Williams Judge Denies Series of Defense Motions

A state judge on Tuesday denied a request by Jayson Williams' (search) defense team to have the jury in his manslaughter trial visit the mansion of the retired NBA (search) star.

Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman also refused a defense motion to acquit the defendant of all charges, ruling that there was sufficient evidence to go forward and that it would be up to the jury to determine its credibility.

In addition, the judge refused to separate eight charges into those dealing with the shooting of a chauffeur in Williams' bedroom and four others dealing with an alleged cover-up.

Coleman granted prosecution motions to exclude some parts of late reports by three defense experts, saying they covered new material and were an unfair surprise.

The judge said he would allow the defense to show the jury most of a three-minute animated presentation to illustrate how a shotgun mechanism works, and how debris might have caused a misfire. But the judge said he will not allow the part that the prosecution most objected to, where a wood chip floats into the mechanism, to be shown.

Coleman's rulings were made without the jury present. Jurors are to return Wednesday for the first defense witnesses.

Prosecutors argued last week that there was no need for the jury to see the bedroom where limousine driver Costas "Gus" Christofi (search) was shot to death by a gun held by the retired NBA star.

Assistant Prosecutor Katharine Errickson said the jury already had the assistance of more than 100 photos and a videotape that were introduced during six weeks of testimony by prosecution witnesses.

Defense lawyer Joseph A. Hayden said a tour would help the jury understand the sightlines, angles and distances, particularly in the bedroom, where Christofi was shot in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2002, while Williams was showing friends his mansion.

The defense maintains that the shooting was an accident and that the shotgun Williams was holding may have malfunctioned.

Defense lawyers had argued that charge of aggravated manslaughter should be dismissed because Williams did not realize Christofi was near him, and thus did not know that death was a probable outcome of his actions.

First Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven C. Lember disputed that, noting that several witnesses testified that Williams turned and faced Christofi before cursing at the driver and snapping a shotgun closed while holding it in one hand.

Williams, 36, is also charged with altering evidence and persuading his houseguests to lie by saying they were downstairs when Christofi shot himself.

The eight charges carry penalties of up to 55 years in prison. The least of the charges carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison, but would likely result in probation.

Williams had gone with some friends to see a Harlem Globetrotters game in Bethlehem, Pa. Christofi had driven four Globetrotters from the game to a restaurant near the Williams estate for dinner with Williams and most of the group. They then went to the mansion in Alexandria Township.

Williams retired as center of the New Jersey Nets in 2000 after a decade in the NBA, unable to overcome a broken leg suffered a year earlier in a collision with a teammate. He was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC after the shooting.