Man faces manslaughter charge in fatal shooting of former FSU football star’s father

A man faces a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of the father of former Florida State University football star Travis Rudolph at a South Florida adult nightclub, authorities said.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Paul Senat, 36, of Lantana, was arrested Tuesday in what was initially deemed to be an accidental shooting.

Barbera said Darryl Rudolph, 55, was found with a gunshot wound early Saturday in a back storage room at Sugar Daddy’s Cabaret in West Palm Beach.

He was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died.

Barbera said detectives determined that Rudolph was at the club repairing items when Senat, who works at the club, moved a firearm off a shelf in an adjacent room.

The gun discharged, striking Rudolph in the back of the neck, Barbera said.

Travis Rudolph, who played football at Cardinal Newman High School, left FSU after his junior season to declare for the upcoming NFL draft. The wide receiver made headlines last summer after he ate with an autistic boy who was sitting alone while the Seminoles were visiting a Tallahassee middle school.

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Man who killed NFL star Will Smith sentenced to 25 years

The man who shot and killed former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith in a road rage incident was sentenced Thursday in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, according to court documents.

Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole for manslaughter in the death of Smith, and 15 years for attempted manslaughter in the shooting of his wife, Racquel Smith.

Judge Camille Buras ordered the sentences be served concurrently.

Hayes had faced a maximum of 60 years in prison, 40 years for manslaughter and 20 years for attempted manslaughter, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Racquel Smith was not happy with the sentence. A statement provided to CNN affiliate WVUE said in part:

“My family and I are extremely disappointed with today’s sentencing and the leniency showed by Judge Buras for the defendant. 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 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.”

Smith, as well as her late husband’s aunt, sister and sister-in-law, among others, testified Wednesday, each giving victim impact statements, court documents show.

Hayes’ mother and others spoke to his character on Thursday, and WVUE reported that a weeping Hayes took the stand and addressed the victim’s children, saying, “To not have a father around, I know what you’re going through. I wish that night had never happened.”

Hayes was originally also charged with second-degree murder, but the jury returned a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of manslaughter in December 2016.

The district attorney said several things probably led to that decision: Testimony that a hit-and-run involving the two men happened before the shooting, that Smith got out of his vehicle in an aggressive manner and that Smith had a blood-alcohol content well above the legal level.

Both Hayes and Racquel Smith testified in the high-profile case, which drew national attention and cast a harsh spotlight on violence in New Orleans.

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Dolphins’ Pouncey expresses sympathy over loss of ‘friend’ Hernandez

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is drawing criticism after honoring Aaron Hernandez following his suicide this morning.

Pouncey used Instagram to post a picture of a smiling Hernandez along with words of mourning over his former teammate at the University of Florida.

“To my friend my brother!,” Pouncey wrote on the post. “Through thick and thin right or wrong we never left each other’s side. Today my heart hurts as I got the worse news I could have imagined. It was just a day ago we shared our last convo. I will forever miss you and love you bro. we will meet again rest easy!”

The post drew instant criticism with many reminding Pouncey that Hernandez was a convicted murderer who was spending the rest of his life in prison.

One person commented, “Friend or no friend that man was a murder… Rip but ain’t no heart break about somebody who kills.”

Another wrote, “He deserves no sympathy. He killed a man in cold blood, planned out mind you, and chose to take the cowards way out instead of serving the sentence he’s been handed.”

Pouncey and Hernandez were teammates at Florida from 2007-2010, where they won a national championship in 2009.

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NCAA returns events to North Carolina

North Carolina is included as one of the states listed to host NCAA championship events between the years 2018-2022, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

The news comes two weeks after the NCAA ended its ban against the state, when it announced the organization’s Board of Governors “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina.” The reversal came after the state’s partial repeal of House Bill 2, or the so-called bathroom bill.

HB2 ordered that people at a government-run facility must use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill, HB142, on March 30 that repealed the controversial law.

The new bill keeps regulation of bathroom access solely in control of the state legislature. It also prevents local governments from passing or amending their own nondiscrimination ordinances relating to private employment and public accommodation until December 2020.

In August 2016, the NCAA said it would relocate championships that were scheduled to be held in North Carolina during the 2016-2017 academic year, citing the “cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating” in its events.

The affected events included this year’s Division I Men’s Basketball Championship first and second rounds, which were held last month. Those originally were scheduled to be held in Greensboro. Instead, they were relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, about 190 miles away.

Greensboro will host the first and second rounds of the men’s tournament in 2020, while Raleigh will host the same event in 2021.

The same day the bathroom law was repealed, NCAA President Mark Emmert addressed the subject in his news conference ahead of the men’s Final Four in Glendale, Arizona, noting that North Carolina is rich in college sports tradition.

“Everybody loves being in North Carolina for our games,” Emmert said. “It’s a state, obviously, that in many ways is synonymous with college sports.”

The NCAA previously said it did not lobby for any specific change in the law.

“We recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2,” the April 4 statement said. “And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, the NCAA had said championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 would remain in the state.

More hosting news could be on the horizon. On April 7, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Charlotte is eligible to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2019. This year’s All-Star Game, originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, was moved to New Orleans.

Silver said Charlotte getting the 2019 game is “not a done deal yet,” as the city will need to show when it resubmits its bid that it will adhere to the NBA’s anti-discrimination policy.

“I’m proud of the league’s stance on opposing HB2 and announcing that we were not going to play the All-Star Game under those circumstances,” Silver said. “And I’m also proud that we’re going back. I think we can be a force for change.

“I understand that there is a segment of our fan base that believes that the change from HB2 to the new law is not enough, but it is change. It’s incremental change. We were part of the movement, pushing for that change. It’s not everything we could have hoped for, but we’re prepared to go back.”

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St. Louis sues NFL for moving Rams to LA

The place the Rams called home for two decades is now suing the football team.

The city of St. Louis, Missouri — where the Rams were based for two decades before jilting it for Los Angeles last year — filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming the team and the NFL failed to use proper protocol when the Rams were relocated.

“In the years leading up to the Rams relocation request, Rams officials decided to move the team and confidentially determined that they would be interested in exploiting any opportunity to do so,” the complaint reads.

The complaint claims that the team and the NFL kept the plans to move secret and misled city officials by making numerous public comments indicating the Rams would likely stay in St. Louis. Meanwhile, the city says it was already prepping to build a new stadium complex that was estimated to cost more than $1 billion and would have added thousands of jobs to the area.

The complaint also claims that moving the team “improperly” enriched Rams executives. It notes that Forbes estimated the value of the team more than doubled after it moved to Los Angeles.

The city of St. Louis has lost between $1.85 million and $3.5 million in “amusement and ticket tax collections,” $7.5 million in property taxes, and about $1.4 million in sales tax, according to the complaint.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said “there is no legitimate basis for this litigation.”

“While we understand the disappointment of the St. Louis fans and the community, we worked diligently with local and state officials in a process that was honest and fair at all times,” McCarthy said via email.

–CNN’s Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

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Aaron Hernandez trial heads to jury

Alexander Bradley, the key witness in the murder case against Aaron Hernandez, was “honest to a fault” and stuck to what he believed he had seen, even when some evidence contradicted him.

“Doesn’t that prove that he was being forthright and honest?” Patrick Haggan, the lead prosecutor in the case, said. “Doesn’t that prove that detectives and prosecutors didn’t coach him what to say?”

Or, as the defense said, does it prove the witness’ testimony was littered with lies, like a meal filled with cockroaches? You don’t pick out the cockroaches and keep eating. You reject the meal completely.

“When the facts start contradicting Mr. Bradley, at what point do you send that meal back?” defense attorney Jose Baez said. “How many cockroaches do you need in your food before you send it all back?”

Those were the two contradicting narratives attorneys put forward in closing arguments Thursday in the double-murder trial against Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end.

Hernandez is accused of killing two men in a drive-by shooting outside a Boston nightclub in July 2012. He has previously been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the June 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez did not testify in either trial.

The crux of the prosecution’s case centered on testimony from Bradley, a former friend of Hernandez who was granted immunity to testify against the former NFL star.

Bradley testified that Hernandez, angry after a man bumped into him at a nightclub and spilled his drink, shot five times into that man’s packed vehicle as payback. Bradley then drove Hernandez away in a silver Toyota 4Runner owned by Hernandez, he testified.

Two immigrants, Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu, were killed in the shooting, prosecutors said.

Months later, Hernandez shot Bradley between the eyes and left him to die in a parking lot in Florida, trying to get rid of the only witness to the Boston shooting, Bradley testified.

Bradley survived the shooting, making for dramatic courtroom testimony explaining how Hernandez allegedly carried out the shooting, hid the weapon and getaway car, and then turned a gun on his friend.

‘This guy has an incentive’

Baez, a demonstrative, made-for-TV attorney who became famous for his defense of Casey Anthony in 2011, attacked Bradley as a liar, violent criminal and a “parasite” out to extort Hernandez for money.

Baez said prosecutors had made a “deal with the devil” in giving Bradley immunity, and that he had an incentive to lie and tell the story prosecutors wanted him to tell.

“It’s the deal of a lifetime. He’s either there,” Baez said, pointing to the witness stand, “or there,” pointing to the defense table. “And that’s a big incentive.”

When Bradley testified, Baez repeatedly pushed him to admit he had dealt drugs for more than a decade and that he owned several machine guns. In addition, Bradley is serving a five-year sentence in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford nightclub in February 2014, months after he provided sworn testimony to a grand jury in this case.

In closing arguments Thursday, Baez suggested that Bradley — not Hernandez — had carried out the shooting over a botched drug deal.

“This guy has an incentive, and all of this is lies,” Baez said.

Baez likened Bradley to a “three-legged pony” that prosecutors were riding to the finish line. With the families of the victims watching in the courtroom, Baez mimed smacking a horse on the butt and rode around.

“It does not matter that you’re a violent drug dealer,” Baez said, imagining prosecutors’ line of thought, “because we’re gonna ride you home and get an NFL football player.”

Tattoo evidence

Prosecutors produced evidence that largely corroborated Bradley’s testimony.

They presented video that they said showed Bradley and Hernandez getting into the silver SUV used in the shooting. That vehicle was later found at the home of Hernandez’s cousin, “stuffed away” and growing cobwebs in the garage, prosecutors said.

In addition, a witness at the club the night of the shooting spotted Hernandez having an interaction with the victim. And cell towers placed Hernandez at the scene of the crime at the same time as the shooting, and then later driving away.

The parts that did not fit exactly show that Bradley was speaking truthfully from his imperfect memory, rather than saying what authorities may have wanted him to say, prosecutor Haggan said.

“He’s never changed that story,” Haggan said. “There are minor inconsistencies that make him credible.”

Finally, prosecutors pointed to the tattoos Hernandez got after the Boston and Florida shootings, which they said amounted to a confession.

One tattoo showed a revolver with five bullets in its chamber, the same number of shots fired in the drive-by shooting. Another tattoo showed a gun pointing outward, similar to how Bradley would have seen a gun to his face, prosecutors said.

Hernandez also got a text tattoo next to those images: “God forgives.”

“That is not random. That is not art. That is evidence,” Haggan said. “That is a confession.”

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