Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot charged with killing three people, suffered a legal setback Friday when a Bristol Superior Court judge denied his motion to toss key evidence from the athlete’s cellphone.
In a 22-page ruling, Judge E. Susan Garsh wrote that Hernandez’s lawyers voluntarily turned over the phone to State Police on the evening of June 18, 2013, one day after the killing of Odin Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester.
Hernandez, 24, and two co-defendants, Carlos Ortiz, 28, and Ernest Wallace, 42, have pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the slaying of Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial yard near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home.
According to court records, Hernandez’s lawyers argued that State Police obtained the phone from one of his lawyers at the Boston office of Ropes & Gray under a “false claim of legal authority,” which Garsh rejected.
A warrant had authorized State Police to seize the phone from Hernandez, but when troopers searched his house on June 18, the device was at his lawyers’ office, records show.
Patrick Bomberg, a Bristol County prosecutor, informed Hernandez’s defense team that officials had a warrant for their client’s phone.
“At no point during this conversation did Bomberg, explicitly or implicitly, claim authority under the warrant to send a state trooper to the offices of Ropes & Gray to seize the phone or indicate that the State Police were on the way to Ropes & Gray to seize the phone under the authority of the warrant,” Garsh wrote.
One of Hernandez’s lawyers, Robert Jones, later handed over the phone to a trooper.
“The turning over of the phone was a voluntary act,” Garsh wrote. “It was not the result of force, threat, trickery, duress, or coercion.”
The ruling is significant in part because Hernandez allegedly texted Lloyd in the hours before the killing, including one message where he arranged to pick up Lloyd at his Dorchester residence.
“I’m coming to grab that tonight,” Hernandez texted, according to court records. “u gon b around I need dat and we could step for a little again.”
Prosecutors have also said that Hernandez summoned Wallace and Ortiz to Massachusetts from Connecticut via text message in the hours before the murder.
A spokesman for District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter declined to comment on Garsh’s ruling, citing a gag order.
A lawyer for Hernandez did not return a call seeking comment.
In a related ruling, Garsh also allowed other evidence seized from Hernandez’s home, including a square-shaped bowl that authorities believed contained marijuana residue and a scale next to the dish.
Garsh, however, ruled out using a white towel found at the house as evidence.
Prosecutors had said the towel appeared similar to one observed in service station surveillance camera images of the occupants of Hernandez’s vehicle around the time of the killing and appeared similar to a towel found at the murder scene.
Also Friday, Garsh rejected a motion from Shayanna Jenkins, the mother of Hernandez’s child, to dismiss a perjury indictment pending against her.
Jenkins is charged with lying to the grand jury hearing evidence in Lloyd’s slaying.
Garsh wrote that the grand jury heard “probable cause” to believe Jenkins had lied, including when she responded “not from my knowledge, no,” when asked on the stand in August 2013 if she had spoken to Wallace after Lloyd’s death in June.
Telephone records indicate that Wallace and Jenkins exchanged 11 calls on the day after Lloyd’s killing, according to court filings.
Jenkins’s lawyer could not be reached for comment on Friday night. She remains free on personal recognizance.
Prosecutors on Friday also filed their opposition to a motion from Hernandez’s lawyers to move his trial out of Bristol County, writing that while media coverage of the case has been extensive, “the defend-ant has failed to show that it has so inflamed and pervasively prejudiced” potential jur-ors.
In a separate case, Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in Suffolk County to murder charges in the 2012 fatal drive-by shootings of two men in Boston’s South End.