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Massachusetts judge to consider gag order in Aaron Hernandez case

Brian Snyder / Reuters file

Aaron Hernandez, former player for the NFL's New England Patriots football team, attends a pre-trial hearing at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts October 9, 2013, in connection with the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in June.

A Massachusetts judge will consider a formal gag order in the case of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez after the defense team accused the state and law enforcement representatives of leaking information to the media at a heated pre-trial hearing on Monday.

Hernandez’s defense team said at the hour-long hearing in Fall River Superior Court that prosecutors violated the former New England Patriots player's right to a fair trial by allowing leaks and violating a court order to “refrain from engaging in prejudicial” and out-of-court statements.

Michael Fee, a lawyer for Hernandez, said that Hernandez's ability to receive a fair trial was “eroded” following media reports that Miami Dolphins player Mike Pounce was served with a subpoena related to weapons charges in the case against Hernandez. Fee said that the report, originally published by Sports Illustrated in late October, cited anonymous “sources close to the investigation” and law enforcement.

Fee argued that, should any of those sources stem from the prosecution team, the court should impose “swift and decisive disciplinary action against that individual.”

Prosecutors adamantly denied the claims that anyone connected to the investigation was leaking info to the media or had anything to do with the leaks.

“We’re resisting it because we have a right to a fair trial. Their comments that we have moles out there leaking information is factually not true,” said prosecutor William McCauley, adding that the defense’s claims created a prejudice against the state.

“We are playing fair,” he said. "We've agreed to the rules of professional conduct, and we're abiding by them."

Hernandez, 23, pleaded not guilty to murder in connection to the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player. Lloyd was found shot five times in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass., in June.

Judge Susan Garsh did not immediately issue the gag order but called on both sides to submit specific proposals as to its language.

The defense said they were also waiting for forensic evidence from the prosecution to continue building their case. The list of 55 items included ballistics information and jailhouse phone calls. The prosecution said it has been turning over evidence as it receives it, and Garsh said that both sides should meet outside the court to go over the list.  

Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, burst into tears at the court hearing Monday and briefly left the courtroom. Hernandez’s mother, Terri Hernandez, was also in tears at the hearing, which she attended with her son’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins. Throughout the hearing, Hernandez turned around and mouthed “I love you” to someone sitting in the courthouse spectator seats.

Hernandez's next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.