Sean Payton testifies at Cardell Hayes’ sentencing


Cardell Hayes was convicted of manslaughter in the death of former Saints defensive end Will Smith and attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Smith’s widow Raquel last December and he is expected to be sentenced for those crimes by the end of the week.

A sentencing hearing in New Orleans on Thursday saw Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras deny a defense motion for a new trial and victim-impact testimony about Smith from family, children he coached on his daughter’s basketball team and Saints coach Sean Payton. Payton praised Smith’s leadership and said he was going to join the team’s coaching staff last year before being killed in April.

“He was special,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Rare. Not as a player, but as a man and a person and a teammate. I wanted more of this ‘special,’ and 2016 would have been his first year (coaching), this past year.”

Raquel Smith also testified and castigated Hayes for not owning up to what he did and for saying that Smith shot at him in the absence of any evidence that Smith fired a weapon during the altercation that led to his death.

Hayes faces 40 years on the manslaughter charge and 20 years for attempted manslaughter. Prosecutors are seeking the maximum 60 years and the hearing continues with defense witnesses on Thursday.