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Judge keeps ex-NFL star Hernandez's jail calls off limits

Former New England Patriots NFL football playerAaron Hernandez, (C), sits with his attorneys James Sultan (L) and Michael Fee in Bristol Sup
Former New England Patriots NFL football playerAaron Hernandez, (C), sits with his attorneys James Sultan (L) and Michael Fee in Bristol Sup

By Daniel Lovering

FALL RIVER, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A Massachusetts judge on Friday denied a request by prosecutors for recordings of phone calls made from prison by former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez, who is awaiting trial on a 2013 murder.

Prosecutors had sought the recordings along with Hernandez's visitor records from the Bristol County Sheriff's Department, saying they contained conversations related to the killing of Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez, 24, has been in jail since June, awaiting trial on murder charges in the death of Lloyd, a semi-pro football player whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

Formerly a star New England Patriots tight end with a $41 million contract, Hernandez was dropped from the team within hours of his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to Lloyd's murder.

On Friday, defense attorney James Sultan said a motion by prosecutors filed at Fall River Superior Court last week was "grossly over-broad," because it called for records of every phone call Hernandez had made since he entered jail, not just those pertaining to the case.

"This is nothing but a fishing expedition," he said. "If this is what they say they need to try the case, one wonders about all the representations they're making in court."

In court documents, prosecutors said the sheriff's department had already provided "the contents of some of the defendant's telephone conversations."

They said Hernandez discussed matters "directly relevant to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Odin Lloyd," and used "coded messages" to communicate with people outside of jail.

In a heated exchange with prosecutors, Judge Susan Garsh denied the motion saying it was not supported by an affidavit and that the recordings could only be considered hearsay.

Prosecutor William McCauley declined to comment on whether he would file another request for the recordings.

Before the hearing, Hernandez smiled and laughed as he talked with his attorneys. At one point he turned and mouthed the words "I love you," to family members sitting in the courtroom.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis, editing by G Crosse)

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