Michael McCann on D&C: ‘I don’t think there’s anything in those [Aaron Hernandez] text messages that implicates the Patriots or Bill Belichick’
|07.15.14 at 11:10 am ET|
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the latest on former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. To hear more from D&C, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Court documents on Monday revealed evidence that prosecutors turned over to Hernandez’s defense in the Odin Lloyd murder case. The documents included interviews with Patriots personnel including Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, and 33 pages of text messages between Belichick and Hernandez from February 2013 to May 2013.
“I think Hernandez is interested in developing some type of — at least potentially — some type of defense where maybe he lacked the mental capacity to commit first-degree murder, that he doesn’t have the sophistication or there are other mental defects, if you like, that would have prevented him from engineering the murder of Odin Lloyd,” McCann said.
“I don’t think there’s anything in those text messages that implicates the Patriots or Bill Belichick. I have a feeling that they’re going to be — and again, I’m speculating — something more along the lines of conversations about plays or other teams’ players that the Patriots may have interest in. I don’t think there’s going to be anything in there that damns the Patriots.”
The content of the text messages haven’t been made public, but McCann said he doesn’t expect there to be anything in the texts that would put the Patriots in a dicey legal situation.
“I think we would have already seen the Patriots, if not charged with a crime, some indication that that would happen,” he said. “It’s now been over a year; I would be surprised that Belichick would have been able to just continue to coach without any charges if he’s in any way implicated in this case. I could be wrong, there could be something in there, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be, again, as damning of Belichick.
“Now, there is a clause in the collective bargaining agreement, Article 21, that prohibits meetings between coaches and players during the offseason. Maybe that was broken through these texts, but that’s really an NFL issue, not a legal issue.”
McCann said the text messages likely will not be made public, although he said he wouldn’t be surprised in they got leaked. If the messages show that Belichick was aware that Hernandez was with the wrong crowd and tried to steer him away from those people, McCann said it could have an affect on the Patriots’ image.
“I think morally it would raise some issues about what the Patriots maybe could have done to better enforce rules against Aaron Hernandez, that maybe they tolerated him and they knew of his behaviors that were publicly endangering,” he said. “But I don’t think that would lead to civil liability for the Patriots, because it’s very hard to show that Aaron Hernandez was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly killed Odin Lloyd and the two other fellows. It’s really not part of his employment with the Patriots.
“So I don’t think it’s going to lead to any civil liability for the Patriots. But I do think it would raise moral issues, and maybe the NFL would take some type of action against the team.”
McCann said Belichick and Kraft might have to testify if Hernandez makes his character an issue at the trial.
“Now, generally speaking, character evidence is inadmissible in a trial unless the defendant wants to make it an issue,” McCann said. “That’s a dangerous move in some ways by Hernandez’s lawyers, because there’s a lot of reasons to think there’s some damaging information about his character in the past. But if he does do that, perhaps to argue that he wasn’t capable of committing first-degree murder, then Bill Belichick, and maybe to a lesser extent Bob Kraft, would be likely witnesses, because they would be familiar with his character, they would have worked with him in the time prior to Hernandez allegedly committing these acts. So I do think there’s a chance that Belichick could go on the stand, and maybe Kraft as well.”
Fall River Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh on Monday refused to throw out video surveillance evidence against Hernandez. McCann said that could be bad news for Hernandez.
“That is evidence that does not reflect well on him, there’s no question about it, and it’s going to be difficult for him to explain that away — unless he can say, ‘Well, I normally do that. I lock my house, I defend it,'” McCann said. “Maybe there’s some creative script they can come up with. But yeah, that’s a crucial piece of evidence.”
Meanwhile, Tanya Singleton, Hernandez’s cousin who was charged with criminal contempt after refusing to testify before the grand jury that that indicted the former tight end, intends to change her plea to guilty, her lawyer said Monday.
Singleton had originally pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said she was granted immunity but declined to testify.
E. Peter Parker, Singleton’s lawyer, said during a proceeding in Fall River that she will change her plea at the trial scheduled for Aug. 12.
Singleton pleaded not guilty to a contempt charge in connection to the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012. She also faces charges of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact in the Lloyd case.