BOSTON – The text message was sent way back on July 5, 2013. It was, at some point, deleted.
Perhaps because its sender, Alexander Bradley, realized it held unwanted power, like the capability of impacting his immunity deal in an Aaron Hernandez double murder trial, let alone rocking the entire case altogether.
In a plea deal, Bradley, however, gave authorities full access to his phone, including deleted and otherwise privileged communication with his lawyer. That includes a text that suggests Bradley actually has no idea if, contrary to his repeated testimony here this week, Hernandez shot him in the face in February of 2013.
“Now u sure once I withdraw this lawsuit I wont be held on perjury after I tell the truth about me not recalling anything about who shot me,” Bradley wrote to attorney Robert Pickering.
“The truth,” Baez emphasized to a now rapt Room 906 of Suffolk Superior Court in downtown Boston, during the most dramatic moment of the trial thus far. He then promptly asked Judge Jeffrey Locke if he wanted to take a break for the trial’s traditional 1 p.m. lunch. Locke agreed. Fueled by Red Bull all morning, an on-point Baez had deftly timed the reveal perfectly, leaving the jury time to digest that bombshell with their sandwiches.
Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star, is being tried for murdering Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in the 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston’s South End, after a brief encounter earlier at a nightclub. Bradley was driving Hernandez’s Toyota4Runner that night. Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation for allegedly shooting Bradley in the face after a night of partying in South Florida in February of 2013.
Bradley has testified in great detail here this week that Hernandez was the triggerman for both attacks. He previously filed a civil litigation alleging Hernandez shot him, which is the lawsuit he refers to in the text. For Hernandez, the stakes of the trial are relatively low since he’s already serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancée’s sister. Still, he is waging a vigorous defense.
For all the complexities of evidence and testimony over this case, which is now in its third of its expected six weeks, it mostly boils down to who do you believe: Bradley or Hernandez (via Baez, since it’s highly unlikely Hernandez will testify)?
The former best friends are accusing the other of shooting Abreu and Furtado. Bradley, meanwhile, is claiming Hernandez shot him in February 2013 in what the state claims was an attempted silencing of a witness. There is scant forensic evidence in either case.
It’s a zero-sum game, which is why Baez has tried to paint Bradley as a crazed potential killer, not to mention a liar. He needs to find only reasonable doubt within the jurors.
Bradley is, at the very least, a plausible alternative theory for Baez to sell. He is a two-time convicted felon and an acknowledged long-time drugs and guns dealer. He is currently serving a five-year stint in Connecticut for the 2014 shooting of a bar in Hartford. From the witness stand he has not shied away from text messages and previous comments that speak to a life of mayhem and violence.
While the case can be boiled down to simple terms, the relationship between Hernandez and Bradley remains complex and serves as Bradley’s explanation for the text. Bradley says that he didn’t want Hernandez criminally charged with shooting him in the face because he, Bradley, is anti-police and preferred to settle it a different way – either through a civil suit or retaliatory violence against a buddy he believes betrayed him.
“I know you wanted to kill him,” Baez said on Wednesday.
“Yes,” Bradley agreed.
“Because you are a killer,” Baez followed, before sustained objections struck the comment from the record.
Bradley testified that the text message is misunderstood. He said he wanted to tell a pending grand jury that he didn’t know who shot him in the face to spare Hernandez criminal charges but was worried doing so would open himself to perjury charges because in the civil suit he swore under oath that it was Hernandez who did it.
“I was trying to figure out how I could testify without getting him criminally [charged],” Bradley explained when court resumed after lunch and first assistant district attorney Patrick Haggan questioned him on redirect. “My issue [was that] I would essentially perjure myself if I file in a civil matter that Mr. Hernandez shot me and then I go to the grand jury and say I don’t know who shot me.”
Is that believable? Or is the text message? The jury will decide.
Bradley operates in a complicated world of situational justice, so maybe a civil lawsuit but not a criminal charge somehow makes sense. For instance, Baez pressed Bradley about his general refusal to cooperate with authorities on principle alone.
“It’s my intention that I don’t believe in snitching,” Bradley said.
“What are you doing right now?” Baez asked.
Bradley’s defense for that is circumstances changed because Hernandez was arrested, and since convicted, for killing Lloyd. If nothing else, there was no longer a way to enact revenge, either via money or pound of flesh. Plus, all loyalty went out the window when, according to Bradley, Hernandez not just shot him, but shot him because he feared Bradley would snitch on him, a concept Bradley found profoundly insulting to their once close friendship.
Baez later drilled down though, suggesting Bradley was fearful in general of being labeled a rat because of his life in the narcotics trade.
“You’d agree that snitching and ratting is dangerous business in the drug game,” Baez said.
“I believe it can be,” Bradley said.
Baez argued that Bradley is well aware that Hernandez didn’t shoot him in the face and that it was a different party Bradley moved drugs with in Florida. Bradley, Baez argued, made Hernandez the easy fall guy because he fears further attacks.
Baez also disputed Bradley’s version of events the night Bradley was shot.
Bradley said he, Hernandez and two others were driving back from a night at Tootsie’s Cabaret when he fell asleep in the backseat. He awoke when the car stopped and he discovered Hernandez pointing a semiautomatic gun “in between my eyebrows.” He said Hernandez then fired before he and another man threw him out of the car and left him to die in an industrial area alley. He obviously survived, albeit without his right eye.
Baez pointed to crime scene photos that show Bradley’s hat resting against a nearby fence, near a spent shell casing, suggesting the shooting took place outside the vehicle. Further, Bradley previously stated on the record that since he was sleeping, he couldn’t be sure Hernandez hadn’t gotten out of the vehicle at some point. Police have never found the white Range Rover in which Bradley says the attack took place.
Baez further argued that when it came to the Boston shooting, Bradley was the driver that night and thus easily could have defused the situation rather than pull the car up along side Abreu and Furtado, who were stopped at a light unaware they were about to be ambushed. He suggests that it was therefore Bradley who wanted to kill them.
They were all decent points. All signs that maybe it was Bradley, Bradley, Bradley all along. That this emotional, angry, vengeful and highly intelligent career criminal was just playing a big con on his client, this poor sap Aaron Hernandez.
The first day and a half of Bradley’s testimony lacked a big punch. It was a defense by paper cuts. It likely wasn’t enough.
Then a once-deleted text message came out just before lunch Wednesday and this entire trial may have swung with it.
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