EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

National News

February 8, 2014

Prosecutors lose bid for ex-NFL star's phone calls

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A judge rejected a request yesterday by prosecutors in ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez’s murder case for his jailhouse phone recordings, then ordered them to turn over to the defense copies of calls they acknowledged already having.

Judge Susan Garsh said prosecutors did not make a sufficient case for her to order the Bristol County sheriff to release the recordings, but she is allowing them to make the request anew. She said they must provide more information about what led them to believe the recordings are relevant to the case.

Prosecutors are also seeking records of Hernandez’s jailhouse visits, including from his fiancee and cousin, both of whom face charges in connection with the case.

Defense attorney James Sultan called the state’s request “grossly overbroad” and said prosecutors are on a “fishing expedition.”

The ex-NFL player has pleaded not guilty to murder in the killing of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston man who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. Lloyd, a semi-professional football player was found dead June 17 near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home.

Hernandez is being held without bail at the Dartmouth jail.

Prosecutors’ original filing said the sheriff’s department had voluntarily provided “the contents of some of the defendant’s telephone conversations.” But they disclosed in court for the first time that they have some of the actual recordings. That irked both the defense and the judge, who questioned why the materials hadn’t yet been turned over to Hernandez’s attorneys. She ordered the prosecution to do so by Monday.

Sultan accused the jail and the Bristol County district attorney’s office of being in a “bizarre partnership,” saying the jail was acting as an “arm of the prosecution” by handing over information it thought the state would be interested in.

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