Seizing ex-NFL player Hernandez's phone was legal: prosecutors

Tue Sep 30, 2014 4:40pm EDT
 
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By Daniel Lovering

FALL RIVER Mass. (Reuters) - Authorities lawfully seized the cell phone of ex-National Football League star Aaron Hernandez days before he was arrested and charged with murdering a man hear his Massachusetts home, a prosecutor testified on Tuesday.

The claim came in response to a charge by attorneys for the former New England Patriots tight end that investigators had no authority to seize the phone from Hernandez's attorneys' office the day after police found semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd's bullet-riddled body in an industrial park.

Prosecutors used cell phone records showing Hernandez summoning Lloyd to his home, as well as fearful texts from Lloyd to his sister, as part of their evidence when they charged the former player in June 2013.

Patrick Bomberg, Bristol County assistant district attorney, testified on Tuesday he had obtained a search warrant, sent a copy to Hernandez's attorney and confirmed it was "squared away" before authorities took possession of the phone."There was never any objection," he said at a hearing at Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts. "The suggestion was he wanted to be cooperative."Defense attorneys have moved to suppress some of the evidence in the case, including the cell phone and related records, along with items taken from Hernandez's house and car, arguing they fell outside the scope of warrants obtained by prosecutors.Hernandez, who wore a shirt and tie and did not speak during Tuesday's proceedings, has pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges in connection with Lloyd's death. He also has pleaded not guilty to charges that he shot two men dead outside a Boston nightclub in 2012 after a fight over a spilled drink.

Defense attorneys said the seizure of the phone from the law firm Ropes & Gray on June 18, 2013, was "not authorized by warrant and resulted from an improper claim of lawful authority and the unlawful custodial interrogation of the defendant," according to court documents.In August, Judge Susan Garsh threw out some electronic evidence from two smartphones and three tablets seized from Hernandez's home because they were not listed in a police search warrant.The hearing on the defense motions to throw out evidence was set to resume on Wednesday.

Hernandez was a rising NFL star with a $41 million contract when he was arrested at his home days after Lloyd's murder. He was cut from the team within hours of his arrest.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Walsh)

 
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez appears for a hearing ahead of his upcoming trial on charges of murdering a semi-professional football player near his home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts in 2013 at Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, September 30, 2014.   REUTERS/Ted Fitzgerald/Pool