NEW YORK (AFP) – Famously taciturn New England coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday he was shocked and saddened by the case that has former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez facing a murder charge.
Speaking publicly about the case for the first time as the NFL team gathered for training camp, Belichick offered his sympathy to the family of the victim and said the Patriots would continue to review their methods of evaluating players.
“It’s really a sad day on so many levels. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim, and I extend my sympathy with everyone who has been impacted,” Belichick said at a press conference at the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
“A young man lost his life, and his family has suffered a tragic loss, and there’s no way to understate that.”
Hernandez was arrested on June 26 and charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd on June 17.
Lloyd’s bloodied body was found at an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s luxury home.
Hernandez pleaded not guilty, but less than two hours after he was arrested and led from his house in handcuffs, the Patriots cut ties with him.
Hernandez appeared briefly in court on Wednesday in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where Judge Daniel O’Shea agreed to prosecutors’ request to reschedule a probable cause hearing for August 22.
Prosecutors said the 30-day delay in the hearing — where a judge is asked to decide if a defendant should be held for trial — will allow a grand jury time to hear evidence and issue an indictment.
It also meant prosecutors didn’t have to reveal evidence at the hearing.
Hernandez will remain jailed without bail until August 22. Defense attorney James Sultan objected to the delay, arguing that prosecutors could have waited to bring charges if they hadn’t gathered enough evidence to support their case.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two associates murdered Lloyd in an execution-style slaying because Hernandez was angry his friend had spoken with people he “had troubles with.”
Belichick declined to answer specific questions about the case, or whether he had been in touch with Hernandez, saying he had been advised not to comment on an ongoing legal case.
But however Hernandez’s case turns out, Belichick made it clear the matter had shaken the entire Patriots club.
“Having someone involved in your organization that’s involved in a murder investigation is a terrible thing,” Belichick said.
“After consultation with ownership, we acted swiftly and decisively. Robert (Kraft) and his family and I, since I got here in 2000, have always emphasized the need for our team and players and organization to represent the community in the right way, both on and off the field.
“We’ve worked very hard together over the past 14 years to put together a winning team that’s a pillar in the community.”
Photo Credit: AFP/Mike Ehrmann