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The New England Patriots don't owe "another penny" to former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is charged in three killings, a team lawyer told a judge Wednesday.
Attorney Andrew Phelan said the team terminated its contract with Hernandez shortly after he was charged last year in the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. He said the team does not believe it owes Hernandez a $3.25 million contract signing bonus.
"The Patriots believe under the terms of that contract that they owe not another penny to Mr. Hernandez," Phelan said during a hearing in Suffolk Superior Court on wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, two Boston men prosecutors say were also killed by Hernandez.
The families' lawyer, William Kennedy, asked for an order barring the Patriots from paying Hernandez the $3.25 million if the team is ever ordered to do so by an arbitrator. According to the lawsuit filed by Kennedy, Hernandez has filed a grievance seeking the money, plus $82,000 he says is owed to him by the team.
But Judge Bonnie MacLeod said the team is already subject to a similar order in the Lloyd case and accepted a signed stipulation from the Patriots. The agreement says the Patriots will inform the court if an arbitrator orders them to pay Hernandez and will be subject to any further orders from the court on the matter, Kennedy said.
Kennedy also asked to add the Patriots organization as a defendant in the lawsuit. He said his primary goal in adding the team was to be able to get information on the terms of Hernandez's contract with the Patriots in an effort to try to secure assets for the families in the event they are awarded damages by a jury. Each family is asking for $6 million in damages.
MacLeod said she would take that request under advisement, but was leaning against adding the team as defendants. The judge said Kennedy has other ways of getting the information he is looking for from the Patriots.
Hernandez's attorney, John Fitzpatrick, argued in court papers that the attempt to prevent the team from paying Hernandez is "fundamentally unfair" because Hernandez needs the money to pay for his defense in the three killings and the civil cases.
Depriving Hernandez access to his earnings "would impair his state and federal constitutional rights to counsel and to due process," he wrote.
In court Wednesday, Fitzpatrick said he is not arguing that Hernandez needs the money or that Hernandez does not want any money to go to the bereaved families. He said it is clear that the judge in the Odin Lloyd case has already asserted authority over Hernandez's assets.
Fitzpatrick expressed sympathy for the men's families and also mentioned Hernandez.
"I have a client who is sitting in a jail who has fallen about as low as one can fall," he said.
Hernandez is accused of fatally shooting the two men in 2012 while they sat in their car at a stop light after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on Hernandez at a Boston nightclub. The 2012 shootings took place weeks before Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots.
Lloyd's body was found in an industrial area near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the three killings.