Friday, April 30, 2004
SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- Former NBA star Jayson Williams was acquitted Friday of the most serious charge against him, aggravated manslaughter. The jury said it could not agree on the charge of reckless manslaughter.
Williams, 36, was found guilty on four of the six lesser charges, related to tampering with evidence and attempting to cover up the shooting.
Collectively, the charges carry a maximum penalty of 13 years in prison.
Charges Jayson Williams faced
(max prison sentences and verdict)
Aggravated manslaughter (30 years) -- Not guilty
Reckless manslaughter (10 years) -- No decision
Possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (10 years) -- Not guilty
Aggravated assault (18 months) -- Not guilty
Hindering apprehension (5 years) -- Guilty
Tampering with witnesses (5 years) -- Guilty
Tampering with evidence (18 months) -- Guilty
Fabricating physical evidence (18 months) -- Guilty
But Williams would probably receive a sentence of less than five years, the maximum for the most serious count. No date was set for sentencing. A scheduling conference to determine a trial date on the remaining count, reckless manslaughter, was set for May 21.
The jurors had deliberated for almost 23 hours when Juror No. 5 sent the judge a note shortly after 3 p.m. Its contents were not disclosed. In response, the judge asked the jurors to return to the deliberation room and to send him another note explaining whether they believed it was worthwhile to continue deliberations.
The jurors quickly sent a note back saying they could only reach a partial verdict.
The jury said Thursday that it had reached a decision on six of the charges, but could not agree on two others.
The jury then requested to rehear testimony from three of the witnesses against the retired NBA star. The readbacks began shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, the fourth day of deliberations for the eight women and four men who have sat since Feb. 10 on the case, which stems from the shooting of a hired driver, Costas "Gus" Christofi.
Williams could have faced up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Williams displayed no emotion as he stood with his lawyers. After the verdict was completed, he sat down in his chair, leaned back and kissed his wife, Tanya, who was seated behind him. He remains free on bail.
He did not speak to reporters as he left the courtroom holding hands with his wife.
The shooting took place as Williams was giving friends and members of the Harlem Globetrotters a tour of his mansion in western New Jersey in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2002.
Testimony showed that Williams took a loaded shotgun from a cabinet, cracked it open, turned, uttered an obscenity at Christofi and snapped it closed. It then fired once, sending 12 pellets into Christofi's chest. The 55-year-old died within minutes.
Five witnesses testified that Williams then wiped down the shotgun, and four said Williams placed it in the victim's hands.
The defense has maintained the shooting was an accident and that the gun misfired. It has also asserted that the former NBA All-Star was so distraught after the shooting he could not organize a cover-up.
The trial began Feb. 10, with the jury hearing from 43 witnesses over 21 days of testimony.
Last edited by lizchris; Apr 30th, 2004 at 10:33 PM.