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Sunday, June 21, 2009
Judge to consider sentence for Williams

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- A judge on Monday will consider whether former NBA star Jayson Williams should be sentenced for covering up a fatal shooting at his mansion in 2002, given Williams' recent erratic behavior, including an assault arrest in North Carolina.

Williams
Williams

Williams, 41, was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter in 2004 but convicted on four counts of trying to cover up the shooting of a hired driver at his Hunterdon County mansion. The jury couldn't reach a verdict on a reckless manslaughter count, and State Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman has delayed sentencing pending Williams' retrial on that charge.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to reconsider the sentencing delay due to Williams' recent run-ins with the law.

In April, police used a stun gun on Williams during an altercation in a New York hotel room, and in May he was arrested in North Carolina and charged with assault for allegedly punching someone in a barroom dispute. Earlier this year, his wife filed divorce papers claiming he was abusive and had a drug problem.

The four cover-up counts on which Williams was convicted -- including witness and evidence tampering -- carry a combined maximum sentence of 13 years in prison. However, Williams was not expected to receive a term longer than five years, the maximum sentence for the most serious charge.

Williams' retrial, scheduled for January, has been pushed back several times, notably after it was disclosed in 2007 that an investigator in the prosecutor's office used a racial slur to describe Williams in 2002. Williams' defense team is seeking to have the cover-up convictions reversed on grounds of racial bias.

Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn has asked Coleman to set a sentencing hearing, citing Williams' behavior.

"Defendant's escalating acts of unlawful and aberrant behavior must incur consequences that he has thus far evaded as the clear result of never having been sentenced on his convictions," Barlyn wrote in his motion asking for the sentencing.

"I thought he should have been sentenced from the day we got the verdict from the jury," said Christofi's sister, Andrea Adams, speaking by telephone from a restaurant she owns in Somerville, not far from the courthouse where the trial was held.

"If it were anyone else, he would have already been sentenced," she added. "I guess when you have money, that's what happens."

According to witnesses, 55-year-old Costas Christofi was killed when Williams took a loaded 12-gauge shotgun from a cabinet in his bedroom in front of several people and cracked it open, then snapped it closed. The gun fired once, hitting Christofi in the chest.

Witnesses testified that Williams wiped down the shotgun and placed it in the victim's hands, then stripped off his own clothes and jumped into his pool.

Williams' defense team says the shooting was an accident and that the gun misfired. Christofi's family received a reported $2.75 million settlement from Williams in 2003.

Williams played nine seasons in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets until his retirement in 2000.