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Judge rejects Aaron Hernandez move to overturn murder conviction

07.01.15 at 2:14 pm ET
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Judge Susan A. Garsh, who oversaw Aaron Hernandez‘s trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, refused a motion to toss the ex-Patriot’s first-degree murder conviction or at least reduce it to second-degree murder on Wednesday.

Hernandez’s defense lawyers asked the court to “invalidate the jury’s verdict and find Hernandez not guilty on the murder charge and one of the gun charges,” according to the Hartford Courant.

Garsh, in refuting the motions, which was a procedural step that needed to be taken before an appeal, wrote in a ruling that “considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the court finds that a rational jury could find that the Commonwealth proved every essential element of the crimes charged in counts 1 and 2 beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hernandez was convicted in April of first-degree murder, which holds an automatic life sentence without parole.

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Ex-Patriot Brandon Spikes pleads guilty in car crash, sentenced to 1-year probation

07.01.15 at 1:07 pm ET
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On Wednesday, former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes pleaded guilty to three counts of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in personal injury for the car incident he was involved in last month.

Spikes was speeding and driving negligently when he crashed his 2011 Mercedes Maybach into the back of a Nissan Murano on I-495 in Foxboro early in the morning on June 7.

He was sentenced to one-year probation plus a $1,000 fine and a surcharge, while he also lost his license for a year. Several other charges were continued without a finding, including charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and operation of an uninsured motor vehicle.

The incident sent three occupants of the other vehicle to the hospital with minor injuries. Spikes’ Maybach had called an emergency assistance service claiming to have struck a deer, but responding officers found no evidence of a deer.

The Patriots released Spikes the Monday morning after the incident.

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NFL VP Troy Vincent criticizes NFLPA for taking cases challenging Roger Goodell’s rulings to court

06.30.15 at 9:58 am ET
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In an interview with ESPN’s Ashley Fox, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent was critical of the NFLPA in their decisions to take cases to court when challenging rulings set by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Vincent is referring to cases involving Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and potentially Tom Brady.

“Look at the amount of money being spent on legal fees for a handful of people,” said Vincent. “It’s millions and millions of dollars, and we’ve got players that are hurting. We’ve got young men who don’t know how to identify a good financial adviser. Men are in transition who aren’t doing well, and yet $8-10 million a year is spent in court fees about who should make a decision on someone, who in some cases has committed a crime.

“Think about that logically. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our time and resources on the issues that are vital to our players — past, present and future — such as the players’ total wellness and growing the game together?”

Vincent was the one who imposed the four-game suspension on Brady for his role in Deflategate. He defended his decision to Fox.

“Somebody has to protect the integrity of the game,” Vincent said. “That’s my responsibility, to protect and preserve the competitive fairness of professional football. That’s why our game is so great, because we protect the integrity of the game.”

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If Tom Brady is cleared of Deflategate charges, could he file defamation suit against NFL?

06.29.15 at 9:33 pm ET
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Tom Brady leads a healthy group of Big 10 alums on the New England roster. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Could Tom Brady try and sue Roger Goodell or the league for defamation if he’s cleared?. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has been caught up in the Deflategate maelstrom since just after the AFC title game, and has been forced to deal with a series of attacks on his character as a result. While others have been quick to say he’s guilty, the quarterback has maintained his innocence.

While the story has yet to play out completely, if Brady is exonerated in some form or fashion over the next few months — whether it’s the result of having his suspension wiped clean by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or having the penalty overturned in court — could he try and get some payback against the league in the form of a defamation suit?

While it would be an intriguing proposition for the quarterback to try and extract a pound of flesh from those who put this whole thing in motion, legal analyst Michael McCann said Monday that Brady would “face an uphill climb” if he chose that course of action against the league, the commissioner or Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations who initially handed down the four-game suspension.

“Brady would need to show that not only were public statements made about him false and damaging to his reputation, but he’d have to show those statements were made with actual malice, which means knowingly or intentionally,” McCann said. “In other words, if the Wells Report contained reputationally-damaging inaccuracies or lies about Brady, that would not be enough for Brady to prevail in a defamation lawsuit. He’d have to show that Wells included statements that Wells knew were false. That would be hard to show, especially as it relates to a controversy where there remain different scientific opinions and theories about what may have happened.

“Debate about the science in Deflategate is itself a defense for defendants in any defamation lawsuit brought by Brady. Those defendants can argue that at the time they made those statements about Brady, there was debate about what happened in Deflategate and thus a lack of consensus about what constituted the truth and what constituted a lie.”

There is some precedent here for a player pursuing legal action against the league. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was initially suspended for a season for his apparent involvement in the Bountygate scandal, later saw his ban lifted. Consequently, he filed a defamation suit against Goodell, one that was later dismissed because of insufficient claims and evidence. (When initially told about Deflategate, Vilma had some simple advice for Brady: “Lawyer up.”) If Brady decided to pursue legal action against the league, even though Vilma’s case wasn’t successful, McCann believes he would at least ponder taking a page from Vilma’s playbook.

“If he decided to go that route, Brady would likely retain attorneys who specialize in defamation litigation,” McCann said. “One possibility is Peter Ginsberg, a New York City attorney who represented Jonathan Vilma in Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell in the aftermath of Bountygate. Ginsberg has represented other athletes as well, including Michael Irvin and Vijay Singh, in legal matters concerning their reputation.”

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Patriots announce training camp will begin July 30

06.29.15 at 6:24 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Monday that their 2015 training camp will open on July 30 with the first practice of the summer on the fields behind Gillette Stadium.

This year marks the 56th annual training camp for the Patriots, including their 13th consecutive camp at Gillette Stadium. Veterans will report to camp on July 29. The following day, the Patriots are scheduled for their first training camp practice. The Patriots will practice once daily and have confirmed that they will be conducting practices on Thurs., July 30 through Sun., Aug. 2. (As dates and times for training camp are confirmed, they will be updated on the Patriots website, They are expected to be morning sessions.

Additionally, the Patriots will hold joint practices with the Saints at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., ahead of their preseason matchup. The joint practices will be held on Wed., Aug. 19 and Thurs., Aug. 20 ahead of the game on Sat., Aug. 23 in New Orleans.

In addition, the Patriots would like to remind fans that the 2015 Patriots Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies for Houston Antwine and Willie McGinest on Wed., Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and is held on the NRG Plaza outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon. Following the ceremony, the Patriots will host their annual in-stadium practice for Season Ticket Members and Foxboro residents inside Gillette Stadium at 7 p.m.

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When it comes to stocking Patriots roster, Big 10 and SEC lead way

06.29.15 at 1:32 pm ET
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On the heels of this story, we received a request for a breakdown of the Patriots roster by conference. With the understanding that the roster currently stands at 88 players, here’s a quick look at how the latest edition of the team stacks up by where each player went to school:

17 — Big 10, SEC
11 — Pac 12
9 — ACC
6 — Conference USA, Big 12
5 — American Athletic Conference
4 — MAC
2 — Mountain West, Southland
1 — Ivy, Sun Belt, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Ohio Valley, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Gulf South Conference, Big Sky, Lone Star Conference, Colonial

Report: Use of drones to film practice in Foxboro and elsewhere draws attention of FAA

06.29.15 at 9:00 am ET
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The FAA is looking into the use of drones by three NFL teams –€” including the Patriots — to film spring practices, according to Bloomberg News.

According to the story, the Federal Aviation Administration has been in contact with Dallas about the use of drones to film practices from different angles this spring, and plans to also get in contact with New England and the New York Giants. It’€™s illegal to fly the unmanned aircraft for any commercial purpose without first getting an FAA waiver, and the FAA says none of the three teams have exemptions or provided evidence that the drones were being operated by someone with permission.

Asked last month what advantage drone footage might provide, Patriots coach Bill Belichick simply said: “I don’€™t know.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett sounded enthusiastic about using the new technology when reporters asked him about it last month.

“We pride ourselves on coaching and teaching our players as well as we can and film has been a big part of the game for a long time,”€ Garrett told reporters. “Typically you have an end zone shot and a sideline shot. We use a lot of hand-held cameras on the ground. … One of our coaches went down to SMU for their spring practices and saw they were using it. They liked the angle. We got a chance to see it, so we decided to take a look at it.”

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