Jayson Williams' co-defendant pleads guilty to tampering with evidence in death of limo driver

Thursday, August 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FLEMINGTON, N.J. (AP) _ A second man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he helped cover up Jayson Williams' alleged role in a Valentine's Day shooting death and will testify against the former NBA star.

In a deal with prosecutors, John W. Gordnick, 44, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and will avoid jail time.

Gordnick had been charged with evidence tampering and two counts of hindering apprehension, and would have faced nearly 12 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Williams, 34, has pleaded innocent to first-degree manslaughter and charges that he tampered with witnesses and evidence to make the limousine driver's shooting death look self-inflicted.

His other co-defendant also has agreed to testify against him. Kent Culuko, 29, pleaded guilty in April to tampering with evidence and witnesses after the shooting.

If convicted on all charges, Williams could face nearly 45 years in prison. He remained free on $270,000 bail. A status hearing was scheduled for early September.

Prosecutors accuse Williams of recklessly handling the shotgun that killed limousine driver Costas Christofi, then trying to make it look like the victim fired the gun.

Christofi, 55, had been invited inside Williams' mansion in rural Alexandria Township after picking up Williams' friends at a Harlem Globetrotters game in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Williams was holding the 12-gauge shotgun when it fired, hitting Christofi in the chest.

They also accuse Williams, Gordnick and Culuko of trying to destroy or conceal evidence implicating Williams and asking witnesses to lie about what happened.

The three men allegedly tried to hide the clothes Williams was wearing when the gun went off, replace his fingerprints on the shotgun with the victim's, and persuade other guests at the mansion to say Christofi was upstairs alone at the time of the shooting.

The 6-foot-10 Williams was among the NBA's best rebounders when leg injuries ended his career. He retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000.

After the shooting, Williams was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC.