March 16 bond hearing next in killing of ex-Saint’s star

Sports

FILE – In this Dec. 9, 2012, file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith appears before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. Cardell Hayes, who fatally shot former NFL star Smith following a 2016 traffic collision, has a bond hearing scheduled Thursday, March 4, 2021, seeking freedom after his manslaughter conviction in Smith’s death was overturned because his trial jury’s vote was not unanimous. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A decision on what the bond amount will be for the man who fatally shot former NFL star Will Smith after a 2016 traffic collision will be made later this month, a New Orleans judge said Thursday.

Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a manslaughter conviction in Smith’s shooting and attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith’s wife, Racquel. But the verdict from a jury was not unanimous and has since been ruled unconstitutional.

Hayes could get a much lower bond than the $1 million-plus bond set for him in 2016, when he was charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. First Assistant District Attorney Robert White sought bond Thursday based on the manslaughter charge and attempted manslaughter charges that the jury returned, although he said prosecutors would seek to try Hayes again on the second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges he originally faced.

After Thursday’s bond hearing, Judge Camille Buras set the next bond hearing for March 16, amid questions on whether Hayes could be retried on the original charges.

White noted a case in neighboring Jefferson Parish with similar issues: Ronald Gasser was charged with second-degree murder in the 2008 shooting death of Joe McKnight, a local high school football star who also played in the NFL. That, too, followed a traffic dispute.

A jury came back with a 10-2 verdict for manslaughter, which was later tossed. A state judge recently ruled that Gasser could be retried only for manslaughter, not the murder charge. Prosecutors there said they would appeal.

Hayes has insisted he shot Smith in self-defense. Attorney John Fuller argued for a low bond, saying Hayes is neither dangerous, nor a flight risk, and noting that he did not flee the scene of the shooting.

Racquel Smith, making a statement via Zoom, said she has been harassed by Hayes’ supporters on social media since the conviction, and that her children are afraid of Hayes.

“Now I have to look at this man about to walk freely,” Smith, who was struck by gunfire in both legs, said as Hayes watched, also on Zoom. “He deserves the highest bond available. He deserves to be treated for murder.”

Hayes insisted at trial that he fired after a drunk, angry Smith retrieved a gun from his car and fired first. But Hayes was the only witness to say Smith held a gun or fired it. A handgun was found loaded but unused in Smith’s car.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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