‘Sons of Guns’ star arrested on child molestation charge

William Hayden
William Hayden

Hayden accused in molestation

A Baton Rouge gun dealer known nationally as the star of Discovery Channel’s reality television show “Sons of Guns” was arrested over the weekend, accused of recently molesting a girl at his Greenwell Springs Road home.

William “Will” Hayden, the show’s 49-year-old star, spent Friday night in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison before leaving sometime Saturday after posting a $150,000 bail on counts of molestation of a juvenile and aggravated crimes against nature, booking records show.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Hayden on Friday based partly on accusations made by a woman who told investigators that on Aug. 4 she saw Hayden inappropriately kissing the girl while he was undressed, according to a deputy’s statement attached to the warrant for Hayden’s arrest.

Hayden’s business, Red Jacket Firearms LLC, released a statement describing the allegations as “false charges” made by “an angry woman who Will has recently ended his relationship with.”

“These allegations were raised well more than a week ago in connection with and retaliation for Will ending that relationship,” the statement reads.

C. Frank Holthaus, Hayden’s attorney, said the accusations were made by a woman who Hayden recently fired from a job at his gun shop. Holthaus also said Hayden’s relationship with the woman was only professional in nature, not romantic.

“She has nothing to do with this child that she claims was somehow abused,” Holthaus said.

Hayden does not share any children with the woman, Holthaus said.

During the investigation, which began Aug. 5, deputies asked Hayden to submit to a lie detector test, Holthaus said.

They agreed to do so as long as deputies also forced the woman making the accusations to submit to a lie detector test. But a deputy refused the deal, Holthaus said, which eventually led to Hayden’s arrest Friday night.

Holthaus declined to comment on the details of the allegations, adding that the matter would be handled in a courtroom.

“This is only the beginning,” the attorney said.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on anything related to the investigation, citing the decision by a state district judge to sign the affidavit of probable cause, which included a stipulation that the request for the accompanying arrest warrant not be disclosed.

However, the judge, state District Judge Bonnie Jackson, said she never sealed the warrant from public view.

“I never signed any order to seal,” Jackson said. “I just signed the arrest warrant. I never saw a motion to seal. I didn’t seal a thing.”

Jackson noted that the words “under seal” were written on an envelope containing the affidavit and arrest warrant that a sheriff’s deputy brought to her house on Friday. The judge signed both documents.

According to the affidavit, the girl told detectives in an interview that she had not been sexually abused by Hayden. However, when detectives asked her why she thought she was being interviewed, she replied that the suspect had told her “it was about him molesting me,” the affidavit says.

Hayden told deputies that he was wearing “boxer brief type underwear” when the woman walked in.

Stephanie Hayden Ford, a daughter of Hayden’s who manages the gun shop and stars in the show, released a statement in support of her father.

“There was never any impropriety in our home,” Ford said. “He was and is a good father.”

“Sons of Guns” follows Hayden and several other people involved in manufacturing and selling custom-made guns at the shop located just north of South Choctaw Drive near Monterrey Boulevard in Baton Rouge. The show’s first season aired in 2011.

The show’s most recent episode, part of its fifth season, aired in early May, according to the Discovery Channel’s website.

Laurie Goldberg, a Discovery Channel spokeswoman, declined to comment when reached by phone on Monday.

If charged and convicted on the count of aggravated crimes against nature, Hayden would face a prison sentence of 25 years to 99 years in prison.

The penalties accompany a conviction when the victim is younger than 13 and the perpetrator is older than 17 under amendments to state law proposed this spring by legislators and later signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal that recently went into effect.