Bad Boys of Sport VI: Aaron Hernandez

February 8, 2014
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Above image by Jeffrey Beall 

Aaron Hernandez is currently under arraignment at the Bristol County jail in Massachusetts on various charges involving first-degree murder, gun-possession and ties to gangs. A number of reports in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post show serious legal problems dating as far back in his college career in 2007 at the University of Florida. Details of his problem years in high school may be unavailable owing to his juvenile status, but rumors of violent behavior in his hometown go back as far as 2000. Meanwhile, the NFL and the jail’s gang unit continues to investigate possible gang ties and an examination of the scores of tattoos is currently being evaluated.

Describing his behavior as a mixture of studied politeness to his captors while simultaneously keeping up a boastful Twitter campaign in which he boasts of both his innocence and ‘street credibility,’ Hernandez was moved from the medical unit in which he was held and evaluated after his June 26 (2013) arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd but kept isolated from the rest of the jail’s population.

“It’s a big shift in lifestyle, going from a 7,100-square-foot home to a seven-by-10-foot cell,” District Attorney Michael Hodgson said. “This is a guy who is used to walking into a stadium and having thousands of people cheering his name. Now, he’s just another number, in another uniform.”

Image by Jack Newton from Austin, TX, USA

Yet such preferential favoritism goes back to his being a 17-year-old at the University of Florida. Rumors of students not being paid for the papers they wrote for him and, according to a 2007 police report, a night of bad behavior at The Swamp, a bar in Gainesville. After a waitress brought Hernandez two “alcoholic drinks.” which he drank but refused to pay for, the waitress sent a bouncer, Michael Taphorn, to deliver the bill. An argument ensued. Taphorn escorted Hernandez outside. A  “verbal altercation” then began before Hernandez punched him in the side of the head, bursting Taphorn’s right eardrum. Yet Hernandez was not charged in the incident. His coach at the team, Urban Meyer, now at Ohio State, has refused to talk about Hernandez or his interference in the incident.

All of this and a series of domestic incidents which Meyer was also instrumental in having expunged or ignored might be neither here nor there had Hernandez, 23 at the time of arraignment, not also been piggy-in-the-middle of two other investigations. One is a Boston investigation into a 2012 murder where Hernandez is suspected in the shooting deaths of two men. Another is a civil suit out of Miami’s Dade County, which accuses him of shooting ‘an acquaintance’ in the face in a car after an argument in a Miami strip club. No charges have been filed.

At any rate, Hernandez seems to have murdered a friend named Odin Lloyd over his talking tittle-tattle to the wrong people at a nightclub on the night of June 17 at 3:40 a.m. in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Lloyd, 27, a semi-pro football player with the Boston Bandits, had known Hernandez for about a year and was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancé, the mother of Hernandez’s 8-month-old baby. Lloyd’s body was discovered by a jogger in the remote part of an industrial park only half a mile from Hernandez’s home. Lloyd had been shot multiple times, including twice from above as he was lying on the ground and five .45 caliber casings were found at the scene.

Police, according to the Wall Street Journal, have in their possession footage from a series of surveillance cameras showing all four at Hernandez’s house, driving his silver on the highway and driving down a gravel road, some of which are purported to show Hernandez carrying an automatic pistol.

Consequently Hernandez was cut by the NFL team, just two hours after he was arrested and led from his North Attleborough home in handcuffs. What went wrong? How had a 2011 Pro Bowl selection, one who had already signed a five-year contract in the summer of 2012 with the Patriots worth $40m, gone wrong? Gang affiliations in the one-parent household Aaron Hernandez grew up in are strong. The Bloods tattoos on his arms and inner thighs seem to have been in place since his recruitment as an eleven-year-old. Two friends since kindergarten days, Antonio Wallace, 24, and Carlos Ortiz, 27, were arrested in Hernandez’s hometown, Bristol, Connecticut, as part of the murder investigation. New Britain State’s Attorney Brian Preleski said that these young men have already been friends for 20 years.

It’s hard to feel pity for the Patriots. Why Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 out of the University of Florida, where he was an All-American, is now a thorny question. Urban Meyer is an old friend of the Patriots guru-type coach, Bill Bellichek and he seems to have recommended the young man after a number of teams at the draft had passed him over before New England picked him in the fourth round. Sadly, Hernandez became a father Nov. 6, 20-12, and had tweeted and Facebook-ed the world saying he intended to change his ways: “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m going to try to do the right things.”

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