Defense wants district attorney off Will Smith case

Kevin Mcgill
Associated Press

New Orleans — The New Orleans District Attorney should not be allowed to prosecute the man accused of killing retired Saints star Will Smith, his defense attorneys say, citing a report by the prosecutor that accuses them of witness tampering and other wrongdoing.

Attorney John Fuller and his associate, Gregory Carter, asked the trial judge in a motion filed Thursday to remove Leon Cannizzaro and his staff from the murder case against Cardell Hayes, citing the “baseless and inflammatory” accusations in a 206-page report Cannizzaro sent to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Times-Picayune on reported that the document alleges that Fuller, Carter and another associate sought to intimidate witnesses and jeopardized the safety of witnesses in cases unrelated to Smith’s death. The D.A.’s report, which has not been made public, also alleges they are under federal investigation.

“These public accusations, without formal charging, demonstrate District Attorney Cannizzaro’s personal animosity toward John T. Fuller and Associates,” the defense motion states.

In response, state District Judge Camille Buras delayed an otherwise routine evidence hearing and scheduled arguments on the motion for July 20.

Cannizzaro’s office had not filed a response in the court record by Thursday afternoon and did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.

Prosecutor Jason Napoli has said the evidence shows Hayes provoked the April 9 confrontation by intentionally ramming Smith’s SUV — after Smith had earlier bumped Hayes’s Hummer — and then threatening the unarmed man with a loaded .45-caliber handgun.

Fuller countered that Hayes fired in self-defense, fearing for his life after Smith struck him several times and went to get his gun, too.

A detective testified he saw no evidence Hayes had been injured. Police also said they found Smith’s 9 mm handgun, loaded but not fired, inside the SUV.

Hayes, also faces attempted murder for the wounding of Smith’s wife, who was shot in the legs. Trial is scheduled trial for Sept. 20.