Ronald Gasser found guilty of manslaughter in Joe McKnight murder case

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Ronald Gasser was found guilty of manslaughter by a Jefferson Parish jury in the murder case of former NFL and John Curtis football player Joe McKnight.

Gasser faces a sentence of zero to 40 years.

Attorneys wrapped up closing arguments Friday morning in the Joe McKnight murder trial and the jury has the case.

Gasser, 56, was charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of murdering Joe McKnight at Behrman Hwy. and Holmes Blvd. during a road rage incident that started on the Crescent City Connection.

Gasser said he acted in self-defense when McKnight got out of his SUV and lunged into Gasser's passenger side window. Gasser shot McKnight three times.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not deny both men engaged in dangerous activity leading up to the shooting, weaving in and out of traffic at high speed.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jury, "We're not saying Mr. McKnight was perfect, but what happened on that bridge was a challenge. He, meaning Gasser, wasn't going to let mister McKnight get away with it."

The prosecutor talked about how the autopsy report proves McKnight was not lunging into Gasser's car when he was shot.

The prosecutor told the jury Gasser was the aggressor when he followed McKnight off the General DeGaulle exit and the road rage escalated. They said Gasser was not justified in opening fire on McKnight.

Defense attorney Matt Goetz says his client had every right to defend himself. Goetz said his client was taking an alternate route home after being rattled by McKnight. He told the jury this case is not about a challenge. He says it is about choices.

The defense attorney told the jury, "He, meaning Joe McKnight chose to drive like a maniac. He chose to almost run Ronnie off the road. I guess, in his mind, if you're a 6'2", two-hundred plus pound pro-football player with marijuana and Oxycodone in his system, you can do that."

During deliberations, jurors asked the court two questions. The first one dealt with the difference between second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. The second question was about the "Stand Your Ground" law and the aggressor doctrine.

Louisiana law states someone can use lethal force against anyone entering private property, including a vehicle, if they feel there is a threat.

McKnight played in the NFL for four seasons. He played prep football at John Curtis. He was shot on Dec.1, 2016.

Gasser was originally booked with manslaughter. The District Attorney's Office later charged him with second-degree murder.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 15.