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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ex-Pats player pleads not guilty in 2012 killings

BOSTON (AP) – Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the 2012 deaths of two men he allegedly gunned down after an encounter inside a Boston nightclub.

Hernandez appeared in Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday afternoon in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. A third man was wounded. ...

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BOSTON (AP) – Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the 2012 deaths of two men he allegedly gunned down after an encounter inside a Boston nightclub.

Hernandez appeared in Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday afternoon in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. A third man was wounded.

A family member of one of the victims sobbed loudly as Hernandez entered his not guilty plea to seven charges.

Hernandez already faces charges in the 2013 murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating a sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. He was released by the Patriots last summer after his arrest in Lloyd’s shooting death.

A spilled drink in a Boston nightclub led Hernandez to kill two people in a drive-by shooting two years ago, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Hernandez felt disrespected after a stranger bumped into him and spilled his drink, prompting him to follow the man and his friends then open fire on their car at a red light.

“I think I got one in the head and one in the chest,” Hernandez told a friend as they fled the intersection, prosecutors said at the former gridiron star’s arraignment.

Hernandez will continue to be held without bail. He is due back in court June 24 for a scheduling hearing.

In the months before the killings, Suffolk County First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan told the court Hernandez had become increasingly convinced that people “had been testing, trying or otherwise disrespecting him when he frequented nightclubs in the area.”

The night de Abreu and Furtado were killed, Haggan said Hernandez and a friend drove from Connecticut to a Boston nightclub called Cure. They were standing at the edge of the dance floor when de Abreu accidentally bumped into Hernandez, smiled at him and did not apologize, according to prosecutors. Haggan said de Abreu and his friends did not appear to recognize Hernandez and had no idea he was upset.

Hernandez became increasingly agitated and told his friend that de Abreu had deliberately bumped into him and “was trying him,” Haggan said.

Surveillance video outside the club shows Hernandez pacing back and forth on the sidewalk as his friend tried to calm him down, Haggan said. Hernandez and his friend then crossed the street to another nightclub, where Hernandez thought he saw de Abreu and his friends come in, according to Haggan.

Hernandez then told his friend he believed he was “being targeted and being disrespected,” Haggan said. In fact, de Abreu and his friends had not left the other club.

Haggan said Hernandez later drove around with his friend until he saw de Abreu, Furtado and others going to their car, then followed them and pulled up alongside their car at a red light.

“At this time, the victims were completely unaware there was any problem with the defendant,” Haggan said.

Hernandez leaned out the driver’s side, said “Yo, what’s up now,” followed by a racial slur, then fired at least five shots into the car, killing de Abreu and Furtado, and injuring a man sitting in the back seat, Haggan said.

Hernandez’s attorney, Charles Rankin, objected, saying the prosecutor’s account of the shooting was an attempt to poison the jury pool. Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson dismissed the objection, saying it is standard procedure for prosecutors to describe evidence during arraignments in murder cases.

Family members of the victims filled four rows in the courtroom.

De Abreu and Furtado were close friends who attended school and served in the military together in Cape Verde before coming to the United States, according to the attorney who represents their families in a $6 million civil suit against Hernandez.

The two men were shot about six weeks before Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots. He went on to catch 51 passes and score five touchdowns that season, his last in the NFL.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley would not comment when reporters asked if Lloyd’s killing was linked to the earlier killings of de Abreu and Furtado. He said Lloyd was not the friend who was with Hernandez the night the two men were killed.