Although the man convicted of killing former Saints star Will Smith still faces one serious legal charge, some experts think it is unlikely he will be prosecuted on it or at least will face any additional prison time.
Prosecutors and Smith's family made it clear Thursday they felt Cardell Hayes got off with too light a punishment after being convicted of killing Smith and wounding his wife.
One possible avenue for tacking on more years would be to pursue a lingering charge against Hayes of aggravated assault stemming from the same April 9, 2016, dispute that left Smith dead in the driver's seat of his Mercedes SUV.
But legal experts said Friday that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office likely would have a hard time using that charge to put Hayes away for any longer than the 25 years he got from Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras on Thursday.
Cardell Hayes, the man who shot Saints lineman Will Smith to death in the heat of a confront…
Hayes' attorneys, John Fuller and Jay Daniels, almost certainly will move to quash the charge, which is tentatively set for trial June 26. They likely will argue that it would amount to "double jeopardy," violating the constitutional protection against being prosecuted twice on the same set of facts, said criminal defense lawyer Craig Mordock, a former New Orleans prosecutor.
Further, while committing aggravated assault with a firearm in Louisiana calls for up to 10 years in prison, defense attorneys and former prosecutors Joseph Raspanti and Donald "Chick" Foret said it is unlikely that Buras would extend the 25-year prison sentence she handed Hayes, even if he were found guilty of the additional charge.
Buras could have given Hayes up to 40 years on his manslaughter conviction in Smith's death. She could have tacked on an additional 20 years because he also was found guilty of attempted manslaughter after Smith's widow, Racquel, was shot in both legs.
Instead, Buras sentenced Hayes to serve 25 years for Smith's death and 15 years for the bullet that hit Racquel Smith in both legs, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Mordock, Raspanti and Foret agreed that is a clear indication that Buras believes Hayes — who has repeatedly asserted that he killed Smith in self-defense — deserves no more than 25 years for what happened the night of the shooting.
"I would be very surprised if this case ever went to trial," Foret said.
A spokesman for Cannizzaro declined to comment Friday, citing an office policy against discussing open cases.
But Mordock and Raspanti both speculated that the District Attorney's Office may view the aggravated assault charge as a kind of insurance policy in case Hayes' team succeeds in appealing his convictions.
A conviction for aggravated assault could ensure Hayes would remain jailed, even if he gets his other convictions overturned.
A grand jury indicted Hayes on four counts: murder, attempted murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and aggravated assault.
By a 10-2 vote, the trial jury convicted Hayes of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, rather than murder and attempted murder. One juror said they never seriously considered the murder count, which would have meant mandatory life in prison.
The criminal damage count accused Hayes of intentionally ramming the back of the former Saint's SUV, sparking the fatal confrontation. The jury in December acquitted Hayes on that count, finding no evidence that he intentionally slammed into Smith's SUV.
The aggravated assault charge essentially alleges that Hayes, before pulling the trigger, pointed a gun at Will Smith without justification.
With credit for "good time," Hayes could be free in roughly 20 years, given the year he has spent jailed since his arrest.
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