By Daniel Lovering
FALL River, Mass. (Reuters) - New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said on Tuesday former player Aaron Hernandez told him he was innocent of the June 2013 murder he is accused of committing, and that he was at a nightclub at the time.
The team's director of security, Mark Briggs, also said he spoke with Hernandez after the murder. Hernandez "swore on his baby's life that he was telling the truth" about not being involved in the killing, Briggs testified.
Hernandez, 25, had a $41 million contract with the team when he was dropped hours after his arrest on murder and firearms charges in the death of Odin Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player who had been dating his fiancée's sister.
Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
Kraft, who testified first, said he spoke with Hernandez at Gillette Stadium on June 19, 2013, two days after Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found at an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
He said he brought Hernandez into an office connected to a weight room at the stadium and wanted to know whether the tight end was involved in the murder.
"I wanted to get him help," Kraft said. "He said he was not involved, that he was innocent and that he hoped that the time of the murder incident came out," Kraft said. "I believe he said he was in a club."
After the conversation, which lasted five or 10 minutes, Hernandez "hugged and kissed me and thanked me for my concern," Kraft said.
Briggs said he also spoke to Hernadez in the stadium, where Hernandez swore on his baby's life he was innocent. Under cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Fee, Briggs said Hernandez had told him that Lloyd was "like family."
Prosecutors contend that Hernandez and two friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd at his Boston home in the early hours of June 17, 2013, and drove him to the industrial park where he was found dead later that day.
Investigators say Lloyd, 27, was shot five times with a .45-caliber Glock handgun. The weapon has not been found.
They say Hernandez had become upset with Lloyd because he associated with people Hernandez disliked at a Boston nightclub two nights earlier.
Wallace and Ortiz have also been charged with murder and will be tried separately. They have also pleaded not guilty.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Christian Plumb)