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Aaron Hernandez’s attorney on K&C: Bill Belichick knew Hernandez feared for his safety

04.17.17 at 8:57 am ET
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Aaron Hernandez was acquitted Friday in a 2012 double-murder case. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA Today Sports)

Aaron Hernandez was acquitted Friday in a 2012 double-murder case. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA Today Sports)

One of Aaron Hernandez’s lead defense attorneys said Monday the Patriots knew about certain aspects of Hernandez’s unsavory off-field life, including that he feared for his safety.

In an interview on Kirk & Callahan, Ronald Sullivan, who successfully defended Hernandez in the 2012 double-murder case, said the former Patriots tight end told Belichick during a trip to Indiana in 2013 he felt his life was in danger. That anecdote coincides with reports that Hernandez visited Belichick at the 2013 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which were first published in the Rolling Stone. The defense subpoenaed Belichick to testify at the trial, but ultimately decided against it.

According to Sullivan, Hernandez thought Alexander Bradley, the prosecution’s star witness, was going to kill him. He shared this concern with Belichick, who recommended precautions that could be taken.

“Belichick said he would help [Hernandez] with certain security measures here internally in Boston, but that he wasn’t in a position to trade him,” Sullivan said. “This would’ve gone to the notion that Alexander Bradley was in fact, of the two, this enforcer type, this drug enforcer, this killer type, and we were going to put evidence on to that effect. But in the end, we didn’t need to, and I think that decision was correct.”

The Rolling Stone story quotes an unnamed Hernandez associate who says Belichick told the ex-NFL star to lay low and rent a safe house. During the 2013 Odin Lloyd trial, jurors visited Hernandez’s apartment in Franklin, which contained several pieces of evidence that tied him to the shooting. Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder in the case.

“The term ‘flophouse’ is a characterization,” Sullivan said. “The Patriots did recommend apartments in other areas that were close enough for him to get back-and-forth from work. How the ultimate decision was made as to which apartment to get, that’s a longer story. But that was one of the recommendations, including the security system in his primary home that they went out and looked for other apartments where he might, at least, [live in during the season]. And in the offseason, he’d be out of state some place.”

In the double homocide case, the prosecution contested Hernandez killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a July 2012 shooting after one of them had spilled a drink on Hernandez at a club. The defense pinned the murders on Bradley, an ex-Hernandez confidante who’s currently serving a prison sentence in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford club. Though Sullivan wouldn’t comment on the particulars of the Lloyd case, he said he thinks an appeal is possible.

“I do think he has a better than average chance of getting the first case overturned,” Sullivan said. “You guys saw the trial. There were some things in the trial that would allow for an appeal. And clearly, back to the case that I do know a lot about, had the jury convicted in this case –– and I didn’t think there was any chance, to be frank, of a conviction in this case given the quality of evidence that was put on –– there was ample reversible error in this case.”

In his post-trial remarks Friday, Sullivan called Hernandez a “beautiful young man.” He said he stands by the characterization.

“I’m sure he hung out with a crowd that was probably not the best for him –– was definitely not the best for him. I’m not making a comment on what he was like three or four years ago. I didn’t know him then,” Sullivan said. “I just commented on the individual who I know now. I definitely stand by that. … That’s the Aaron that I know. It was certainly an honor to represent him in this case, because there was a total absence of evidence connecting Aaron to this crime. It was really a tragedy.”

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