Jayson Williams Going to Jail for Shooting Driver, Says Source

Photo: Former NBA star Jayson Williams.

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS/AP) Jayson Williams, the retired NBA star who was charged with aggravated manslaughter for accidentally shooting a driver at his estate in 2002, has agreed to a plea deal that would send him to prison for up to three years, a person with knowledge of the case said Thursday.

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Retired in 2000 after playing nine seasons in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, Williams was to face a retrial in January on a reckless manslaughter count.

(AP Photo )
May 25th booking photo of former NBA star Jayson Williams.

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The person, who was not authorized to speak about the case, told the The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Williams is to plead guilty Friday to aggravated assault. Because a gun was used in the crime, Williams must serve at least 18 months in prison, the person said.

Several messages left for defense attorney Joseph Hayden were not returned Thursday.

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The state attorney general's office, which has taken over the case, declined to comment on any aspect of the case because of a gag order.

The plea deal would resolve all charges in a case that dragged out for nearly eight years.

Witnesses testified that Williams was showing off a shotgun in a bedroom of his New Jersey estate in February 2002 when he snapped the weapon shut and it fired one shot that struck driver Costas Christofi in the chest, killing him.

They also testified that Williams initially placed the gun in the dead man's hands and instructed those present to lie about what happened.

The defense has maintained the shooting was an accident and that Williams panicked afterward.

During his trial, the jury deadlocked on the reckless manslaughter count, acquitted Williams of aggravated manslaughter and convicted him of covering up the shooting. He was never sentenced for the cover-up counts, pending the outcome of the retrial, and has remained free on bail.

Williams had been offered pleas that would have called for him to serve less prison time, the person told the AP.

One of the earlier offers, the person said, came just before a hearing last month on whether a racial slur used by a detective and other conduct by the county prosecutor's office should result in dismissal of the reckless manslaughter count and the cover-up convictions.

State Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman later rejected the defense's claim that, had they known about the slur, they would have changed their trial strategy.

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