BOSTON - Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, sporting a new neck tattoo while making his first court appearance since being sentenced to life in prison for murder, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge he tried to silence a witness in a separate double murder case by shooting him in the face.
The tattoo, on the right side of his neck, includes the word "Lifetime" above a star. The bottom portion of the tattoo was obscured by his shirt collar.
It's a violation of Massachusetts prison regulations to get a tattoo, to tattoo someone else or to possess tattoo paraphernalia while incarcerated. Possible sanctions include disciplinary detention for up to 10 days and loss of a privilege such as television or radio for up to 60 days. The Department of Correction did not immediately return calls seeking comment on whether Hernandez has been disciplined.
Hernandez, who grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, was convicted last month in Fall River in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating Hernandez's fiancee's sister.
The former New England Patriots tight end was in a Boston courtroom Thursday to be arraigned on a witness intimidation charge in the shooting of his former friend Alexander Bradley.
Bradley was in a Boston nightclub with Hernandez on July 16, 2012, when they encountered two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. After de Abreu accidentally bumped into Hernandez, spilling his drink, Hernandez became irate, followed the men and then fired five shots into their car while they were stopped at a red light, killing de Abreu and Furtado and injuring a third man, prosecutors said.
In court Thursday, prosecutor Patrick Haggan said Bradley witnessed the shooting. Seven months later, Haggan said, Hernandez and Bradley were at a nightclub near Riviera Beach, Florida, when Hernandez told Bradley he saw two men he believed were undercover police officers watching him.
Bradley responded by saying, "It's probably because of the stupid stuff you did up there in Boston," Haggan said.
The next night, the two men went to another nightclub. They argued over the bill and over a phone Bradley left behind, Haggan said. Bradley fell asleep on the ride back to their hotel, and when he woke up, Hernandez was pointing a handgun at his face, Haggan said.
Bradley suffered a near-fatal wound, resulting in the loss of his right eye, Haggan said. He said Bradley was pushed out of the car and Hernandez drove away.
Prosecutors asked Judge Jeffrey Locke to join the witness intimidation case with the murder charges against Hernandez so the cases can be tried together. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the double murder case, too.
The judge scheduled a hearing for June 4 to discuss combining the cases and to set a trial date. He said he hoped the case could go to trial in November.
Hernandez's lawyers suggested January instead. They didn't say anything about the charges in court and wouldn't comment afterward.
Haggan said prosecutors want to do DNA testing on the handle of a .38-calibre gun they believe was used in the double killing.
In a separate hearing Thursday in New Bedford, Judge Richard Moses ordered a 60-day extension of a restraining order barring Hernandez from selling his 2005 Hummer and keeping the money.
Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward, has filed a civil lawsuit against Hernandez, and her lawyers are trying to track down his assets. Ward's attorneys filed a temporary restraining order after the vehicle turned up for sale at a used car lot in Wrentham.
The judge advised attorneys for Ward and Hernandezto come to an agreement on the sale of the vehicle, and he ordered that the proceeds be held by the court. A status conference on the sale of the vehicle was scheduled for July 20.
Ward's attorneys have placed an attachment on Hernandez's $1.3 million house in North Attleboro, meaning it cannot be sold without them being notified.
Associated Press reporter Amy Anthony contributed to this report.