Report: Tebow tied to Hernandez fight
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Tim Tebow was a witness to an alleged bar fight Hernandez had a few months after enrolling at Florida in 2007. Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and national championship in 2008 while playing quarterback at Florida, reportedly tried to defuse a situation involving Hernandez before it escalated into a fight at a Gainesville restaurant called The Swamp near the Florida campus.
The police report, which classifies the offense as "felony battery," said Tebow's involvement came after Hernandez called him over to try to intervene in a verbal altercation before the assault.
The report in the Wall Street Journal said Tebow's name was not mentioned in the police report of the incident, which reportedly did escalate into a fight. The Journal also said Hernandez's name is redacted from the police report, but he is identified as a Hispanic male from Bristol, Conn., who played tight end for Florida.
Referring to Hernandez, the Journal quotes the notes of D.H. Rowe, an officer investigating the incident, saying, "He and Tebow both said they had already called (then-Florida) Coach Urban Meyer and advised him of their involvement in the incident. I told them we would not be pursuing any charges against (redacted) for drinking alcoholic beverages at the restaurant, but that it would be noted in the report, so the coaching staff may handle that issue internally."
According to the Journal, Rowe wrote earlier in his notes that "Tebow was concerned that his name would get out to the media as being involved in the incident. I assured him that we would not contact the media, and that he was being listed in the report as a witness only."
Tebow, who previously spent time with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets in his NFL career, signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots this summer. The Patriots cut Hernandez after his arrest on charges of first-degree murder last week.
On Monday, the Journal brought the 2007 incident to light after it obtained the police report with details of the Gainesville bar fight in which Hernandez, according to police, was involved.
The report states that a waitress brought Hernandez — who was 17 years old at the time — two “alcoholic drinks.” Hernandez finished the drinks but refused to pay for them when he was presented with the bill, according to the police report.
Hernandez entered a “verbal altercation” with the man who brought him the bill, Michael Taphorn. Hernandez was asked to leave the restaurant and eventually was escorted out by Taphorn.
Hernandez told police that after the men stepped outside, Taphorn “got in his face” and yelled at him. Taphorn turned to walk away, and Hernandez punched him in the side of the head, an action Hernandez did not dispute.
Taphorn refused immediate medical help but did complain of hearing loss, according to the police report. The next day, doctors realized Taphorn’s right eardrum had burst.
Benjamin Tobias, a Gainesville police department spokesman, said the police did not arrest Hernandez. But after the severity of Taphorn’s injury became evident, the department recommended a charge of felony battery, which for Florida adults carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.
What happened in the case from there is unclear. Tobias said Hernandez could have been given deferred prosecution or prosecutors may have decided not to file official charges.
USA Today reported Tuesday that Taphorn may have had contact with University of Florida staff between when the incident with Hernandez occurred and when charges could have been filed.
When the incident first happened, Taphorn was passionate with his desire to press charges against Hernandez, according to the USA Today report. However, when police later followed up with Taphorn, he backed off and said he may not proceed with charges.
"Taphorn did state that he had been contacted by legal staff and coaches with UF and that they may be working on an agreement," an investigator wrote in his report. "However, nothing is finalized."
Also in 2007, the Orlando Sentinel reported Hernandez was among three Florida football players and another who had gone on to the NFL that police in Gainesville questioned after a double shooting that happened after the team lost a game in 2007. The paper reported Hernandez's mother confirmed he was among those questioned but police at the time said none of the players were suspects.
Hernandez declined comment at the time, the paper reported. A request for comment left with a spokesman for Hernandez's legal team Tuesday evening was not immediately returned.
Hernandez pleaded not guilty last week to murder and gun charges in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Once Hernandez was arrested and investigated, he became connected to additional problems with the law.
A civil suit against Hernandez claims he shot an acquaintance, Alexander Bailey, in the face in February. Investigators also are looking into whether Hernandez is connected to a 2012 double murder in Boston.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.