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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Widow of Saints star Will Smith upset at killer's 25 years

Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017,  after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints NFL football team head coach Sean Payton enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints NFL football team head coach Sean Payton enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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, the man who killed Smith in an argument following a traffic crash avoided a mandatory life sentence when a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. But Hayes may still be locked away for a very long time if prosecutors get their way at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
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, the man who killed Smith in an argument following a traffic crash avoided a mandatory life sentence when a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. But Hayes may still be locked away for a very long time if prosecutors get their way at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
FILE - This April 10, 2016, file photo provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office shows Cardell Hayes. Hayes, who killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in an argument following a traffic crash, avoided a mandatory life sentence when a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. But Hayes may still be locked away for a very long time if prosecutors get their way at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
FILE - This April 10, 2016, file photo provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office shows Cardell Hayes. Hayes, who killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in an argument following a traffic crash, avoided a mandatory life sentence when a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. But Hayes may still be locked away for a very long time if prosecutors get their way at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
New Orleans Saints NFL football team head coach Sean Payton enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints NFL football team head coach Sean Payton enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night New Orleans Saints star Will Smith was killed, enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night New Orleans Saints star Will Smith was killed, enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, arrives at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, with supporters, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, arrives at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, with supporters, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, arrives at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, with supporters, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, arrives at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, with supporters, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night Hayes killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse after a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who and was convicted of manslaughter, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night Hayes killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse after a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who and was convicted of manslaughter, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, during a break in the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. In background a supporter of Hayes heckles district attorney staff. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, during a break in the sentencing of Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. In background a supporter of Hayes heckles district attorney staff. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, left, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night Hayes killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, returns to Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after a break in the sentencing of Hayes, who killed Smith and shot his wife, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kevin O'Neal, left, a passenger who was in the car with Cardell Hayes the night Hayes killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, returns to Orleans Parish criminal courthouse Thursday, April 20, 2017, after a break in the sentencing of Hayes, who killed Smith and shot his wife, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans. Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for. He also received 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A supporter of Cardell Hayes heckles Racquel Smith, not pictured, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, and her supporters, as they arrive at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A supporter of Cardell Hayes heckles Racquel Smith, not pictured, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, and her supporters, as they arrive at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in New Orleans, for the second day of a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, April 20, 2017 06:49 pm

NEW ORLEANS - The man who fatally shot retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith and wounded his wife after a traffic crash last year was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, far less than the maximum prosecutors had called for.

Cardell Hayes faced up to 60 years if given consecutive maximum terms for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, as prosecutors had urged. Instead, Judge Camille Buras gave him 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time.

Hayes, 29, will get a year of credit for the time he's already served since shooting one of the city's sports heroes in April 2016. State law requires him to serve 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for good-behavior release, meaning he could be freed in roughly 20 years.

"If he was sentenced to 60 years, he probably could have died in jail. At least with 25 he has the opportunity to be reunited with his family," Hayes' lawyer, John Fuller, said outside court.

Racquel Smith said she is "extremely disappointed" at what she called the leniency of the sentence, given the violence of the crime and her family's pain and loss.

"This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today," her statement said. She praised prosecutors and police, and said she and their three children, Willie, Lisa and Wynter, will carry on Smith's legacy of love for his community.

"I will continue to shine my light for my Superman," she said.

Hayes, a beefy ex-semi-pro football lineman, lumbered to the stand with his arms and legs shackled, and broke down in tears Thursday as he talked of the impact on his 6-year-old son and his mother.

He looked at Racquel Smith and told her he wished the night had never happened. He insisted he was afraid for his life as Smith fired a gun at him, despite trial evidence and witness testimony indicating Smith never handled or fired his gun.

Later, under tough questioning by a prosecutor, he referred to the Smiths, saying, "I apologize for their loss."

Hayes' mother, Dawn Mumphrey, also testified, wailing and shaking as she pleaded for mercy and forgiveness.

"That's my baby," she cried. "Lock me up and give me my son back."

Assistant New Orleans District Attorney Laura Rodrigue dismissed the tears as a "desperate attempt" to gain sympathy, and hammered at Hayes' claim of self-defense. She referenced a 2016 recording of a prison phone conversation, played at trial, in which Hayes called Racquel Smith "a phony" and Mumphrey also disparaged her.

"Cardell Hayes took the stand and flat-out lied. That's the most offensive part of this entire process," Rodrigue said. She added, "To reward a person for taking the stand and lying is egregious."

Smith was cast during the trial as a beloved community leader and a football hero, part of the Saints team that lifted the city's spirits after Hurricane Katrina and later won a Super Bowl. Saints coach Sean Payton testified Wednesday that had Smith survived, he would have hired him as an assistant.

The defense noted that Hayes owned a business towing cars and lacked any prior record of serious crimes.

The night of the shooting, Smith was driving with his wife and another couple. They were among a group of friends in several cars. Surveillance video showed his Mercedes possibly bumping Hayes' Hummer, then driving off.

Hayes followed them, and slammed into Smith's SUV. Both hulky former athletes then got out and argued in the street.

Hayes said he repeatedly shot Smith in fear for his life, but no other witness or evidence supported his belief that Smith fired a weapon. Smith's gun was found in his car, loaded but unused.

Smith was hit eight times - seven in the back and once in the side. His wife was hit in the legs.

A pathologist determined Smith was legally drunk, after spending time at the city's annual French Quarter Festival, a bar and two restaurants.

Hayes' defense said after the trial that Smith's popularity led to a rush to judgment by police and prosecutors. Prosecutors countered that the defense was trying to smear Smith. The judge ultimately rejected a defense motion for a retrial.

___

Associated Press reporters Janet McConnaughey and Rebecca Santana contributed to this story.

            

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