SOMERVILLE, N.J. – Former NBA star Jayson Williams (search), his finger near the trigger of a shotgun, screamed expletives at a limousine driver just before Williams snapped the gun closed and it went off, a former teammate testified Wednesday.
Benjamin's testimony at Williams' manslaughter trial was the first from a witness who said he was actually in the bedroom when Christofi was shot and killed Feb. 14, 2002. An earlier witness, Kent Culuko, testified he was standing in the doorway at the time.
Benjamin testified he was about 3 feet away when Williams unleashed an expletive-laced outburst at Christofi, demanding to know what he was doing in the room, calling him "you stoolie."
Benjamin, who played with Williams on the New Jersey Nets (search), is one of four current and former Harlem Globetrotters expected to testify. They were guests at Williams' home when the shooting occurred.
The 7-foot, 270-pound former NBA player spent about four hours on the witness stand, bolstering points prosecutors believe demonstrate Williams showed recklessness when he picked up a shotgun during a tour of his mansion.
Benjamin admitted he lied in initial sworn statements. "I wanted to help my friend," he said. "I lied, like all of us lied."
The houseguests were to say they were downstairs at the time of the shooting and that it was a suicide, Benjamin testified. He said he couldn't recall who devised the cover story.
He decided to tell the truth about two months later, making a deal to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The three other Globetrotters have made similar deals, the prosecution has told the jury.
After the shooting, Benjamin said he was put on leave by the Globetrotters, but hoped Williams could get him a job. "Jayson knows a lot of people," he said.
But in a series of sharp exchanges with defense lawyer Billy Martin, Benjamin denied he threatened to cause trouble for Williams "unless he put some money in your pocket."
"I've got nothing against Jayson," he said. "I'm happy for Jayson."
Cross-examination of Benjamin, 39, continues Thursday.
Williams, 36, is accused of eight charges, including aggravated manslaughter and witness tampering. He could be sentenced to 55 years in prison if convicted of all the charges. The least of the charges carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison but would likely result in probation.