An NFL player took the stand Monday in the double murder trial of Aaron Hernandez and fondly said of the former New England Patriot, “That’s my guy.”
Deonte Thompson, a receiver for the Chicago Bears who played college football with Hernandez, made that remark after prosecutor Mark Lee asked him to describe their relationship at the University of Florida.
As Hernandez grinned, Thompson described him as “my guy” and said the two went through “war” together, referring to their time on the collegiate gridiron.
Hernandez, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston’s South End on July 16, 2012.
Hernandez has also pleaded not guilty to a witness intimidation charge for allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley, his then friend and marijuana supplier, in February 2013 in an effort to silence him about the killings.
Thompson testified Monday that he invited Hernandez to Florida for a party held several days before the Bradley shooting. Thompson, then a receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, was celebrating the team’s recent Super Bowl victory.
“It was for our community,” Thompson, a native of Belle Glade, Fla., said of the party, adding that he had trouble recalling details since he was drinking heavily to celebrate. “It’s kind of a blur. Those days all stack up.”
Prosecutors say Hernandez shot Bradley a few days after the party. Bradley, currently jailed in Connecticut for an unrelated Hartford club shooting, testified for prosecutors last week under an immunity deal.
Thompson said Hernandez introduced him to Bradley as “my homie.”
“I thought they were pretty close,” Thompson said, adding that Bradley later joined their group for a trip to Tootsie’s, a Miami-area strip club.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and Bradley were part of a smaller group that took a second trip to Tootsie’s that week, without Thompson. Bradley testified that Hernandez shot him inside a vehicle after they left the club following the second visit.
The defense claims someone else shot Bradley over a drug transaction.
Jose Baez, a lawyer for Hernandez, asked Thompson if there were times on the trip when Hernandez and Bradley were apart.
Thompson said yes.
“I don’t remember seeing the guy that much,” Thompson said of Bradley. “I was intoxicated, too, so my judgment may not be the best.”
Thompson nodded toward Hernandez when he stepped down and put his fist to his chest as he walked past his former teammate.
Oscar Hernandez, another Belle Glade native, took the stand after Thompson. Oscar and Aaron Hernandez are not related.
Oscar Hernandez previously pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to deliver firearms illegally and lying to a grand jury after shipping guns to Aaron Hernandez in April 2013 from Florida to Massachusetts.
On Monday, Oscar Hernandez, who testified under an immunity agreement, answered “maybe” when prosecutor Patrick Haggan asked if he talked with Thompson about a gun before the February 2013 party.
Haggan showed Oscar Hernandez a transcript of his prior grand jury testimony, in which he said Thompson asked to borrow his gun the night of the party.
“Just for protection,” Oscar Hernandez said, reading from the transcript. “He said Belle Glade can get rough.”
Haggan then asked Oscar Hernandez if he loaned Thompson his gun.
“If that’s what it says,” Oscar replied, referring to the transcript. “I can’t remember.”
He read another portion of the grand jury transcript, in which he said he went to a hotel room the morning after the party, on Feb. 9, and took his gun back while Thompson slept.
Bradley was shot four days later.
“You never loaned that gun to Aaron,” Baez asked Oscar Hernandez.
“No,” he replied.
Earlier Monday, jurors heard from Jeff London, a promoter for Cure Lounge, the Boston nightclub where Hernandez allegedly had a minor altercation with de Abreu and Furtado two hours before the killings.
London testified that Hernandez confronted him and called him a “[expletive] snitch” or a “fed” on a separate occasion at Cure. He also said he recalled another incident where Hernandez told a fellow promoter, “[expletive] the Ravens,” after the promoter said he knew someone on that team.
Baez suggested on cross-examination that a Patriots player would call London a snitch if the player suspected him of leaking information about his partying habits to the tabloids.
“I don’t think they would [return] to the club,” London said, adding that he did not contact a gossip website before Hernandez made the snitch comment.
Baez also noted that London told authorities Hernandez struck the promoter who made the Ravens comment, an account that promoter later denied.
Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the June 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd. An appeal of his first-degree murder conviction in that case will be heard at a later date.
Testimony in the double murder trial resumes Tuesday.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.