Former NBA Player Cuts Plea Deal In Shooting Case

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The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has announced that former NBA star Jayson Williams has made a plea deal in the fatal shooting of his chauffeur.

Williams was originally charged with eight counts, including one of aggravated manslaughter, and stood trial in 2004. He was acquitted of three counts in the shooting and guilty on four charges of attempting to cover up the crime. When the jury was unable to reach a consensus on a second count of reckless manslaughter, the judge, Edward Coleman, declared a mistrial. The state decided to retry Williams.

The former Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets player filed a motion to dismiss the charges on which he would have been retried, claiming that the admission of the same evidence as was used in the initial trial would amount to double jeopardy. A three-judge appellate panel, however, seconded Coleman’s rationale that “this isn’t really a second prosecution, it’s a continuation of the same prosecution.”

Now, Williams has agreed to a plea deal, which mandates a sentence of 18 months in prison without the possibility of parole; prosecutors say they will ask for Williams to serve five years in prison on the four charges of attempting to conceal the shooting.

Costas Christofi, 55, had been hired to drive the basketball player and several friends to dinner on February 14, 2002. After the night’s festivities, the group returned to Williams’s home, where he was recklessly handling a 12-gauge shotgun when it went off, fatally shooting Christofi. In conjunction with two other men Williams then tried to cover up the act, by making it appear as if Christofi had used the weapon on himself.

Williams paid $2.75 million in 2003 to settle a wrongful death suit brought by the family of the slain driver.

Williams, who will be sentenced on February 23, is currently free on $250,000 bail, on conditions that he check in daily with probation officers and refrain from drinking alcohol.

In an unrelated case, Williams also faces charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle while impaired after crashing his Mercedes SUV into a tree last week, according to a spokesperson from the New York Police Department. In this case, his bail was set at $10,000 and he was ordered to wear a monitoring device.

The sports star had retired about 10 years ago due to a leg injury, after playing nine seasons in the NBA.

 

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