Prosecutors are seeking to obtain copies of jailhouse recordings in which former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez allegedly discussed the June 17 slaying of Odin Lloyd and used a code to communicate with people outside prison, according to court filing Thursday.
Meanwhile, a separate document filed Friday by Hernandez’s defense team suggests that Carlos Ortiz, a friend of Hernandez who was once thought to be a potential star witness in the case, may not play a role in the prosecution of the former NFL star.
As they continue to build a case, prosecutors have turned their focus to jailhouse recordings of phone calls Hernandez has made to his fiancee and to one of his cousins, as well as visitor logs that show who he has seen since being incarcerated.
Prosecutors said Hernandez’s visitors include his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, and a cousin, Tanya Cummings Singleton, both of whom also face charges in the Lloyd homicide investigation.
“Both of these codefendants have been charged as accessories in the underlying offense of murder on the theory that they provided assistance to the defendant after the commission of that offense,’’ Assistant Bristol District Attorney Roger L Michel Jr. wrote in an affidavit supporting the request for tapes and records.
“The defendant has discussed the following matters directly relevant to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Odin Lloyd,” Michel wrote, adding that the recordings are believed to include Hernandez’s speculating about his criminal liability, using code language, and talking about other details of the case.
It remains unclear whether the Bristol County sheriff’s office has released the call recordings to prosecutors, and the specific content of those recordings remains unknown.
Both detainees and people they call are warned by the jail that their conversations are recorded. Calls between Hernandez and his attorneys cannot be released or used against him, but prosecutors have the option of introducing any information gleaned from recordings of Hernandez’s conversations with others.
Prosecutors filed the court motion the same day that Cummings Singleton posted $15,000 cash bail. She had remained behind bars for months, facing charges she helped Wallace, another alleged Hernandez accomplice, leave the state after Lloyd’s murder.
The use of jailhouse recordings is relatively common in criminal cases.
“This is pretty standard,” said Gregg Miliote, spokesman for the Bristol district attorney’s office. “Taped recordings and jail conversations have been used in many previous criminal cases.”
Prosecutors have said that Hernandez, Ortiz, and a third man, Ernest Wallace, were present on the night Lloyd’s bullet-ridden body was abandoned in a North Attleborough industrial park close to Hernandez’s home.
In an interview with police just hours after he was arrested, Ortiz told police that he was sleeping in the back seat of the car at the time Lloyd was killed and that he did not know who shot him.
That testimony, as well as the fact that Ortiz initially only faced a gun charge in relation to the crime, led some to speculate that Ortiz would serve as a star witness during the upcoming trial.
However, as part of a request for copies of any and all additional statements Ortiz has made to police, defense attorneys say that the prosecution has told them Ortiz is not credible and would not be called as a witness at the trial.
“You informed us that you had concluded that Carlos Ortiz was completely unreliable and that you did not intend to call him as a prosecution witness at trial,” defense attorney James Sultan wrote in a Dec. 16 letter to Assistant District Attorney William McCauley.
Defense attorneys have argued often in court that they have not been provided all the discovery evidence that has been gathered allegedly linking Hernandez to the slaying. In a court motion filed Friday they asked prosecutors to state on the record that the defense team has now been provided with all relevant evidence.
Fall River attorney John Connors, who is representing Ortiz, did not respond to requests for comment.
According to court records, Ortiz admitted to law enforcement officials that he was present on the night of Lloyd’s killing, and surveillance tape from Hernandez’s home showed him wielding a weapon during the early morning hours that followed, prosecutors said.
The defense motion filed Friday also alleges that on the night of his initial interview with police Ortiz was told that the towel found next to Lloyd’s body had his DNA on it.
While Ortiz was initially charged with possessing a gun without a license, he was later indicted as an accessory to murder after the fact.
A spokesman for Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office would not confirm whether prosecutors have told the defense that Ortiz will not be used as a witness.
Hernandez is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday for a pretrial hearing.