Williams gets five-year prison sentence

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Former professional basketball star Jayson Williams was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for the shooting death of a limousine driver in 2002, prosecutors said.

The retired player for the New Jersey Nets pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after the death of driver Costa Christofi in an incident at Williams's New Jersey mansion, according to a statement from the state attorney general's office.

Williams, 42, must serve a minimum of 18 months, after which he will be eligible for parole, according to a ruling issued by Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman in Somerville, New Jersey.

Coleman also ordered Williams to serve a concurrent sentence of five years in prison on charges related to his efforts to cover up the shooting.

"With this sentence, Jayson Williams is being held accountable for his criminal recklessness in the death of Mr. Christofi and for his attempt to cover up the crime," said Attorney General Paula Dow in a statement.

"After eight years, Williams is finally going to prison for his senseless crime," Dow said.

In 2004, Williams was convicted on four charges of trying to cover up the shooting but was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter.

At that trial, Williams admitted pulling a shotgun from a collection at his New Jersey home but failing to see if it was loaded, where it was pointed or whether the safety catch was on.

When he shut the two sections of the gun, it fired, hitting Christofi in the chest and killing him, Williams told the court.

Williams had faced a second trial this year for reckless manslaughter stemming from the shooting but entered his guilty plea to the lesser charge last month.

Christofi's family sued Williams for the driver's wrongful death and settled with him for $2.75 million in 2003.