NBC Suspends Jayson Williams Until Manslaughter Charges Resolved
TRENTON, N.J. – NBC Sports suspended Jayson Williams as an NBA commentator until the manslaughter charges against him are resolved, the network announced Tuesday.
Williams, 34, was charged with second-degree manslaughter Monday in the death of 55-year-old limousine driver Costas Christofi. He surrendered to state police and was released on $250,000 bail.
Prosecutors say Williams recklessly handled a shotgun at his luxurious New Jersey mansion two weeks ago, killing Christofi.
Williams' lawyer, Joseph Hayden, says Christofi's death was an accident, and that his client is innocent of any criminal conduct.
In his first season with NBC, Williams was known for his jocular style. He had been scheduled to appear on the network Sunday.
"NBC Sports and Jayson Williams have reached mutual agreement that it's best for Jayson to focus on his personal issues and to not be on the air until those issues are resolved," the network said in a statement.
Prosecutor Steven C. Lember said he does not plan to present the case to a grand jury for several months. An arraignment is scheduled for Monday, but Williams does not need to enter a plea unless he is indicted by a grand jury.
If convicted of second-degree manslaughter, Williams could be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. The charge could be raised to aggravated manslaughter if investigators find evidence of extreme indifference to human life, Lember said.
Christofi had been hired to drive several of Williams' friends from a Bethlehem, Pa., sporting event featuring the Harlem Globetrotters to a restaurant, and then to Williams' home 30 miles northwest of Trenton.
After arriving at the Alexandria Township estate, about 30 miles northwest of Trenton, Williams gave his guests a tour of the 40-room mansion, which has a bowling alley, a movie theater and a skeet-shooting range.
According to the criminal complaint, witnesses said Williams was the only person near Christofi when the shotgun discharged.
Lember said Williams' brother, Victor Santiago, initially reported the shooting as a suicide, but investigators ruled that out and an autopsy later classified it as a homicide. Santiago has not been charged.
The prosecutor said some guests were not forthright with investigators early in the investigation, and he planned to have some re-interviewed.
Lember would not say whether Williams submitted to alcohol testing, but said authorities were looking into it.
Twelve other people were at the mansion at the time, including four Globetrotters, Lember said.
The 6-foot-10 Williams was among the NBA's best rebounders until leg injuries ended his career. He retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000.
In his autobiography, Williams admitted past mistakes.
In 1992, he was accused of smashing a beer mug over a patron's head at a Chicago bar. He also wrote in his book that he almost shot New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet while firing a handgun on his shooting range.
In 1994, Williams was charged with reckless endangerment and possession of a weapon after shots were fired at an unoccupied security vehicle outside the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford.
He never admitted firing the .40-caliber handgun at the truck, but spent the next year preaching gun safety to high school students and appearing in anti-gun advertisements as part of a pretrial program that led to charges against him being dismissed.
Williams is scheduled to appear in another New Jersey court on a charge that he pushed a police officer last November in a bar. That hearing has been delayed until April 17.