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Patriots might now have to pay Aaron Hernandez’s estate millions of dollars

Aaron Hernandez's family donated his brain to Boston University for CTE research. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Aaron Hernandez’s death was officially ruled a suicide Thursday. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Thanks to an obscure legal principle, Aaron Hernandez is now an innocent man in the wake of his death. That means the Patriots might owe his estate money.

Massachusetts is one of the states that recognizes “abatement ab initio,” which says a defendant’s convictions are void if he didn’t exhaust all of his legal appeals upon his passing. Since Hernandez was planning to appeal his first-degree murder conviction for the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting, the court’s ruling is erased –– as if the trial never occurred. The disgraced ex-NFL star was acquitted last week in a 2012 double murder.

Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday morning after a suicide attempt, officials say. Since Hernandez was the first active NFL player to ever be convicted of murder, and also the first player to kill himself while serving his sentence, this is an unprecedented legal situation. Attorney William Kennedy, who represented the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the victims in the aforementioned double murder, told CBS Boston the Patriots might be obligated to pay Hernandez’s estate the $3.5 million signing bonus they voided following his arrest in 2013.

“At the time of his original arrest in the Odin Lloyd case, my understanding was that there was a $3.5 million bonus that we’ve made a subject of an action in the Superior Court,” he said. “We got a commitment from the Patriots that before any of that payment would be made they would notify the court to give us a chance to deal with that.”

The Abreu and Furtado families and Lloyd’s mother are all planning to pursue wrongful death suits against Hernandez’s estate. In addition to the $3.5 million signing bonus, the Patriots could also owe Hernandez $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary.

But since the Patriots and Hernandez settled a grievance over the lost earnings in 2014, the case is likely considered closed. Attorney Joel Corry told the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin grievance settlements are seldom overturned.

“Typically when there’s a settlement, there’s some sort of catch-all language: ‘This will resolve all claims known or which could be known in the future,’ ” he said. “I haven’t seen too many settlements which don’t have some type of form of that kind of language.”

Hernandez will still be able to collect the minimum NFL pension, though it’s unknown who’s listed as his beneficiary. The former tight end collected roughly $10 million of the $40 million contract extension he signed in August 2012.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer