The man who killed retired Saints star Will Smith and wounded Smith’s wife during a traffic dispute 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. Instead, Judge Camille Buras gave him 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time.
Hayes, 29, also 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. In a statement, Racquel Smith expressed her disappointment with the “leniency” of the sentence handed down by Buras on Thursday.
“This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today. Today’s sentencing does not bring back Will and leaves another child to grow up without a father.”
Racquel Smith, in statement expressing disappointment with sentence
“My family and I are extremely disappointed with today’s sentencing and the leniency showed by Judge Buras for the defendant. While we know nothing will ever bring Will back, we were hopeful that Judge Buras would have issued a stronger sentence to more justly reflect both the nature of the crimes and the tremendous loss and pain that my family has suffered as a result of Mr. Hayes’ violent actions on the night of April 9, 2016,” she said.
“This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today. Today’s sentencing does not bring back Will and leaves another child to grow up without a father.
I pray for the other families of New Orleans that are dealing with the same tragedy that comes with the loss of life at the hands of senseless violence. Will loved this city and we must do better together to enact serious change so that Will’s unnecessary murder is not in vain.”