Shackled and wearing orange prison garb, former “Sons of Guns” reality TV personality Will Hayden told a Baton Rouge state judge Thursday that he is innocent of rape charges that a grand jury brought against him last month.
Hayden, 49, of Greenwell Springs, pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated rape and one count of forcible rape — counts that accuse him of raping two preteen girls, one recently and the other in the early 1990s.
Hayden’s lead attorney, Frank Holthaus, had plenty more to say than the four words — “Not guilty, your honor” — that Hayden uttered to District Judge Mike Erwin at his arraignment on the East Baton Rouge Parish charges.
“It’s very easy to lodge complaints and allegations, but this is a court of law, not the ‘Dr. Phil’ show,” Holthaus said outside the judge’s courtroom.
Holthaus was referring to a September appearance by Hayden’s oldest daughter and ex-“Sons of Guns” co-star, Stephanie Hayden Ford, on the “Dr. Phil” show. She told the program that her father walked into her bedroom one night while drunk about 20 years ago and began pinching and kissing her while trying to disrobe her.
Ford said she escaped and he never touched her inappropriately again.
A Livingston Parish grand jury has charged Hayden with sex crimes against Ford. He also faces an aggravated rape charge in that parish.
Following Hayden’s first in a series of arrests in early August, another woman — besides Ford — came forward, claiming he molested her in the 1990s. The allegation led to a charge of forcible rape against Hayden in East Baton Rouge. The woman, who is now in her 30s, told authorities that Hayden raped her when she was 12 years old.
In East Baton Rouge, Hayden is accused of raping a girl in 2013 and 2014 when she was 11 and 12 years old. In Livingston Parish, he is accused of raping the same girl in 2013.
In all, Hayden is charged with three counts of aggravated rape — two in East Baton Rouge and one in Livingston.
“It didn’t happen,” Holthaus said of the charged conduct.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office is ready to move forward with the case.
“We are confident in our case and in the grand jury’s decision to indict,” Moore said. “We are prepared to move forward with this case and present our facts and evidence to a jury.”
Hayden appeared heavier and had longer hair at his court appearance.
“He’s just depressed,” Holthaus said. “He’s suffering depression, in my opinion.”
An aggravated rape conviction in Louisiana carries an automatic sentence of life in prison. Forcible rape carries prison time of five years to 40 years.
Erwin scheduled an April 21 status conference in the East Baton Rouge case.
Holthaus said Hayden will be arraigned next week in Livingston Parish.
Prior to his arrests, Hayden owned Red Jacket Firearms, a Baton Rouge custom gun shop. The shop and the people who worked there, most notably Hayden, were the center of “Sons of Guns,” a Discovery Channel show that stretched several seasons. The show was abruptly canceled during Hayden’s recent run-ins with the law. Red Jacket Firearms also cut ties with him.