Late last month, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones, while in the midst of what appeared to be emotional distress, went on Instagram Live and claimed that his former teammate Aaron Hernandez did not commit suicide in his prison cell in 2017.
Jones, instead, claimed that Hernandez was actually murdered by current Raiders coach Josh McDaniels near an unidentified industrial park.
Jones’ claim was absurd, of course.
It was logistically impossible, not supported by any evidence, and was just one of numerous wild claims made in a disturbing, tear-filled video. The Raiders had recently placed the 33-year-old on the NFL’s “non-football illnesses” list. Days later he was arrested for violating a “domestic violence temporary protection order.”
Still, Jones’ claims bounced around the Internet: “Chandler Jones suggests Aaron Hernandez didn’t commit suicide…” wrote the New York Daily News, among others.
This follows a February 2021 episode of the “I Am Athlete” podcast where a panel of former NFL stars who knew Hernandez (Fred Taylor, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Cam Newton) discussed Hernandez. They repeatedly questioned whether the “alleged suicide” was the cause of Hernández’s death.
“There was no damn suicide,” Ochocinco, also a former teammate of Hernández, stated on the podcast.
That opinion is not shared by José Báez, the powerful and tough lawyer who not only represented Hernández, but investigated his death more deeply than anyone.
Báez not only completely refutes any suggestion that Hernández died in any way other than suicide, but he is also concerned about any conspiracy theory expressed to the contrary.
He spoke with Yahoo Sports on Monday in an effort to prevent misinformation from gaining traction and spreading further, if only to help Hernandez’s family, especially his daughter Avielle, who is now 10 years old.
“Believe me,” Baez said, “if I thought Aaron had been murdered, I wouldn’t have stopped at anything. My mission in life would have been to get to the bottom of the matter and hold the State responsible for it.
“But that’s not what I saw,” Báez continued. “That’s not what the evidence showed me… It makes me sad to see more of these conspiracy theories out there, because Aaron has a legacy. And he certainly is a cloudy legacy, but nothing more needs to be added.
“He has a daughter and she’s going to read all this stuff and I think it’s unfortunate that people who don’t have enough facts put it out there that way,” Báez said.
Hernández’s death was undoubtedly surprising. Just five days earlier, with Báez as his attorney, the 27-year-old former New England Patriot was found not guilty of murder in the 2012 deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
Hernandez was still serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, but seemed upbeat during subsequent phone calls with friends and family, including Baez. The former player and his lawyer were in the process of appealing the conviction in the Lloyd case.
However, at 3:03 a.m. on April 19, 2017, correctional officers found Hernandez unconscious hanging from a knotted sheet inside cell No. 52 of unit G-2 of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. The door to his cell had been fixed from the inside with cardboard to make it more difficult to open. The shampoo covered the floor to prevent him from regaining his balance. Hernandez also left three suicide notes and had written “John 3:16” both on it and on the wall.
“I was as surprised as anyone else…” Baez said. “I had talked to him hours before and we talked about the future and we talked about good things and he was in a good mood.”
That’s why Báez took the first possible flight to Boston and promised a full investigation into the cause of Hernández’s death.
“We had the opportunity to delve deeper into the entire case,” Báez said. “I inspected his cell. I saw all his properties. I saw all the crime scene photos. I saw all his phone records. I listened to all the recordings.
“I was present during his autopsy,” Báez continued. “We hired the best medical examiner in the country and there was no doubt in his mind and from what I saw about the cause of death…
“I didn’t see any signs of a struggle on Aaron’s body. Aaron was a fighter, he wouldn’t have gone down silently. And he was a big guy. How many bigger guys were in that prison? Not many. And can you take him out like that?”
“There was no stab wound, no other wound on his body, no other bruise, no other injury that would make me think he was in a fight,” Báez said. “His knuckles, his hands, they were all fine.”
The Massachusetts State Police conducted its own investigation, which is publicly available. Furthermore, it casts doubt on the occurrence of a murder, much less a subsequent cover-up that would require at least dozens more people, from guards, prisoners, EMTs, video technicians, and local doctors.
Báez, based in South Florida, is one of the most recognized and successful criminal defense and post-conviction attorneys in the country. He is famous for winning extremely challenging cases with aggressive and precise defense.
If there was ever a lawyer who would take this case, it would be him, and that was even before he and Hernandez developed a deep friendship.
“We are convinced that his death was a result of CTE and I think the autopsy of his brain and the examination done by Boston University were pretty clear in that regard,” Baez said of the chronic traumatic encephalopathy disease that has tormented some. former athletes who received repeated blows to the head.
Hernández was diagnosed with “the most serious case that (researchers) had ever seen in someone (his age).”
“CTE is a silent killer and unfortunately there is no way to detect it in the living and for that reason it is something we have to deal with,” Báez said.
He hopes, in any case, that Hernández’s suicide can serve as an educational point for all soccer players. He expressed particular concern about the behavior of Jones, an 11-year NFL veteran. Báez pointed out that suicidal thoughts can appear quickly and without warning.
“I think a lot of times people keep (suicide) to themselves or think about it on the fly,” Báez said. “I have the feeling that the CTE would come and go with Aarón. I know there were times when he complained of headaches, very bad ones. There were times when he didn’t feel like himself.
“I don’t think this was a unique feeling; It was something she struggled with and that night was too much to bear.”
Báez hopes that everyone, especially Hernández’s friends, will accept the truth of the situation and put an end to the harmful conspiracy theories. He understands the initial doubt, but the evidence could not be clearer or more compelling.
“It’s just one of those things,” Baez said. “We don’t want to believe certain things or we find others difficult to believe, so we find reasons to justify our beliefs. And that’s what I think is the case here.”