BOSTON (AP) – 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 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 drawing of a star. The bottom portion of the tattoo was obscured by the collar of his shirt.
It is 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 was convicted last month in Fall River in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister.
The former star 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, 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.
The judge scheduled a hearing for June 4 to discuss combining the cases and to set a trial date. Locke said he hoped the case could go to trial in November. Hernandez's lawyers suggested January instead.
Haggan said prosecutors want to do DNA testing on the handle of a .38-caliber gun they believe was used in the double killing.