Aaron Hernandez: No gang tattoos; report details fight at Florida


Aaron Hernandez was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd on June 26. (Reuters)

Aaron Hernandez, who is being held in the Bristol County (Mass.) jail on murder and gun charges, appears to have no ties to gangs, but a Wall Street Journal report provides new details about serious legal problems dating back as far as 2007, just as his college career in Florida was beginning.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the Boston Herald that the jail’s gang unit continues to investigate possible gang ties and that tattoo examination is part of the usual process of evaluation. “We always take extra precautions. We don’t have any definite issues at this point, but we’re still being very cautious,” Hodgson said.

Hernandez was moved from the medical unit in which he was held and evaluated after his June 26 arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd but will remain isolated from the rest of the jail’s population for another week.

“He’s been very polite, very respectful,” Hodgson said. “He doesn’t seem nervous, which is 
unusual for someone who’s never been incarcerated before. He now has three hours out of his cell each day. That’s an hour outside, by himself, an hour to shower and make phone calls, and another hour to see visitors. . . .

“It’s a big shift in lifestyle, going from a 7,100-square-foot home to a seven-by-10-foot cell. This is a guy who is used to walking into a stadium and having thousands of people cheering his name. Now, he’s just another number, in another uniform. We want to make sure we’re paying attention to that.”

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That preferential treatment may have gone back as far as his days at a 17-year-old at the University of Florida, according to a 2007 police report obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Shortly after he enrolled, he visited The Swamp, a Gainesville, Fla., bar. The Journal reports:

A waitress brought Hernandez two “alcoholic drinks.” After Hernandez finished the drinks, a restaurant employee named Michael Taphorn delivered a bill. Hernandez said he hadn’t ordered the drinks and refused to pay, at which point a “verbal altercation” began between the two men. Hernandez called a witness over to try to intervene, but a resolution couldn’t be reached. Hernandez was told to leave and escorted out by Taphorn.

After stepping outside, according to the report, Hernandez told police Taphorn “got in his face” and began yelling at him. As Taphorn turned to walk away, Hernandez punched him in the side of the head—a fact Hernandez did not dispute.

Taphorn complained of hearing loss in his ear but refused medical treatment on the scene, the report said. The next day, however, doctors discovered his right eardrum had burst, an injury he was told would take four to six weeks to heal, according to the police report.

Benjamin Tobias, a spokesman for the Gainesville police department, said officers did not arrest Hernandez, who was 17 at the time. But given the severity of the injury to the victim, the department recommended a charge of felony battery—a crime that, for adults in Florida, carries a maximum of up to five years in prison.

Hernandez was not charged in the incident and his lawyers did not return a call to the Journal and Urban Meyer, the former Florida coach now at Ohio State, refused Monday afternoon to talk about Hernandez. Taphorn could not be reached for comment, according to the Journal.

Hernandez, 23, was released by the New England Patriots shortly after his arrest and has entered a not-guilty plea to the murder and gun charges. His next court date presently is July 24, for a probable cause hearing, but his legal problems may not be limited to the present charges. Boston authorities are investigating whether Hernandez was involved in the 2012 shooting deaths of two men and a civil suit in Florida alleges that he shot an acquaintance in a car after an argument in a Miami strip club. No charges have been filed.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

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After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · July 1, 2013