Williams Trial Suspended Over Evidence Dispute

The judge suspended the Jayson Williams (search) manslaughter trial for a week after defense lawyers for the retired NBA (search) star said they needed more time to review evidence they claim prosecutors intentionally withheld.

Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman said he would hear arguments April 12 on defense motions for remedies. The defense said it may seek a mistrial.

The prosecution said Thursday it had discovered photos and notes from its weapons expert that it was obligated to send to the defense months ago. Williams' defense lawyers learned of it Wednesday night.

Coleman told the prosecution and its weapons expert to check over the weekend for any other material that should be turned over.

Some 96 pages of "new material" was received by Sunday morning, defense lawyer Joseph A. Hayden Jr. told the judge Monday. The defense needs time to consult with its experts, including a lawyer specializing in prosecutorial misconduct, to determine what course to pursue, Hayden said.

That could include requesting to have an expert examine the computers of the weapons expert and the lead prosecutor in the case, Steven C. Lember, to determine if they have relinquished all correspondence, as required, Hayden said.

Assistant Prosecutor Katharine Errickson said that not all of the 96 pages is new and said a computer search was "completely unreasonable."

Coleman made no decision.

Last week, Lember, the first assistant Hunterdon County prosecutor, denied any misconduct, asserted the mistake was inadvertent, and said any handicap to the defense could be cured by allowing the defense to reopen its case to question witnesses about the belated information.

The defense maintains it was impaired because it did not learn until Wednesday night that the prosecution weapons expert had partially disassembled Williams' shotgun months before a defense expert completely disassembled and test-fired the weapon.

The shotgun is a key to the defense case, which maintains that the weapon misfired when Williams snapped it shut while showing friends his mansion early Feb. 14, 2002, killing a hired driver.

Williams, 36, is charged with recklessly handling the gun, which killed Costas "Gus" Christofi (search), 55. The shooting happened in Williams' bedroom at his Alexandria Township estate.

Williams faces eight charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter. Collectively, they carry 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 from 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.