Former NBA star Jayson Williams was acquitted of manslaughter Friday in the shooting death of his limousine driver, but found guilty on four different charges relating to the attempted cover up the shooting.
SOMERVILLE, N.J. – Williams, 36, was convicted on four of six lesser charges related to tampering with evidence and trying to cover up the death of Costas “Gus” Christofi, 55, who was killed by a shotgun blast as Williams handled the weapon. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum penalty of 13 years in prison.
But Williams will probably receive a sentence of less than five years, the maximum for the most serious count. No date was set for sentencing.
The jury could not agree on the reckless manslaughter charge. One juror, Shalisha Martin, said the vote was 8-4 in favor of acquittal. “I think it was an accident,” Martin said.Of course it was an accident you stupid twit, that’s not the point. The issue is was it “reckless and with willful (in some jurisdictions it’s “wanton”) disregard.”
First Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven C. Lember told the jury Williams was reckless because he had been drinking and chose to handle a loaded weapon in a room where other people were standing. “When you play with deadly weapons, ‘accident’ is no defense,” Lember said.
The real kicker are Williams’ actions immediately after the shooting:
The shooting happened Feb. 14, 2002, while Williams gave friends and members of the Harlem Globetrotters a tour of his mansion in Alexandria Township.
According to testimony, Williams, who had a skeet-shooting range on his 65-acre estate, took a loaded shotgun from a cabinet in the master bedroom. He turned, uttered an expletive at Christofi, possibly in jest, and then snapped the weapon shut, and it went off, according to testimony. Christofi was struck in the chest and died within minutes. Williams dropped to his knees and wailed, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” and “My life is over,” according to witnesses.
Witnesses testified that Williams wiped the gun down, then put it in Christofi’s hands. The former basketball star stripped naked, pushed his clothes into the arms of a friend, told him to get rid of them, and took a swim in his indoor pool before police arrived.
Four Globetrotters testified with immunity, after initially telling police they were downstairs at the time of the shooting – a cover story they said Williams demanded. Two of Williams’ friends pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and testified.