Defense attorneys for former NFL star Aaron Hernandez have renewed their request for a gag order in his case, accusing Bristol County prosecutors of “orchestrating a publicity stunt” by tipping off a media outlet that another NFL player was going to be served a subpoena last month.
In a motion filed in Fall River Superior Court Thursday, defense attorneys accused prosecutors of deliberately leaking word that a subpoena would be served to Miami Dolphins player Michael Pouncey — a long-time friend of Hernandez’s — after an Oct. 27 game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end, is currently being held without bail on first-degree murder and firearms charges in the death of Odin L. Lloyd, a Dorchester man who was found fatally shot June 17 in North Attleborough, near Hernandez’s home.
The subpoena summoned Pouncey to appear before a grand jury currently hearing evidence linking Hernandez to multiple gun charges, a law enforcement official has told the Globe. It was served by Massachusetts State Police detectives.
The subpoena was first reported by Sports Illustrated reporters Pete Thamel and Greg A. Bedard, who cited law enforcement sources who told them it might be linked to a probe into interstate gun trafficking.
Hernandez’s lawyers, who had previously been denied a gag order, renewed their request and asked the judge to convene a special hearing to determine whether prosecutors gave Sports Illustrated a heads-up that Pouncey would be subpoenaed.
The Sports Illustrated report quickly spread nationwide, and was matched by several media outlets.
In a story following the Sports Illustrated report, the Globe also reported that investigators were looking into whether Pouncey could provide information about a photo of Hernandez holding a gun that was taken while the two were teammates at the University of Florida.
In the motion filed this week, first reported by The Herald News, defense attorneys alleged that the massive amount of pretrial publicity linked to the anonymously sourced reports violated a judge’s earlier ruling that didn’t completely gag prosecutors but barred them from making prejudicial statements about the case outside of the courtroom.
“The commonwealth has been afforded the benefit of the doubt by the court and have now shown in no uncertain terms that they do not deserve it,” Hernandez’s lead defense attorney Michael Fee wrote in the motion. “The court must intervene to prevent the commonwealth and its agents from rigging the scales of justice in the commonwealth’s favor by methodically eroding the likelihood that a fair and impartial jury could ever be assembled.”
Prosecutors have until Dec. 3 to formally respond.
In a statement provided to the Globe, Bristol district attorney’s spokesman Gregg Miliote said that prosecutors “vehemently deny the allegations.”
“We have made no improper disclosures in this case,” Miliote said. “In fact, from Day One, we have been committed to maintaining a media environment that will protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
He added that prosecutors would be in favor of the judge calling a hearing to determine whether prosecutors are the ones leaking to the media.
“The fact is that much of the information published by the media about investigatory aspects of this case has proven to be inaccurate. Additionally, numerous media reports have described investigators in this case as tight-lipped,” Miliote wrote. “Therefore, defense claims that members of law enforcement involved in this homicide investigation have provided any prohibited information to the media is clearly false.”