Entertainment & Sports Law

Like other athletes, Aaron Hernandez had a criminal defense lawyer while still in college

It isn’t just in his current first-degree murder case that ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez has been dealing with a criminal defense lawyer.

Dating back as far as 2007, when he was still a juvenile and playing for the University of Florida’s football team, Hernandez was represented by Huntley Johnson on at least two occasions, concerning nearly $700 in unpaid traffic tickets and an accusation that he punched a bar manager. The Gainesville, Fla., attorney, who earned his law degree at the University of Florida, has represented dozens of Gators players in recent decades, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Johnson declined to discuss the terms of these representations with the newspaper, so the terms aren’t known. However, some lawyers admittedly have offered athletes low- or no-cost representation. They include Nathan Fisher of Baton Rouge, La., who says he has had more than 100 athletes from Louisiana State University as clients.

Although his billing practices were questioned by the NCAA every few years, Fisher said he likes to help students and feels athletes frequently are unfairly targeted. And there is a benefit to him, even if he’s not getting paid: “If I get a good case and it gets publicity, I’d hope people see it,” he told the newspaper.

In recent years, Fisher and a LSU official said, the school has urged lawyers to charged athletes at a standard rate.

Similarly, the University of Florida asked Johnson to confirm that its students were paying his legal fees. In his response, which the school provided to the Wall Street Journal, he stated: “We are aware of NCAA regulations as they relate to student-athletes and legal representation and we wish to assure you that we are in compliance with said regulations.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Even if ex-NFL player Hernandez didn’t fire gun, prosecutors will deal with others, lawyer predicts”

Boston Globe: “Robert Kraft says he, Patriots were ‘duped’ by Aaron Hernandez”

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