The tragic and horrific story of Aaron Hernandez has come to a close, after the former NFL star committed suicide in his prison cell earlier this week. However, there are still a lot of details to sort out, including a potential million dollar payday for his surviving family.
The New England Patriots withheld over $5 million in signing bonuses and base pay from 2013, the year Hernandez was arrested, citing provisions in the collective bargaining agreement that allow teams to not pay players who are charged with or convicted of serious crimes, essentially voiding the contract.
However, since Hernandez had not exhausted all of his appeals for the murder conviction of Odin Lloyd at the time of his death, an obscure Massachusetts law called abatement ab initio comes into place, essentially removing his conviction from the books. Technically, Hernandez reverts back to an innocent man through dying.
Although this technicality does nothing to change the fact that Hernandez probably killed three people and then took his own life (although some people question that story too), the actual implications could be worth millions to his former fiancee and his young daughter.
Legal expert and lawyer Michael Coyne appeared on CSN New England on Wednesday to discuss the legal intricacies, and claimed that if the guilty verdict is wiped from the books, then the Patriots would likely be on the hook for over $5 million in withheld pay, plus the NFL itself could be forced to pay out Hernandez’ league pension as a former player.
“If these convictions are ultimately vacated — both his conviction with Odin Lloyd and his conviction on the gun charge,” Coyne asked “Will his estate — will his child and his wife — be able to recover either some of the bonus that’s still due to him under the Patriots contract or any of his pension benefits that the NFL might owe him?”
Coyne added: “The question is then: If he’s no longer criminally liable, has he violated the provisions of any of his contractual terms? And you know, where there’s money like this involved, the lawyers will have a field day.”
It’s worth noting that the abatement ab initio provision also means that the families of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez’ (now alleged) victim, will be unlikely to succeed in any civil suit against his estate. Although that probably won’t stop the lawyers from trying. After all, there’s a lot of money at stake.