The Wall Street Journal on Monday uncovered a 2007 police report showing that the Gainesville Police Department nearly arrested former Florida Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez on felony battery charges before he ever stepped on the field for the team.
According to a police report from April 28, 2007, a 17-year-old Hernandez was served two “alcoholic drinks” by a waitress at The Swamp, finished the drinks and then refused to pay the bill because he claimed he had never ordered them in the first place.
A “verbal altercation” between Hernandez and a then-restaurant employee escalated when the two stepped outside of the establishment. “Hernandez told police [Michael] Taphorn ‘got in his face’ and began yelling at him,” reports the WSJ. “As Taphorn turned to walk away, Hernandez punched him in the side of the head – a fact Hernandez did not dispute.”
Two witnesses, one of whom was quarterback Tim Tebow, told police that Taporn “was being irrational and was getting in [Hernandez's] face,” according to an incident report obtained by OnlyGators.com.
The result of Hernandez’s punch was temporary hearing loss and a ruptured eardrum for Taphorn, who refused medical assistance. He was not arrested at the scene, but Gainesville Police recommended a charge of felony battery to the State Attorney’s Office, which did not wind up bringing that charge against Hernandez.
The reason why Hernandez was never charged is not clear but there are certainly plenty of possibilities. Bringing a felony battery charge against a 17-year-old for a spur-of-the-moment punch in an incident where it is difficult for the police to determine who the aggressor was likely would have been too tough to convict.
The victim, Taphorn, may have decided not to press charges. Two weeks after the incident, Taphorn told police he was considering not pressing charges; he was directed to contact the State Attorney’s Office. Hernandez also might have been charged with a lesser offense, such as misdemeanor simple battery, and had it expunged from his record after meeting the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.
Florida rising sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested for simple battery two weeks ago for a similar incident as he allegedly punched a bouncer over an argument about the cost of entering Kava Lounge & Bar. Morrison received deferred prosecution on Friday and will get his record cleared of any charge if he completes the terms of the agreement within six months.
Deadspin.com appears to insinuate another more devious possibility, that state attorney Bill Cervone, who has brought charges (many serious in nature) against dozens of Gators over the years, chose not to charge Hernandez due to his relationship with Florida football. Cervone is a Gator Booster, donating approximately $2,000 per year to the Gators football program, per the organization’s database.
Hernandez was also questioned in a 2007 shooting in Gainesville, FL, another incident that has been brought to the attention of the national media since he was arrested and charged with first degree murder in Massachusetts last week. Gainesville Police have stated multiple times, however, that he was never a suspect in that investigation and was interviewed, along with three other Gators football players, because police thought the men might have witnessed the incident on a public street.