SOMERVILLE, N.J. - Former NBA star Jayson Williams was
acquitted of manslaughter April 30 in the Feb. 14, 2002
shotgun slaying of a limousine driver at his mansion.
However, Williams, 36, was convicted on four 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. The charges
carry a maximum penalty of 13 years in prison. Williams
could have faced up to 55 years if convicted on all counts.
It is expected Williams will receive a sentence of less
than five years, the maximum for the most serious count. No
date has been set for sentencing.
Juror Shalisha Martin said the vote was 8-4 in favor of
acquittal on the reckless manslaughter charge. "I think it
was an accident," she said.
First Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven C.
Lember said no decision had been made on whether Williams
would be tried again on that charge. A conference to
determine a possible trial date was set for May 21.
Williams displayed no emotion as he stood with his lawyers
and remains free on bail. He retired from the New Jersey
Nets in 2000 after a decade in the NBA.
The defense argued the shooting was accidental, saying a
malfunction in the gun's firing mechanism caused the weapon
to fire. Prosecutors contended Williams was handling the
shotgun recklessly so it amounted to manslaughter.
Anthony Christofi, a nephew of the victim, said he was
disappointed by the split verdict, "But we have to respect
the decision the jury made."
Another nephew, Chris Adams, reacted bitterly.
Williams "was never held accountable for his actions. He
was reckless; he was showing off," Adams said.
The shooting happened while Williams gave friends and
members of the Harlem Globetrotters a tour of his mansion
in Alexandria Township. According to testimony, Williams
took a loaded shotgun from a cabinet in the master bedroom.
He turned, uttered an expletive at Christofi, possibly in
jest, and as he snapped the weapon shut, it went off.
Christofi was struck in the chest and died within minutes.
Williams dropped to his knees and said, "Oh my God! Oh my
God!" and "My life is over," according to witnesses.
Witnesses also testified that Williams wiped the gun down,
then put it in Christofi's hands. Williams then 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
A weapons expert for the defense said the shotgun's firing
mechanism was worn and fouled with wood chips, rust and
oil. He said the weapon could misfire when snapped shut.
Prosecution experts disputed that.
Prosecutors 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."
Defense attorney Billy Martin said: "That gun was never
pointed, was not aimed. It was not meant to be directed at
"Some jail time may do Mr. Williams some good," said the
victim’s sister, Andrea Adams.
"Maybe it would give him something to think about, so
something like this would not happen again.”