The past of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to be uncovered piece by piece, and now details have emerged surrounding a run-in with the law that occurred before he started his freshman season at the University of Florida.
The Wall Street Journal obtained a 2007 police report with details of a Gainesville bar fight in which Hernandez, according to police, was involved. According to the police report, Hernandez was involved in a May 4 altercation at The Swamp restaurant and bar near Florida’s campus.
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. It’s also possible Taphorn was not willing to testify against Hernandez, and Tobias said victim testimony is very important in felony battery cases.
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.