Tanya Young Williams is the estranged wife of former NBA star Jayson Williams, who's serving time in prison for the fatal 2002 shooting or a hired driver.
Williams played for the New Jersey Nets from 1992-2000.
Tanya, an attorney, filed for divorce last year, saying in court papers filed in New York that Jayson was an emotionally abusive husband and father - though he never hit her.
In an exclusive interview on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Tanya said she's "enraged" when she hears of the abuse Mel Gibson's former girlfriend claims the Oscar-winner inflicted on her.
Russian singer Oksana Grigorieva and Gibson are in a bitter custody dispute over their 8-month old daughter, and Los Angeles police have opened a domestic violence investigation of Gibson.
For the past week, gossip website RadarOnline has been by a man sounding very much like Gibson directed at a woman RadarOnline says is Grigorieva. The tapes include threats by the man to harm the woman. Grigorieva apparently recorded them.
"When I listen to the alleged tapes of Mel Gibson," Tanya told co-anchor Chris Wragge, "I feel a couple of things. First and foremost, I'm enraged, because it wasn't a year ago that we celebrated as a country the fact that we put an African-American in office (as president) and we came together, and then you hear this, and you know that racism is still alive and thriving in the hearts and in the language of someone else that we celebrate, so on that level, it enrages me.
"But I'm also disgusted because, yet again, another man, a powerful (man), a celebrity, has the unmitigated gall to think he can threaten and bully and berate a woman who has loved him and bore his child. So, for me, it brings back a lot of memories of someone just taking advantage of your love and your generosity of spirit. It's very hurtful."
Wragge quoted excerpts of assertions Tanya makes in her divorce papers: "Defendant acts of cruel and inhumane treatment are too numerous to list in their entirety." "Defendant sent plaintiff cruel and taunting text message in which defendant referred to plaintiff as a "b**ch." "Defendant punched his fist through car window while plaintiff was driving and the parties' children were in the rear seat. Children were horrified." "Defendant, in a drunken stupor and in the presence of the children, threatened to kill plaintiff and the parties' children and burn down the marital home." "Defendant threatened to break plaintiff's neck."
Tanya told Wragge she didn't feel under daily siege during her ten-year marriage but it was "also consistent with what you see happening with Mel Gibson, that when external pressures, whether it will be financial or professional or marital, when they begin to mount, these individuals no longer have the ability to effectively disguise who they really are, so they begin to crack. So, as in my marriage, when things were good in light of the fact we were fighting at trial, but things were good, Jason was not this person. But as our lives began to dissipate financially and emotionally as a family, he became more of an alcoholic, he became more addicted to drugs, sleep medications, and then you see these effects."
Did she fear for her life when some of the alleged threats were made?
"Initially, because you want to say it's due to the alcohol, you just listen to them and you dismiss them. But when someone continues to make threats over and over and over again, at some point you have to step back and say, 'How about if he acts on them? How about if there's a culmination of that evening of the drugs or the alcohol, and the psychosis, and it comes together?' So at times, yes, I did have real fear."
Tanya says it was "absolutely" necessary for Grigorieva to make the tapes (assuming they are indeed what RadarOnline says they are). "You need that (the tapes) because, when you're preparing for this, you're preparing for battle. At some point in your relationship, you go from (the role of) supporter to strategic warrior. and so you need all this ammunition, because he's (Gibson is) gonna have an army of attorneys and lawyers and fans who are going to come out and say she is lying, she is not telling the truth. So had she not had these tapes, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all."
Tanya also says she gets hate mail due to developments with Jason, and even has "friends asking me why I aren't supporting him, he was so good for you. You know what? That's the persona they bought, and that's the persona that I was not going to allow to exist."
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