Former pal of Aaron Hernandez sues Sheriff, St. Mary’s

Alexander Bradley ended up shot in the face and left for dead in a Riviera Beach industrial park by one-time NFL superstar-turned killer Aaron Hernandez. The former New England Patriots and Florida Gators tight end wanted to silence his buddy about other murders in New England, investigators believe.

Bradley never spoke to law enforcement since his near-death experience, but he has been busy filing lawsuits in the last four years

His first, against Hernandez, ended in a settlement. He then filed a lawsuit against CNN in Connecticut for showing images of him lying bloody and unconscious in the hospital without his consent.

Now Bradley has focused his litigation wrath on St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and again the hospital photograph is central to his case.

The new federal lawsuit accuses PBSO “upon information and belief” of visiting St. Mary’s in order to gain images of Bradley in his hospital bed and then without consent illegally provided those photos to media outlets, including CNN.

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Aaron Hernandez sits in the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court during his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Mass. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

St. Mary’s allowed the sheriff access to Bradley without his consent in order to photograph him, the lawsuit claims.

The civil complaint also claims it’s possible that PBSO has nothing to do with the photograph and that St. Mary’s snapped them and provided the images to media outlets.

St. Mary’s released a statement last night on the lawsuit:

“We take these allegations very seriously. The privacy of our patients is of utmost importance to our employees and physicians.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Hernandez is serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee at the time of his death. Before his arrest, Hernandez s igned a $40 million contract that delivered a $12.5 million bonus.

The New England Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years earlier this month, but Hernandez will go on trial in March for the murder of two other men.

The photograph at the subject of the Bradley Shoot was shown in a March 31, 2015 broadcast on CNN entitled CNN Special Report: Downward Spiral–Inside the Case Against Aaron Hernandez.  The show is available on Youtube and has been viewed more than 50,000 times.

The image shows Bradley with a tube down his throat with a bandage around most of his upper head. He ended up losing his right eye. The photograph was “highly offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities”  and has caused Bradley severe emotional distress.

 

St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 5, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The lawsuit names St. Mary’s, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and two deputies identified only as John and Jane Doe.

“Aaron Hernandez’s life and criminal behavior may have been of legitimate public concern, the photograph of plaintiff itself in the condition he was in was not,” the Feb. 15 lawsuit states.

The Palm Beach Post reported in May 2015 that Hernandez shot his pal Bradley because he had quipped about the tight end capping two men outside a Boston night club in 2012.

Bradley, a Connecticut resident who did prison time for cocaine trafficking, is believed to have been in the passenger seat of Hernandez’s SUV when he shot the men over a perceived slight.

In June 2013, Bradley sued Hernandez for negligence in U.S. District Court in Miami, saying in the civil complaint that the two had argued before he was shot in the face.

Bradley later told a judge that Hernandez had grown increasingly paranoid, believing he was being followed by helicopters. He was one of the last prosecution witnesses in Hernandez’s trial in the Lloyd murder, helping tie the defendant to the gun used in the slaying

Doctor’s lawyer: CNN purposely skewed St. Mary’s death rate

CNN deliberately exaggerated the death rate of infants undergoing heart surgery at St. Mary’s Medical Center, purposefully painting a renowned surgeon as an incompetent doctor who butchers babies for profit, the physician’s lawyer told a judge on Friday.

Dr. Michael Black is suing CNN for libel and defamation for its story on June 1, 2015, about St. Mary’s pediatric cardiac surgery program. The hospital closed the program a few months later and its CEO resigned.

“CNN intentionally manipulated statistical data to support its false narrative that Dr. Black was unfit to perform operations on these very sick children,” said his attorney, Libby Locke, after a hearing on whether to dismiss her client’s lawsuit.

“Through their defamatory articles and videos, CNN has deprived Palm Beach of an incredibly valuable pediatric cardiac surgery program.”

She urged Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal to reject the motion to dismiss and to allow a jury to decide what Black’s reputation is worth. She noted how the news network took a quote from one grieving parent that Black was offering up babies as sacrificial lambs,” and juxtaposed it with a photograph of the doctor.

Black contends in the defamation and libel lawsuit that CNN;’s story unfairly disparaged him and forever damaged his reputation. He still is employed at St. Mary’s, but has not done any surgery since the program was closed in August 2015.

The doctor is also facing several malpractice suits filed by parents of babies who died after heart surgery at St. Mary’s, but Friday’s hearing was about Black’s defamation claims against the cable news giant. CNN is trying to get Oftedal to dismiss the lawsuit.

St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 5, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach was the subject of the CNN investigation. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Locke, his attorney, told the judge CNN went so far as to manipulate the calculations to report St. Mary’s death rate as three times the national average for pediatric heart surgery programs. She said CNN ignored data from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons that found St. Mary’s death rate for infant cardiac surgeries fell within the norm.

Instead, the news network compared raw data of open and closed heart surgeries with just open heart surgeries. It also compared raw death rate figures with those adjusted for the complexity of the surgery and illness of the patient, Locke said.

The Palm Beach Post reported in several articles about troubles with CNN’s data. The network eventually posted on its website a story explaining its methodology. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration got into the fray, calling CNN’s reporting sensationalistic.

Friday was the first time the two sides really squared off in front of the judge since Black filed his suit in February as judge entertained argument over CNN’s motion to dismiss Black’s suit.

The cable news network told Oftedal that CNN’s reporting is protected because Black as a prominent surgeon of a major pediatric heart surgery program was a public figure.

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Dr. Michael Black and his attorney Libby Locke at a hearing Friday on his defamation against CNN. (Photo: Allen Eyestone)

The network’s attorney, Charles Tobin, also argued that the doctor couldn’t prove malice by the network.

Tobin added that Black or St. Mary’s can’t dictate the methodology of a news organization and that reporters asked the hospital for its own figures but never received them. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is one CNN talent named by Black in the lawsuit.

Locke said St. Mary’s was under no obligation to cooperate with CNN and that the methodology used by the cable news network is not a matter for debate or interpretation. “These are statistics. This is math,” she said.

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Judge Richard Oftedal at the hearing Friday. (Photo; Allen Eyestone)

One of Tobin’s best moments on Friday was when he told Oftedal that Black claims he is not a public figure but was somehow defamed by criticism of St. Mary’s as a whole. Tobin said that was because Black was the public face, and thus a public figure.indeed The Post wrote a feature on him when the hospital started up the program.

And indeed, The Post wrote a feature on Dr. Black when the hospital started up the program.

Locke says CNN bears the burden of proving Dr. Black was essentially a public figure.

“There is no dispute Dr. Black had a pristine solid reputation before CNN defamed him, but that does not make him a public figure,” she said in court.

If Oftedal — who asked plenty of questions throughout the hearing — finds Black a public figure, the doctor will have to prove CNN had malice to defame him personally.

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Kelly Robinson at the CNN defamation hearing on Friday. (Photo: Allen Eyestone)

Also, present in the courtroom was defendant Kelly Robinson, the heart mom who was used as an unnamed source by CNN in the investigation.

Black claims she made disparaging remarks about him and was trying to drive business to Nickalus Children’s Hospital in Miami where her son had heart surgery.

Robinson’s attorney, Deanna Shullman, said her client is a minor player in the lawsuit, yet faces the same liability as a major cable news network.

She has asked the lawsuit to be dismissed because her client’s comments are protected speech.

A story about Robinson’s role in the CNN story was explored by The Post. Click here to read the story.