FALL RIVER — Aaron Hernandez lied to his cancer-stricken cousin about setting up a trust fund for her two sons, prosecutors asserted Wednesday, in order to keep her from talking to investigators after Hernandez was arrested for allegedly orchestrating the killing of Odin L. Lloyd.
Bristol County prosecutor Patrick Bomberg made the allegation about the trust fund during a hearing in Bristol Superior Court in the first-degree murder trial of Hernandez, a former star tight end for the New England Patriots.
During oral arguments held out of the jury’s presence but that were open to the media, prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh to allow them to play recordings for jurors of some of Hernandez’s jailhouse phone calls, including conversations with his cousin, Tanya Singleton.
Singleton, who is battling late-stage breast cancer, was jailed for several months for refusing to testify before two grand juries investigating Hernandez, one in Bristol County and one in Suffolk County.
During one call in July 2013, Hernandez informed Singleton that he set up a trust fund for her two sons, and he asked her not to tell anyone, according to a transcript. Singleton was jailed about a week later.
Bomberg said the funds were a ruse to keep Singleton quiet, noting that Hernandez never set up the trust.
“The defendant says ‘I set up an account,’ . . . and lo and behold, he didn’t,” Bomberg said. “He’s talking to her in order to secure her continued loyalty.”
Defense attorney Michael Fee, while saying that Hernandez’s intention to set up the fund was “never fulfilled,” took a different view of the phone conversation.
Fee argued that Hernandez and Singleton were genuinely close and that Hernandez intended to provide financial help to his terminally ill relative and her children.
Bomberg, however, scoffed at the notion that Hernandez acted altruistically. “He suggests that it is out of the goodness of his heart that he is misleading his relative,” Bomberg said.
During his phone conversation with Singleton, Hernandez laid out details of how the trust fund would increase in value, according to a transcript filed in court this week.
It quotes Hernandez as saying the money in the trust fund would increase over time: “And the longer they wait the longer it grows,” he said. “So they can take out a little bit when they’re like 18. They can take out a little bit when they are 21. And then if they wait until, like, they’re 30 years old, it will be like, could be like $400,000 or something like that, do you know what I mean?”
Prosecutors say several of Hernandez’s phone calls from jail show that he tried, even from behind bars, to thwart the investigation into Lloyd’s murder. Calls that an alleged accomplice, Ernest Wallace, made from jail also show evidence of a coverup, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys say the calls are irrelevant and prejudicial, and they had sought to keep them from being introduced as evidence in the trial.
Garsh said Wednesday from the bench that she would allow prosecutors to play some calls for the jury and that she would specify which recordings were admissible in a written order. It was not clear when that order would be made public.
The jurors were not in court Wednesday; they will return to hear testimony Thursday.
Hernandez, Wallace, and another man, Carlos Ortiz, have all pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the June 2013 shooting death of Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester, whose body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home.
Among the calls that attorneys discussed Wednesday was a July 2013 conversation between Wallace and Singleton, before Singleton was jailed. During the call, she told Wallace that she received a grand jury subpoena and that she had “a real nice lawyer.”
“My [friend] got you with that?” Wallace asked, according to a transcript.
“You already know,” Singleton said.
Bomberg said the call showed Hernandez paid Singleton’s legal expenses, but Fee described that theory as “imagination run amok,” noting there was no reference to a payment.
“I think it’s pretty obvious, your honor, what they’re talking about,” Bomberg said.
“It’s obvious to the prosecutor,” Fee replied. “We obviously don’t share” that opinion.
During another conversation in August 2013 between Hernandez and his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez asked Jenkins to drop off money at Singleton’s home, shortly after Singleton had been taken into custody. Prosecutors say the money, intended for Singleton’s jail canteen fund, was part of the plot to keep her silent.
During the call, Jenkins initially balked at Hernandez’s request and told him that she was trying to follow her attorneys’ advice, but Hernandez wanted her to “do other things.”
“There’s ample evidence that she is acting in concert with the defendant,” Bomberg said.
Fee, however, said Hernandez simply asked Jenkins to drop off canteen money for an ailing relative, and “he doesn’t order her to do anything.”
Jenkins faces a perjury charge connected to the case. Prosecutors say she disposed of a box at Hernandez’s request that investigators believe contained the murder weapon.
Prosecutors said they are not currently seeking to play several other jailhouse calls referenced in court papers, including conversations between Hernandez and Mike Pouncey, a former college teammate.
Bomberg said the government might ask to play the additional calls at a later time, should the need arise.
Separately, Garsh indicated that Alexander Bradley, Hernandez’s former friend and confidant, may testify next week. Bradley claims in a pending lawsuit that Hernandez shot him in the face in Florida in February 2013.
Garsh has barred Bradley from mentioning the Florida shooting if he testifies. He can, however, testify that Hernandez possessed a firearm, according to court records.
After the Bristol County trial concludes, Hernandez faces a separate double murder indictment in the fatal shootings of two men in Boston in July 2012. He has also pleaded not guilty in that case, which is slated for trial later this year.