Thursday, January 7, 2010
Williams faces drunken-driving charges
NEW YORK -- Former NBA star Jayson Williams apologized to police for "causing trouble" about 90 minutes after swerving into oncoming traffic and crashing his SUV into a tree, prosecutors said Thursday at the beleaguered ex-player's arraignment on drunken driving charges.
Wearing a neck brace and a bandage above his right eye, a tired-looking Williams appeared at the proceeding via video link from Bellevue Hospital, where he is being treated for a minor bone fracture in his neck and cuts to his face.
He didn't enter a plea and said little beyond brief answers to a few standard questions, plus a "thank you" to the judge as the proceeding ended. His bail was set at $10,000, and he will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet if released.
Jayson Williams is still awaiting retrial on a manslaughter charge in the 2002 death of limousine driver Costas Christofi.
It wasn't immediately clear when that might happen; authorities said they were unsure Thursday evening whether Williams had posted bail, and his lawyers didn't immediately return calls. One of his defense lawyers said Williams needs medical treatment for an undetermined period.
The case marks the latest in a series of legal and personal problems for Williams, who is awaiting retrial on a manslaughter charge in New Jersey.
Williams' black Mercedes-Benz SUV veered across four lanes of oncoming traffic before slamming into a tree at an exit from FDR Drive in Manhattan around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday, according to a court complaint. He was found bleeding from the face and his breath smelled strongly of alcohol, the complaint said.
Police said Williams was alone in the passenger seat when officers arrived. He initially told them the driver left the scene, Assistant District Attorney William Beesch said. But a witness told police no one else had gotten in or out of the car, according to the complaint.
After being taken to Bellevue, Beesch said, Williams told officers around 5 a.m.: "I'm sorry for causing trouble."
The top charge against Williams, driving while intoxicated, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Beesch argued that significant bail and electronic monitoring were needed because Williams was arrested while already on bail in the manslaughter case and has "a history of extreme behavior while he has been intoxicated."
He pointed to episodes including the manslaughter case, which stems from a 2002 shooting at Williams' house. Defense lawyer Linda Kenney Baden called the comment inappropriate.
Kenney Baden told state Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson that Williams has appeared reliably for other court dates. Given his injuries, "he simply is not going anywhere," said Kenney Baden, a prominent defense lawyer whose clients have included music producer Phil Spector and Casey Anthony, a Florida woman charged in the death of her daughter.
Williams is due back in a Manhattan court March 3.
Williams, 41, retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000 after breaking his leg a year earlier. He was in the second year of a six-year, $86 million contract.
He became an NBA analyst for NBC but was suspended after the 2002 shooting, which killed a hired driver.
At Williams' 2004 trial, witnesses testified that he had been drinking and was showing off a shotgun in his bedroom when he snapped the weapon shut and it fired one shot that hit the driver, Costas Christofi, in the chest. They also testified that Williams initially put the gun in the dead man's hands and told witnesses to lie about what happened.
The defense maintained the shooting was an accident and that Williams panicked afterward.
He was acquitted of more serious charges, but a jury deadlocked on a reckless manslaughter count. He is awaiting a retrial on that count.
A hearing set for November to enter a plea in that case was indefinitely postponed. Last month, lawyers in New Jersey asked to be removed from his defense. A hearing on their request remains set for Monday.
The New Jersey attorney general's office, which is handling the retrial, declined to comment Thursday on whether it would try to have Williams' bail revoked because of the drunken driving arrest.
Williams has had other troubles in the last year.
His wife filed for divorce, and police used a stun gun on him in a New York hotel in April after a female friend said he was acting suicidal. He was charged with assault in May after being accused of punching a man in the face outside a North Carolina bar, but the charges were dropped.
In November, Williams' father, E.J., with whom he owned a construction business, died in South Carolina.