A week ago news broke that a pal of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead near the football star's home.
A media and law enforcement firestorm has raged around Hernandez, fueled by spectacular images of police relentlessly searching his home and the area around it, including a dive team Monday searching a local creek for evidence.
Yet one week later, after repeated reports that Hernandez's arrest was imminent, he still walks free. One can only assume that the police, at least yet, have not uncovered enough evidence to charge Hernandez.
And now the player is fighting back. His attorney issued this statement late Monday:
"Over the past week, our client, Aaron Hernandez, has been the subject of a relentless flood of rumors, misinformation, and false reports in the media.
"These include the repeated publication of a supposedly confirmed report that an arrest warrant had been issued for Aaron, a report that was exposed as untrue.
"None of these false reports come from official sources and we appreciate the professionalism and restraint shown by the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to date with regard to its public statements while its investigation is underway.
"Out of respect for that ongoing investigation, we will continue to refrain from commenting on its substance."
Put another way: the media has yet again tried to convict someone in the court of public opinion before the legal system was ready to do so.
Here's all anyone outside the immediate investigation knows right now: a young man, Odin Lloyd, is dead, reportedly killed by gunshot.
None of us know anymore than that.
Hernandez may have been involved. If so, he should face the full brunt of the law. The Cold, Hard Football Facts believe in cowboy justice, or something close to it.
But Hernandez may not have been involved, too, in which case his name is already smeared.
Beyond the fact that a man is dead, everything else so far is speculation and nothing more. The public forms its opinions in these cases upon the shakiest of foundations: not only circumstantial evidence, but third- and fourth-hand circumstantial evidence.
Unnamed sources allegedly feed info (such as reports of imminent arrest) to reporters caught in the frenzy of beating their competitors to a story; they then rush to get it on TV, radio or website to make their bosses happy. The busy public, consumed with its own daily lives, then picks up only trickles of this suspect "evidence."
So that's what you get in these cases: people harden opinions about a person or an incident based upon tiny pieces of supsect and incomplete storylines filtered by harried reporters from unnamed "sources" and third-party circumstantial evidence.
Stories like these are the exact opposite of Cold, Hard Football Facts. They are sensational speculation, often with little evidential foundation.
Truth, as the old saying goes, is often the first casualty ... or in this case the second.