Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter on Thursday in the death of former Saints defensive end Will Smith, and Smith’s widow says that’s not enough.
Racquel Smith released a statement criticizing Judge Camille Buras for the sentence, saying Hayes received compassion that he didn’t show to Smith.
“My family and I are extremely disappointed with today’s sentencing and the leniency showed by Judge Buras for the defendant,” Racquel Smith said in the statement. “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.
“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 [Hayes’ son] 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.
“My heart is full of gratitude for the entire staff of the New Orleans District’s Attorney’s Office and the members of the Police Department who worked tirelessly on this case. I am particularly grateful to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and his assistant district attorneys Jason Napoli and Laura Rodrigue for their hard work in presenting this case with such precision and passion. Their ability to convey the facts of the case while also caring so deeply about justice for Will and my family is something I will never forget. And to all of those who continued to pray alongside us through this very difficult time, we heard you and we are so appreciative for the continued outpouring of love and support.
“I will continue to shine my light for my Superman. Each day, we continue to heal and work through our pain and feelings of enormous loss. Will’s dedication to his family, his love for his community and his desire to live life to the fullest will continue to inspire me, Willie, Lisa, Wynter and everyone else who loved him. We are hopeful that we can finally focus on what brings us joy — remembering Will for the man he was and the life he lived. We will carry our memories of Will with us every day for the rest of our lives.”
Buras could have sentenced Smith to anywhere from 20 to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. Racquel Smith was also shot in the incident, which started as a confrontation between Hayes and Smith over a minor traffic accident.