Two nights before Aaron Hernandez is alleged to have been involved in the murder of Odin Lloyd, the former New England Patriots star tried to hook up with the babysitter of his young daughter.
The incident took place at a suburban Boston apartment Hernandez rented in addition to the nearby McMansion that he called home with his fiancée and daughter. The babysitter, Jennifer Fortier, testified Monday that they kissed in one of the apartment's bedrooms but then she rebuffed Hernandez's advancements.
"I pushed him away," Fortier, now 28, said of the early morning encounter. "I told him, 'I'm your Nanny. I can't do this.' … He understood and said it was OK."
Hernandez, now 25, then went to sleep. Fortier called a car service to come get her and a girlfriend who was also present. Also asleep in the apartment was Lloyd, the murder of whom Hernandez is standing trial for in Bristol County (Mass.) Superior Court.
Two days later, Fortier babysat for Hernandez and his live-in fiancée Shayanna Jenkins. Fortier was paid $250 for four hours of work, a rather fine rate ($62.50 an hour) and far above her usual $20 per hour.
So why in a murder trial is this kiss-and-tell and possible don't-tell-my-fiancée-hush-money even relevant – other than to bring a measure of sex into a case that already features murder, money, fame, friendship, football, drugs and just about every other ingredient in the modern tabloid cocktail?
The answer helps explain why this case is into its seventh week with no end in sight: Due to the high stakes, big spotlight and deep pockets, the prosecution and defense are heavily engaged in every nuance of the situation, including who kissed whom.
"He kissed you," defense attorney Michael Fee asked Fortier.
"Yes," she said.
"And you kissed him back," Fee asked.
"Yes," she said.
Fortier actually served as a witness that helped and hurt both sides at varying points of her testimony.
She aided the prosecution by detailing the night of June 14, 2013, when she and a girlfriend went out in Boston. At the end of the night they coincidentally ran into Hernandez, Lloyd and Hernandez's barber. Hernandez told her and her friend, Amanda, to get in his car and they did. They eventually wound up at his apartment, which the prosecution likes to paint as a sinister and secretive "flophouse." Fortier claimed she was trying to get Hernandez to drive her to her car and didn't plan on going to the apartment.
Further, prosecutors were able to paint Hernandez as not just a cad, but an unoriginal cad. Of all the women an NFL millionaire could try to pick up, he goes for the one who cares for his child and hangs around his girlfriend all the time?
That counters the defense argument that Hernandez was a man without motive for murder because his life was going so well, part of which it argues includes a growing, loving family.
Instead he's out all night with the boys, chain smoking marijuana and presumably driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol, all while bringing girls back to the apartment.
Jenkins was not in court Monday, which isn't uncommon. She made just one appearance last week. It was likely for the best this time.
Would Fortier's testimony impact Jenkins' decision to testify against Hernandez? Probably not. Jenkins, who has been charged with perjury for lying to a grand jury, has been offered a plea deal by the Commonwealth, which is expected to compel her to testify or face contempt charges. Thus far she has appeared to remain loyal to Hernandez, sitting on his side of the small, fifth-floor courtroom whenever she shows up. Last week Hernandez told her, "I love you, girl" during a break in the trial.
While the babysitter incident probably isn't a positive in whatever constitutes their relationship, the defense long ago knew what Fortier was going to say. Jenkins attended opening statements in January and when Fortier's encounter with Hernandez was alluded to, she sternly shook her head.
The defense tried to characterize the babysitter incident as little more than a high, possibly drunk Hernandez acting out of character and then "passing out."
Fortier did note "he was very nice" during all their other encounters.
Regardless, if Jenkins hadn't already decided to flip when Hernandez was charged with murdering the boyfriend of her very own sister – not to mention a separate 2012 double homicide in Boston that has yet to go to trial – it's hard to imagine this testimony – rehashing the details of a night she'd already heard about – suddenly changing her mind.
At the same time, Fortier scored points for the defense. Another part of their lack-of-motive defense is portraying Hernandez and Lloyd as friends. Defense attorney Fee used the term "friend" nearly three dozen times in opening statements back in January and repeatedly asked witnesses on cross-examination about their relationship. They repeatedly ask why Hernandez would just murder his buddy.
The prosecution instead has claimed Hernandez and Lloyd hardly knew each other and were only acquaintances because their respective girlfriends were sisters.
The picture Fortier painted was far more consistent with the defense. She said as the group drove from Boston to the apartment, including a stop near Hernandez's home in North Attleboro, everyone seemed to be comfortable and having fun. The three men, she testified, were smoking pot and singing along together to rap.
"Good spirits," Fee concluded of a night out about 48 hours prior to Lloyd's murder.
Only the jury knows whether all of this was good for the Commonwealth or good for Hernandez.
The topic was at least intriguing in a trial dominated by very dry testimony featuring hours of testimony detailing tire imprints, the location of cell phone towers and other forensics.
The more relevant evidence admitted Monday was security video from Hernandez's home that clearly shows Hernandez and co-defendants Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz getting into a rented Nissan Altima the night of the alleged murder.
It fit nicely with a prosecution timeline that puts Hernandez at the scene of the murder: a field behind an industrial park near his home, at around 3:23 a.m., June 17, 2013. If the prosecution can establish that, Hernandez will struggle to escape Massachusetts' "joint venture" law even if prosecutors can't produce a murder weapon or an eyewitness to the actual shooting.
For the day however, Fortier provided a bit of salaciousness in a murder case that keeps dragging along because no detail is apparently too small to fight over, including the age-old attempted seduction of the babysitter.