published Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Search warrants to be released in Aaron Hernandez case

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass.
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — More details could be released soon about the murder investigation involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as search warrants in the case may be unsealed.

A judge has granted a motion by news organizations to lift an impoundment of the material, saying he would do so by 2 p.m. Tuesday if there is no challenge by prosecutors and defense attorneys who had argued to keep it sealed.

Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter said he won’t appeal the judge’s Monday ruling. It wasn’t immediately clear if defense attorneys would.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder and gun charges in the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd. His lawyers argue the case against him is circumstantial and say he is eager to clear his name. A judge has denied bail for Hernandez, and he is being held in a Massachusetts jail. Police searched his home several times during the investigation.

Two other men face lesser charges in the case. One of them, Carlos Ortiz, is due in Attleboro District Court Tuesday morning to determine if he could get bail on a gun charge.

Ortiz, who lives in Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, Conn., was arraigned last month on a charge of illegally carrying a firearm on the day of the shooting. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Ortiz has a so-called “dangerousness” hearing. Defendants who are deemed by the court to be a danger to the community may be held without bail for 90 days.

On Monday, Ernest Wallace, who is facing an accessory to murder charge, pleaded not guilty in the same court. The Miramar, Fla., man will be held without bail until another hearing on July 22, under an agreement between his attorney and prosecutors.

Details of the charge against Wallace — accessory to murder after the fact — were not released during the brief proceeding. Sutter, the district attorney, declined to comment on the specific allegations outside the courthouse, citing the ongoing investigation.

Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, was found slain on June 17 at an industrial park in North Attleborough not far from Hernandez’s home. The 27-year-old Lloyd’s relatives say he was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee and that the two men were friends.

Prosecutors say Wallace, 41, and Ortiz, were with Hernandez when they drove with Lloyd to the industrial park. Authorities say Hernandez orchestrated the killing because he was upset at Lloyd for talking to certain people at a nightclub a few days earlier; they have not said who fired the fatal shots.

Wallace did not speak during his hearing but mouthed “I love you” to some people sitting in the courtroom before he was led out. Defense attorney David Meier did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A member of the Lloyd family declined to comment outside the courthouse, saying she would wait until the case was over.

It was during a separate hearing Monday in the same courthouse that a judge lifted the search warrant impoundment order. Motions to unseal the material were filed by The Patriot Ledger and Taunton Gazette newspapers and their parent Gatehouse Media, supported by The Associated Press and separately by The Boston Globe.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday that if the charges against Hernandez are true, his organization has been “duped.” The Patriots last year signed Hernandez to a five-year contract worth $40 million but released him the day of his arrest.

“If this stuff is true, then I’ve been duped and our whole organization has been duped,” Kraft said in a session with reporters from The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and ESPNBoston.com. “When he was in our building, we never saw anything where he was not polite. He was always respectful to me. We only know what’s going on inside the building. We don’t put private eyes on people.”

Kraft also said the Patriots will “be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things” with regard to character reviews.

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