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Williams Faces New Charge

Prosecutors add weapons offense in ex-NBA player's shooting case, hoping to bring new indictment.

March 06, 2003|From Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — A new indictment against former NBA player Jayson Williams adds a weapons offense to the seven charges he already faces in the shooting death of a limousine driver.

The indictment handed up Wednesday increases Williams' possible prison sentence by 10 years. He could face nearly 55 years in prison if convicted on all charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter.

Williams' attorneys called the new indictment "an obvious attempt at damage control" intended to silence discussion on mistakes made by prosecutors the first time they went before a grand jury.

"We believe we are vindicated that the way this indictment was originally obtained was improper," defense attorney Billy Martin said.

Williams, 35, is accused of recklessly handling the shotgun that killed Costas Christofi, and then trying to make the shooting look self-inflicted. The shooting occurred Feb. 14, 2002, inside Williams' 40-room mansion in Alexandria Township.

The Hunterdon County Prosecutor's and State Attorney General's offices hope a new indictment from a different grand jury will resolve a challenge to the original one handed up in May.

Williams' attorneys argued the first indictment was flawed because of mistakes in the grand jury presentation. They said prosecutors violated Williams' rights by telling grand jurors that he chose to remain silent and call a lawyer immediately after the shooting.

A trial judge upheld the original indictment late last year, and a hearing before an appeals court is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Prosecutors plan to file the new indictment with the appeals court and expect the original charges will be dismissed.

"We did not think it was in the interest of justice or the victims in this case to continue arguing the matter on procedural grounds in the appellate division and the [New Jersey] Supreme Court," Acting Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said.

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