Retired New Orleans police captain William Ceravolo is exploring the possibility of filing a civil defamation lawsuit against Cardell Hayes’ attorney John Fuller, Ceravolo’s attorney said Sunday night (Dec. 11).
“I can confirm that my client is exploring those options,” said criminal defense attorney Tanya Picou Faia, who was retained by Ceravolo in April after Fuller first suggested that he had tampered with evidence at the Will Smith crime scene. “My client is seeking representation and I am actively helping him find a civil attorney to advise him.”
Fuller, at the defense table awaiting the verdict for defendant Cardell Hayes in the Will Smith killing, was not immediately available to comment.
“(Fuller) has played lower than low as far as how he’s handled this situation with Billy,” Faia said. “I tried to tell him he was wrong, but I can’t tell you how many phone calls and electronic communications to John went unreturned.”
David Olasky, a private investigator Fuller said Friday was hired by co-counsel Jay Daniels, began testifying at an April 28 preliminary hearing in the Hayes case that he had spoken with a witness who said she saw Ceravolo remove a gun from Smith’s Mercedes within minutes of Smith’s death. That hearing was halted moments after the bombshell accusation when District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office announced that Hayes had been indicted for murder in Smith’s killing by an Orleans Parish grand jury.
The accusation about Ceravolo, who dined with Smith and former Saints running back Pierre Thomas at Sake Cafe on the April 9 night Smith was killed, lingered. The allegation prompted the NOPD to remove Ceravolo from the department’s Reserves division through an administrative reassignment. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the move was taken to preserve the integrity of the Will Smith investigation.
Faia was able to obtain video surveillance evidence proving that Ceravolo was at the Windsor Court Hotel when Smith was shot, and not yet at the scene at the time the mystery witness claimed. But Hayes’ defense team never cleared Ceravolo of wrongdoing and refused to identify their purported witness to investigators from the NOPD and FBI probing the evidence-tampering claim.
Faia said Ceravolo “will see if he has a civil action against Mr. Fuller, his investigator, and Mr. Daniels.” She said she has requested a court transcript of the testimony Olasky gave Friday, when Criminal District Judge Camille Buras ordered the witness to be named. Fuller and Olasky identified the witness as Warnisha “Weedy” Hudson, but Fuller did not call her to testify in the Hayes trial.
Olasky testified Friday that he had no audio or video recording of his interview with Hudson, only handwritten notes. He admitted taking no action to clear Ceravolo’s name after the hotel surveillance video was revealed, saying he thought that was best left to Hayes’ attorneys.
“I use PIs all the time,” Faia said. “Mine record interviews and write reports, and I’m responsible for the content of what’s in those reports and what I do with the information.”
Faia said she had refrained from notifying Fuller of Ceravolo’s intentions this weekend, so as not to distract the attorney from preparing his Sunday closing argument in the Hayes trial.
“The last time I spoke with John on this was the day of the preliminary hearing,” Faia said. “I warned him then, ‘Don’t do this, because it’s wrong.’ And he did it anyway. … I’m so upset and disappointed.”
Asked whether Hudson also might be included in a civil suit by Ceravolo, Faia said, “If ‘Weedy’ exists, and if a civil attorney says ‘Weedy’ bears liability for her statement, a civil attorney would have to make that call.
“I have a strong suspicion there is no ‘Weedy.'”