News

Man gets 30 years for road rage killing of ex-NFL player

Posted: Updated:

By KEVIN McGILL
Associated Press

GRETNA, La. (AP) - The man convicted of manslaughter in the 2016 road rage shooting death of former NFL running back Joe McKnight was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.

Ronald Gasser, 56, had faced up to 40 years in prison. Defense lawyers argued that Gasser fired in self-defense when McKnight walked up to his car following a 5-mile confrontation that began on a bridge spanning the Mississippi River in New Orleans and ended with gunfire in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

"Let this be a cautionary tale," Judge Ellen Kovach said. McKnight's death could have been avoided "if either of the men had had the good sense, the courage and the wisdom to simply disengage."

Sentencing followed emotional testimony from McKnight's loved ones.

"That day, you didn't have to do that," McKnight's mother, Jennifer McKnight, said while looking down at Gasser, who sat a few feet away at the defense table. She cried throughout her testimony and was escorted from the courtroom sobbing.

MORE: Man who fatally shot Joe McKnight charged with manslaughter

Witnesses at the trial said McKnight had been weaving in and out of traffic at high speed before the shooting. Prosecutors acknowledged to the jury that he was, in the words of Assistant District Attorney Seth Shute, "driving like a jerk." But they argued that Gasser escalated the conflict, following him down an exit that he would not ordinarily have taken moments before the shooting.

Shute acknowledged that McKnight had a hand on the open, passenger side window of Gasser's car before he was shot. But he said physical evidence proved Gasser lied during extensive police questioning when he claimed McKnight lunged at him.

Michelle Quick, the mother of McKnight's now 9-year-old son, described struggling to tell the child what had happened, and trying to protect him from seeing internet video of McKnight on the ground at the shooting scene as people worked to save him.

Defense attorney Matthew Goetz, who is appealing the verdict, had argued for a lenient sentence, noting Gasser's lack of a criminal record. A prosecutor argued that Gasser has shown no remorse.

McKnight had been a high school football hero at Louisiana's John Curtis Christian School. He signed with the University of Southern California in 2006. In the NFL, he played three seasons for the New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gasser was indicted on a second-degree murder charge. The jury voted 10-2 in January for the lesser verdict of manslaughter.

Gasser did not leave the scene of the shooting and he was released for a time after being questioned. He is white and his release after the shooting of the black athlete sparked protests from some who said race was a factor.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who has since retired, denied that race played any role and noted that a thorough investigation led to Gasser's arrest and indictment. Prosecutors later recounted a painstaking investigation, including an extensive search for witnesses and physical evidence that eventually led to Gasser being charged.

The case in some ways echoed another New Orleans-area road rage shooting from 2016. Former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith was gunned down in that April incident. The shooter was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsSlideshowsMore>>

  • Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Wednesday, April 18 2018 5:53 PM EDT2018-04-18 21:53:12 GMT

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

  • Musical acts coming this summer to the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City

    Musical acts coming this summer to the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City

    Florida Georgia Line is set to rock Atlantic City on July 13.Florida Georgia Line is set to rock Atlantic City on July 13.

    The Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City has announced that it will be opening its doors to the public on June 28 at the site of the old Trump Taj Mahal.  Throughout the summer and early fall, the Hard Rock will live up to its name with a lineup of some of music's biggest stars.   

    The Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City has announced that it will be opening its doors to the public on June 28 at the site of the old Trump Taj Mahal.  Throughout the summer and early fall, the Hard Rock will live up to its name with a lineup of some of music's biggest stars.   

  • Former first lady Barbara Bush through the years

    Former first lady Barbara Bush through the years

    Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.
    Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.

    Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.

    Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. She was 92.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."