Former "Sons of Guns" reality TV personality Will Hayden took the witness stand Thursday and denied he raped two preteen girls in East Baton Rouge Parish, one in the early 1990s and another more recently in 2013 and 2014.
Hayden's 90 minutes on the witness stand, which included several tense exchanges with Assistant District Attorney Sonya Cardia-Porter, came just hours after one of his accusers, who is now 15 years old, got physically ill on the witness stand while telling a jury that Hayden sexually abused her for a year and a half when she was 11 and 12, wrecking her life.
"Did you rape anyone?" Hayden's court-appointed attorney, Bo Rougeou, asked the 51-year-old shortly after Hayden sat next to the jury.
"No sir," Hayden said calmly and softly inside state District Judge Mike Erwin's 19th Judicial District courtroom.
Hayden's 15-year-old accuser walked quickly from the courtroom, visibly upset, as soon as he denied the rape allegations against him. From inside the courtroom, she could be heard crying in the hallway outside the 10th-floor courtroom.
Latest from Wednesday testimony: Witness: Young girl confided in him that Will Hayden sexual…
Hayden had looked directly at the jury when he walked to the witness stand to begin his testimony Thursday afternoon.
Cardia-Porter wrapped up her questioning of Hayden by referencing the rape allegations and telling him, "It's the truth. It's not a lie. The only lies are coming from that witness stand right now."
Rougeou rested the defense's case after Hayden's testimony, which was preceded by several character witnesses. The state, which recessed its case Thursday, will rest Friday after calling its final witness, who was not available until Friday. The jury is expected to begin its deliberations sometime Friday.
Hayden said he drove trucks for a living before opening Red Jacket Firearms in Baton Rouge, a custom gun shop that served as the backdrop for the Discovery Channel-aired "Sons of Guns" show from 2011 until 2014 when his legal troubles forced its cancellation.
Hayden denied that he was kissing and receiving oral sex from the girl on Aug. 4, 2014, when his then-Red Jacket personal assistant, Rebecca Ramsey, came to his Greenwell Springs Road home that afternoon to meet with him. Ramsey testified Tuesday that she saw Hayden kissing the girl, and the girl testified she was performing a sex act on him when Ramsey came into the house.
The next morning, Ramsey reported what she allegedly witnessed to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, and an investigation began that led to Hayden being arrested twice that month on child sexual abuse charges.
When former "Sons of Guns" reality TV personality Will Hayden goes on trial on rape charges …
Ramsey was in the courtroom when Hayden testified. He admitted being in only boxer shorts when Ramsey came into his house that day, but he said he was doing laundry after returning from an out-of-state trip. Ramsey said the girl was sitting on Hayden's living room sofa, and he was leaning over her.
Cardia-Porter asked Hayden if he was standing or sitting when Ramsey came into his home, then quickly added, "What does the script say, Mr. Hayden?" Hayden smiled and said he was standing.
When asked why Ramsey would falsely accuse him of inappropriate contact with the girl, Hayden said he had just informed Ramsey that she would no longer be keeping his financial books and he suggested that Ramsey might have been nervous about what the new bookkeeper might uncover.
The prosecutor likewise asked why Hayden's other accuser, now 37, would accuse him of raping her in Baton Rouge and Amite roughly 25 years ago.
"You're asking me to get into someone else's mind," Hayden replied, noting that Internet sites had estimated his worth at $9 million to $12 million during the height of his "Sons of Guns" popularity. He suggested the woman was perhaps eyeing filing a civil lawsuit against him.
Cardia-Porter repeatedly and sometimes sarcastically referred to Hayden as being "pretty important" back then. Hayden did acknowledge that he was worried about someone trying to kidnap his children at the time.
Through several bouts of nausea on the witness stand, Hayden's 15-year-old accuser concluded her testimony Thursday morning after beginning it Wednesday afternoon.
"He ruined my life," she said shortly after bending over for a third time and appearing to vomit. "I'm never going to be the same, but I'm a survivor, not a victim."
The girl recalled how Hayden had raped her in his home and also made her perform oral sex on him, including once in his red Dodge pickup. Hayden said he did not own the truck at that time.
She also testified that Hayden bought her contraceptive gel so she would not get pregnant.
The girl said she turned to destructive behavior to cope with the sexual abuse that Hayden allegedly inflicted on her.
"I would lacerate my skin and smoke and drink," she said, showing Cardia-Porter and the jury the scar marks on her arms.
In a poem she wrote that was seized by East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's detectives in August 2014, the girl described herself as a dead flower and Hayden as having a dark side.
"Please don't make me cry because I'm just a dead flower inside," she wrote. "I cry every night hoping it would end."
Hayden is being tried on two counts of aggravated rape of the girl, and a count of forcible rape of the now-37-year-old woman who testified earlier in the week. He also faces rape charges in Livingston Parish. One of those charges involves the 15-year-old girl.