Office of Bristol County District Attorney office said. The precise location of the park was not officially identified, but a neighbor told the Globe he saw police at an industrial yard about a quarter-mile from Hernandez’s residence when he was driving home at about 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“There were cops with metal detectors on both sides of the road: It’s a main road, everybody uses it,” neighbor Erik Dahl said.
On Tuesday night, an unmarked police car blocked the driveway to Hernandez’s house from just before 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. as roughly a dozen police officers entered the house and others stood guard outside. Two men were stopped by police trying to leave the house at 7 p.m. and were escorted away in police cars, reporters at the scene say. The men sat in front seats and did not look to be under arrest, the reporters said.
Police officers also reportedly removed a box from the house.
The Patriots drafted Pro Bowl player Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Patriots spokesman Stacey James said, "I am aware of the reports, but I do not anticipate that we will be commenting publicly during an ongoing police investigation."
While it’s far too soon to know whether Hernandez is responsible for any wrongdoing, the public perception that professional football players can’t seem to stay out of trouble with the law is probably an exaggeration – despite well-known cases involving Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Ray Lewis, and others.
The 1998 book "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL" contended that out of a sample of 500 pro football players in the 1996-97 season, 20 percent had a criminal record. But the remarkably high number was challenged by a other studies, including one by Duke University professors in 1999, which found that NFL arrest rates were well below the rates for the general population.
The San Diego Union-Tribune hosts an NFL Arrests Database on its website, which currently has 653 entries for crimes beyond speeding tickets since 2000. The database lists 28 arrests in 2013 and 45 last year. (The data are compiled from news reports and public records but may not be comprehensive.) An analysis of this database by CBS in 2011 found that the arrest rate was also lower than that of the general population.
"[Professional athletes] are in the public eye and their profile is extremely high," Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Northeastern University's center for Sport in Society, told The Christian Science Monitor at the time of Mr. Burress's indictment in 2009. "We are talking about very young people with a lot of public scrutiny, and some handle it better than others."
“Anytime an NFL player gets arrested, you’re going to hear about that story; you aren’t going to hear about it the other times someone gets arrested,” John Tauer, head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of St. Thomas and a professor of social psychology, told a CBS station in Minnesota.
Major League Baseball players, the CBS report noted, were arrested 16 times for major crimes like drug offenses and violent crimes in 2010. That year, 34 pro football players were arrested for those offenses, which puts football and baseball at a similar rate of arrest since there are twice as many NFL players as MLB players. The NBA, a smaller league, had 23 arrests that year.