Friday , Apr , 30 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Williams not guilty of aggravated manslaughter

Somerville, NJ (Sports Network) – Jayson Williams was found not guilty of
aggravated manslaughter in the shooting death of limousine driver Costas “Gus”
Christofi, but was found guilty on four of the other seven charges on Friday.

Williams was also found not guilty of aggravated assault as well as possession
of a weapon with unlawful purpose. He was found guilty on the cover-up charges
of hindering apprehension, tampering with a witness, tampering with evidence
and fabricating physical evidence.

The jury did not reach a verdict on one charge, reckless manslaughter, which
carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

The four convictions deal with Williams’ actions after the shooting took place
at his northern New Jersey estate on February 14, 2002. He faces up to 13
years in prison on the four counts, but is unlikely to serve that much time.

“We are disappointed that the jury was unable to return a verdict of guilty on
any of the pre-shooting or shooting counts,” prosecutor Steven Lember said.

No date was set for sentencing, but the court did schedule a May 21 hearing
to determine whether the state will proceed, and under what circumstances it
will proceed, on the reckless manslaughter charge.

“We will need to go back and discuss the results of this case with the
Hunterdon County prosecutor, and after we have those discussions, he will be
in a position to inform the court as to whether or not we will proceed in
retrying the reckless manslaughter charge,” Lember said.

The 12-member jury, which began deliberations Tuesday, was split on two of the
eight charges for most of the week and Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman
asked them to continue deliberations.

Williams faced up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all eight charges. He
showed no emotion when the verdicts were read, and did not speak with
reporters as he left the courtroom with his wife.

The 36-year-old retired NBA star and TV analyst was accused of recklessly
handling the shotgun that killed the 55-year-old Christofi, and then trying to
make the shooting look self-inflicted.

Witnesses testified that Williams told his guests, including members of the
Harlem Globetrotters, that they must agree the shooting was a suicide.

Five testified that Williams wiped his own fingerprints from the gun after it
fired once while he snapped it shut. Four said he attempted to place the
victim’s prints on the weapon.

Williams’ defense team argued the shotgun misfired while he was giving a tour
of his mansion, and that their client was too distraught to orchestrate an
elaborate cover-up.

Two witnesses eventually reached a deal with prosecutors to testify against
Williams to avoid charges of tampering with evidence and lying to
investigators.

The 6-foot-10 Williams spent nine years in the NBA, averaging 7.3 points and
7.5 rebounds. His career ended in 1999 when he broke his right leg and injured
his right knee.

NJ