Is there hidden meaning in recorded jailhouse calls with former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez after his arrest? Defense attorneys and prosecutors are in a pitch battle over whether a jury should be able to hear them during his ongoing murder trial in its eighth full week of testimony.
Snippets of the conversations are contained in motions filed by both sides. The transcribed excerpts include Hernandez talking with his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and also with his cousin Tanya Singleton. There’s also a debate about calls between Singleton and co-defendant Ernest Wallace.
Prosecutors contend calls involving Wallace, Singleton, and Jenkins, in particular, are proof of an ongoing conspiracy to conceal evidence after the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd.
The defense argues the calls are irrelevant, prejudicial and contain hearsay.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to orchestrating Lloyd’s killing with the help of Wallace and Carlos Ortiz. Wallace and Ortiz have pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately.
Singleton and Jenkins both face charges of their own stemming from Lloyd’s killing. Singleton has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact, accused of helping Wallace escape to Florida. Singleton, suffering from terminal cancer, is expected to be called as a state’s witness. She previously served time for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
In calls between Singleton and Wallace — after he was arrested but before she was jailed on the contempt charge — prosecutors contend she is passing on information from Wallace to Hernandez. At trial, authorities suggest Hernandez was reaching out to Wallace the night Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was discovered.
Jurors have been shown surveillance video and phone records authorities say show Hernandez borrowing his attorney’s cell phone to call Wallace that night from the North Attleboro police station parking lot after Hernandez took apart his own phone.
During previous cross-examination, the defense has argued there is no proof of what that call was about and there was nothing unusual about taking a battery out of a cell phone, then putting it back together.
Hernandez’s fiancée, Jenkins, has pleaded not guilty to lying before a grand jury. Prosecutors suspect her of getting rid of the murder weapon after receiving a coded text message from Hernandez a day after Lloyd’s killing. The jury has seen a home surveillance video of her removing a trash bag from the house and driving away with it in a car. The handgun, believed to be .45-caliber Glock, has never been found.
Court documents state all jailhouse calls are recorded, and detainees are notified by signs and recorded messages that their phone conversations are being monitored.
Below are excerpts of some of the calls the defense wants to quash and prosecutors want the jury to hear:
July 12, 2013 — Call between Tanya Singleton and Ernest Wallace
Wallace: “You tell Ink, tell Ink, I love him, man. I love him.”
Singleton: “I will.”
Wallace: “Tell him no matter what, don’t think I’m la-la-la’ing. I’ll never go against the grain, you hear me?”
Wallace: “Tell him we gotta work together. Tell him we gotta work together.”
July 17, 2013 — Call between Singleton and Wallace
Singleton: “… He said you and him all the way, you know.”
Wallace: “All right. I love that … man.”
Singleton: “He love you, too. …”
Wallace: “I’m riding.”
Singleton: “That’s what he said.”
Wallace: “… I’m riding, you know what I mean. I’m riding.”
Singleton: “Yeah, that’s what he said. And I’ll let her know that you know.”
Wallace: ‘Cause, yo, this la la la got us all into this, man, and they gotta know.”
Singleton: “I know, yeah. it’s gonna be fine. I’m gonna call your lawyer today.”
On August 3, 2013, Jenkins tells her fiancé Hernandez that his cousin Singleton has been jailed for refusing to testify at a grand jury in his case.
Hernandez: “… The longest she’ll do is like probably less than a month … until the grand jury is don(e), investigation, do you know what I mean?”
“The only good thing about Tanya being locked up is she’s gonna lose weight.”
In another call between Jenkins and Hernandez, Jenkins apparently isn’t happy that he’s asking her to put money into Singleton’s jail canteen account.
The defense argues it has no relevance to the murder charge.
Jenkins: “I don’t know why you keep. …”
Hernandez: “She’s got no money in jail.”
Jenkins: “… Why do I have to keep being the one to do that? That’s what you’re not understanding.”
Hernandez: “All right — well –”
Jenkins: “I’m trying to follow what my lawyers are telling me to follow, and then you keep trying to have me do other things.”
Hernandez: “Not really, but I’m saying whatever works for you.”
Some excerpts are singled out by both defense and prosecutors for different reasons. In a call dated July 23, 2013, the defense suggests Hernandez appears to be doing an act of kindness for his loyal cousin by setting up a trust fund for her children.
Hernandez: “I set up an account, don’t tell nobody, for Jano and (Eddie). …
“So, don’t tell nobody. I don’t want nobody to know about it. And I ain’t even telling my own girl, nobody. …
” ‘Cause it already started off at $100,000 for them. …”
In their motion, prosecutors appear to suggest it’s a payoff disguised as a gift.
Will the calls be played in court? On Wednesday, Judge Susan Garsh will hear arguments and then decide whether the state can admit the jailhouse calls as evidence or if they will be barred.