Williams' Defense Wants Charges Dismissed

Defense lawyers for Jayson Williams (search) asked a judge Thursday to dismiss all charges against the retired NBA (search) star, charging that prosecutors in his manslaughter trial intentionally withheld evidence.

In legal papers filed, the lawyers contend Williams has been denied a fair trial by the prosecution's "intentional and egregious" misconduct, including its failure to give the defense notes and photographs by a prosecution weapons expert before the trial started.

Prosecutors have said the error was inadvertent and that the material did not undercut the opinions of defense weapons experts.

The trial has been in recess over the dispute since April 1; the jury will not be in court until Tuesday at the earliest. Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman is set to hear arguments on the dispute Monday.

Williams, 36, is charged with aggravated manslaughter and other counts in the Feb. 14, 2002, shooting death of a hired driver, 55-year-old Costas "Gus" Christofi (search), in Williams' bedroom at his Alexandria Township estate.

Williams is accused of recklessly handling the shotgun, then trying to make the shooting look like a suicide and persuading others to lie that Christofi shot himself.

The gun is a pillar of the defense case, which maintains that the weapon misfired when Williams snapped it shut while showing friends his mansion.

The defense had already rested its case when it learned about 25 photographs and notes taken by the prosecution expert, Larry Nelson, when he partly disassembled Williams' 1993 Browning Citori 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun on Feb. 5, 2003. The examination took place with no defense representative present.

In its filing, the defense said evidence may have been altered or lost in the examination. The defense received Nelson's report in August, but it did not say he had removed the stock and barrel.

The defense also said that Nelson, a vice president of Browning Arms Co., had a conflict of interest, and that "the integrity of the gun can never be trusted" because authorities kept incomplete evidence logs for it.

The withholding of evidence cannot be cured at this late stage of the trial, the defense brief argued, contending that it would be a "meaningless gesture" to allow the defense to re-examine witnesses regarding the Nelson examination.

Williams faces eight charges that collectively 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 retired from the New Jersey Nets (search) in 2000 after a decade in the NBA. He was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC after the shooting.