NEWARK, N.J. – A friend of Jayson Williams who was at his mansion the night a limousine driver was shot to death pleaded guilty Thursday to tampering with evidence and witnesses and agreed to testify against the former NBA star.
Kent Culuko, 29, was admitted into a first-offender program under which his criminal record will be expunged if he stays out of trouble. He could have gotten up to 18 years in prison if convicted in connection with the Feb. 14 shooting death of Williams' driver, Costas Christofi, 55.
Culuko agreed to testify against both Williams and co-defendant John Gordnick, 44.
"He acknowledged wiping down the gun after the fact, and he acknowledged influencing other people into telling a story that was different from the truth," Culuko's lawyer, John Lacey said. "The important thing is, and the prosecutor's office acknowledged this by admitting him into the pretrial program, is that later that day, Kent and others informed the authorities that this was an accident and not self-inflicted."
Williams, who retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and is free on $270,000 bail.
"Jayson Williams intends to enter a plea of innocent to all charges at the appropriate time," said his spokeswoman, Judy Smith.
Prosecutors allege Christofi was shot in the chest while Williams was recklessly handling a 12-gauge shotgun.
Afterward, Williams, Culuko and Gordnick tried to replace Williams' fingerprints on the shotgun with Christofi's to make it look like a suicide, and to hide Williams' bloody clothing, prosecutors say.
"Jayson Williams intends to enter a plea of innocent to all charges at the appropriate time," his spokeswoman Judy Smith said of Culuko's plea.
Culuko and Gordnick were charged with evidence tampering, conspiracy to obstruct the administration of law and hindering apprehension.