FALL River, Mass. (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez insisted he had nothing to do with the shooting death of an acquaintance near his home when the team's owner and security director confronted him, a jury at his trial heard on Tuesday.
Billionaire business magnate and Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Hernandez told him he was innocent of the June 2013 murder of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd, and team security director Mark Briggs said Hernandez "swore on his baby's life he was telling the truth."
Hernandez, 25, had a $41 million contract with the National Football League team but was dropped hours after his arrest in June, 2013 on murder and firearms charges in the death of Lloyd, who had been dating his fiancée's sister. Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison if convicted.
His trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, began in January.
Kraft, who testified first on Tuesday, said he spoke with Hernandez at Gillette Stadium on June 19, 2013, two days after Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found at an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
He said he brought him into an office to ask the tight end about the murder.
"He said he was not involved, that he was innocent," Kraft said. "I believe he said he was in a club" the night of the killing.
Briggs said he also spoke to Hernandez in the stadium, where Hernandez swore on his baby's life he was innocent. Under cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Fee, Briggs said Hernandez had told him that Lloyd was "like family."
The defense team has argued Hernandez would not have shot Lloyd because the two were friends.
Prosecutors say Hernandez killed Lloyd after becoming upset with him because he associated with people Hernandez disliked at a Boston nightclub two nights earlier. They say he and two friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd at his Boston home early on June 17, 2013, and drove him to the industrial park where he was found dead later that day.
Witnesses have testified that Hernandez and his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter, were at a Providence, Rhode Island, bar hours before the murder took place. Wallace and Ortiz have also been charged with murder and will be tried separately. They have also pleaded not guilty.
Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Christian Plumb