By Daniel Lovering
FALL RIVER Mass. (Reuters) - Lawyers for ex-National Football League star Aaron Hernandez squabbled with prosecutors in court on Wednesday over whether law enforcement had legally seized his cellphone as evidence while investigating a shooting death last year.
Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, is awaiting trial on charges of murdering semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd last year, and prosecutors want to use the phone as evidence in his trial, due to begin in January.
The player, who spoke quietly to his attorneys during Wednesday's proceeding, has also been charged with shooting two men to death outside a Boston nightclub in 2012 after a dispute over a spilled drink. He will be tried separately on that charge.
Hernandez's attorneys have argued in court filings that authorities had no authority to seize the phone the day after police discovered Lloyd's bullet-riddled body in an industrial park near Hernandez's home.
They want Judge Susan Garsh to block prosecutors from using at trial the cellphone and related records, along with items taken from Hernandez's house and car, arguing they fell outside the scope of warrants obtained by prosecutors.Joseph Collins, a Massachusetts state police trooper, said he picked up the phone in the lobby of a Boston office building where Hernandez's attorney, Robert Jones, had his offices. The interaction was brief and cordial, Collins said, and there was no objection to his taking the phone.Another of Hernandez's lawyers, Michael Fee, testified that he had told Patrick Bomberg, an assistant district attorney in Bristol County, "very squarely I don't know what's on that phone, and until we do there will be no voluntary surrender of that phone."He said Bomberg told him authorities would seek a warrant for the phone.
"I said: 'If you secure a warrant, that's different, we'll honor the warrant,'" Fee testified. "But there was no agreement we would blindly produce that phone under any circumstances."
(Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)