Williams will be retried for reckless manslaughter
Saturday, May 22, 2004
SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- Former NBA star Jayson Williams will be retried on a reckless manslaughter charge in the death of a limousine driver two years ago, prosecutors said Friday.
The widely expected announcement came three weeks after a jury delivered a mixed verdict in Williams' trial. The judge set a tentative date for the new trial on Jan. 10, 2005.
Williams was acquitted of the most serious charge last month, aggravated manslaughter, but the jury was deadlocked 8-4 on reckless manslaughter. The charge carries up to 10 years in prison.
The former NBA All-Star also was cleared of aggravated assault and a weapons charge, but convicted on four counts stemming from a failed effort to conceal the shotgun shooting of Costas "Gus" Christofi.
Williams' defense maintained the shooting was an accident, and that the weapon misfired. Defense attorneys said Friday that they were not surprised by the retrial announcement.
Williams, 36, remains free on bail. He faces anywhere from probation to about five years in prison on the cover-up charges, but Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman ruled Friday that Williams will not be sentenced on those counts until the reckless manslaughter case is resolved.
Family members of the victim praised prosecutors for pursuing another trial, but were upset that Williams will not be sentenced sooner.
"He's going to be out on the street for another eight months," said Christopher Adams, Christofi's son.
Christofi, 55, was among a group of friends and Harlem Globetrotters who were touring Williams' mansion in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2002. He had driven some of the players from their hotel to a late dinner at a restaurant with Williams and his friends, and then took some of them to the estate.
Testimony in the 12-week trial showed that Williams took a loaded shotgun from a cabinet in his bedroom, cracked it open, turned, uttered an obscenity at Christofi and snapped the weapon closed. It fired once, sending 12 pellets into Christofi's chest. He died within minutes.
Several witnesses testified that Williams then wiped down the shotgun and placed it in the victim's hands.
The houseguests also testified that Williams persuaded them to tell authorities that they were downstairs at the time of the shooting, and that Christofi shot himself.
Defense lawyers asserted that Williams was so distraught afterward he could not organize a cover-up.
Williams retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000 due to leg injuries.