Aaron Hernandez’s top lawyer acknowledged Wednesday that he never read the search warrant that Bristol County authorities had obtained for his client’s cellphone before ordering a colleague to hand it over to a uniformed state trooper at the Boston offices of the Ropes & Gray law firm.
Boston attorney Michael K. Fee was called as a witness in Bristol Superior Court, where Fee and other lawyers representing the former New England Patriots player in a first-degree murder case are asking a judge to throw out any evidence gleaned from Hernandez’s Blackberry.
Fee and Hernandez’s other attorneys have filed paperwork insisting that Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office and State Police did not have the right to take the cellphone, which has emerged as a key piece of evidence in the case. Hernandez is accused of killing Odin L. Lloyd in a North Attleborough industrial park on June 17, 2013.
“I didn’t know what the warrant said,’’ Fee told Bristol Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh, who is presiding over the Hernandez case and the trials of two of Hernandez’s associates, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz.
Under questioning by William McCauley, first assistant Bristol district attorney, Fee testified that Hernandez gave him the phone June 18, 2013, when the onetime pro athlete met with him and Fee’s colleague, Robert Jones, at the Ropes & Gray offices at the Prudential Center.
Fee said he planned to have the phone sent out for a forensic examination, but also testified that he had been told by Bristol prosecutors that they would get a search warrant for the phone if Hernandez did not voluntarily hand it over.
Fee said he was driving to his daughter’s 17th birthday party at a Boston restaurant about 7:30 p.m. when Bristol prosecutor Patrick Bomberg phoned and told him authorities had the warrant.
Fee said he then called Jones, told him that authorities would send him a copy of the search warrant, and that Jones should then hand the phone to State Police. Fee said he never saw the search warrant and did not instruct Jones to read it, but said two other Hernandez defense lawyers, James Sultan and Charles Rankin, got copies of the warrant that night.
Later that night, according to testimony, Jones met Trooper Joseph Collins in the public lobby of the Prudential Center and handed over a manila folder with the phone inside it. “It was very cordial,’’ Collins said.
Under cross-examination of Fee, there were many times that the exchange was anything but cordial. At one point, McCauley asked Fee, “Do you consider yourself a competent lawyer?’’
Fee fired back. “Let me think about that,’’ he said in a coldly angry voice. “Yes, I do.’’ Fee said he believed it was his duty to hand over the phone once a search warrant was obtained.
Garsh took the issue under advisement.