The 56-year-old driver convicted in a road rage incident that killed former ex-Jet Joe McKnight was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.
A Jefferson Parish jury convicted Ronald Gasser in December on a manslaughter charge for fatally shooting the former running back after a five-mile road race in December 2016.
He was initially charged with second-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.
Judge Ellen Shrier Kovach dubbed the killing senseless, noting both men could have de-escalated the situation had they chosen to do so, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
“This tragedy did not need to happen,” she said.
Defense lawyers argued he fired in self-defense when McKnight approached his car following the chase, which spanned the Mississippi River in New Orleans and later ended with gun violence in nearby Jefferson Parish.
Witnesses at the trial said McKnight was weaving in and out of traffic ahead of the shooting. Assistant District Attorney Seth Shute conceded he’d been “driving like a jerk,” but contended Gasser escalated the situation when he followed McKnight off the highway.
“We’re not saying Mr. McKnight was perfect, but what happened on that bridge was a challenge,” he said. “He, meaning Gasser, wasn’t going to let Mr. McKnight get away with it.”
Shute also acknowledged McKnight had placed his hand on the open, passenger side window of Gasser’s car but noted physical evidence proved the shooter lied to police when he said the athlete lunged at him.
McKnight’s mother, Jennifer McKnight, and the mother of his son, Michelle Quick, both delivered emotional victim impact statements ahead of the sentencing, WWLTV reported.
“To you it might have seemed like an insignificant life to take, but it wasn’t,” the grieving mother told Gasser.
Quick added that it is no her “life’s mission to make sure my son, Jayden doesn’t grow up with hate for you.
“Not because you deserve it, but because he should not have hate in his heart.”
With News Wire Services