ATTLEBORO, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez was due in court on Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing on murder charges that could reveal new details in the latest National Football League scandal.
Hernandez was arrested on June 26, nine days after police found the bullet-riddled corpse of a friend, Odin Lloyd, in an industrial park near Hernandez’s house in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. He was cut from the Patriots on the same day as his arrest.
The Hernandez case is the latest setback for the NFL, which over the years has struggled with a string of scandals involving players - from O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in 1995 to dog fighting, injury bounties, spying and gambling.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyers say the case against him is circumstantial.
Lloyd, a 27-year old semi-professional football player in Boston, was found dead on June 17.
Prosecutors said Hernandez had soured on Lloyd a few nights before the killing after they had been at a nightclub where Lloyd spoke to people with whom Hernandez said he had trouble.
The prosecutors said Hernandez, accompanied by two friends, drove Lloyd to the industrial park, where he shot him five times, twice while Lloyd lay helpless on the ground.
The former tight end also faces a civil suit filed by a Connecticut man, who claims Hernandez shot him in the face after a night together at a Miami strip club in February. Florida police dropped the case after the man, Alexander Bradley, declined to cooperate with investigators.
The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that prosecutors have also begun presenting a case to a grand jury that Hernandez should be charged in the shooting death of two men on a Boston street last July, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials.
The Suffolk County prosecutor’s office and Boston police declined comment on that case on Wednesday.
Hernandez, who was a key piece of the Patriot’s offense, had recently signed a $41 million contract with the Patriots, one of the league’s top teams.
He is being held without bail at a county jail.
Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe