Former New Jersey Nets star Jayson Williams was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for the fatal shooting of his limo driver in 2002. Williams tearfully apologized to the family of Costas “Gus” Christofi during his sentencing hearing Tuesday morning.
“There’s not a day I wake up and I don’t feel sorry for what I did to Mr. Christofi,” Williams said.
He pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault in the 2002 shooting death of Christofi, a limo driver he had hired. Under the plea deal, Williams could have been sentenced to anywhere from 18 months without the possibility of parole to five years in prison.
Williams, who turned 42 on Monday, appeared before Somerset County Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman.
After sentencing, he will be taken to the Central Reception and Assignment Facility in Trenton, New Jersey, said Corrections Department spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer. There, over the course of several weeks, he will be photographed, DNA samples will be taken, and he will be given medical, dental, psychological and educational evaluations, she said.
Williams waived his right to appeal.
In return, the state changed the indictment from a charge of reckless manslaughter to a charge of aggravated assault by recklessly causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.
Prosecutors said in January they would recommend Williams be sentenced to five years in prison on four charges of attempting to cover up the fatal shooting. A jury convicted him of those charges in 2004.
Though he was acquitted of more serious counts — tampering with a witness, tampering with evidence, fabricating evidence and hindering apprehension or prosecution — the jury was unable to reach a decision on the second count of reckless manslaughter.
Coleman declared a mistrial on that count, and the state had decided to move forward with a retrial on that charge when the plea deal was struck. Williams will serve his sentence concurrently with the 18-month sentence for aggravated assault.
Last year, the state attorney general took the case from the Hunterdon County, New Jersey, prosecutor. A spokesman for the attorney general cited a gag order in declining to discuss the case.
Williams has been free on $250,000 bail with the condition that he not consume alcohol and that he check in daily with probation officers.
The condition that he refrain from alcohol was imposed soon after Williams was charged with drunken driving in early January after crashing his SUV in Manhattan. A New York judge ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet that monitors perspiration to detect whether alcohol has been consumed.
The fatal shooting occurred February 14, 2002, in the bedroom of Williams’ New Jersey estate. The 55-year-old driver had been hired to drive the former athlete and several of his friends to dinner following a sporting event in Pennsylvania.
Afterward, the group, including four members of the Harlem Globetrotters, went back to Williams’ home.
The prosecution contended that Williams was recklessly handling a 12-gauge shotgun when it discharged and that he and two others tried to make it look as if Christofi had shot himself.
In January 2003, Williams paid Christofi’s family $2.75 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
Williams, who retired in 1999 because of a leg injury, played nine seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets.