Williams indicted in limo driver's shooting death; charges similar to prosecutor's charges

Wednesday, May 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FLEMINGTON, N.J. (AP) _ Former NBA player Jayson Williams was indicted on manslaughter charges Wednesday in the shooting death of a limousine driver at his estate.

Williams was also charged in the indictment with hindering apprehension, witness tampering, evidence tampering, fabricating evidence and aggravated assault. A friend of the former New Jersey Nets star, John Gordnick, was charged with hindering apprehension and evidence tampering.

The indictment comes more than two months after Williams, 34, was charged by prosecutors in the Feb. 14 death of limo driver Costas Christofi.

Prosecutors say Williams, a former star with the New Jersey Nets, was recklessly handling his 12-gauge shotgun when it went off and that he, Gordnick and another friend, Kent Culuko, tried to make the shooting look like a suicide.

In a deal with prosecutors last week, Culuko, 29, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and witnesses and agreed to testify against Williams and Gordnick, 44.

The charges in the indictment are similar but not identical to the ones brought earlier by prosecutors. In particular, the indictment adds a count of aggravated manslaughter to the less serious count of reckless manslaughter that was in the original list of charges.

Christofi, 55, was apparently invited on a tour of Williams' mansion in Alexandria Township after picking up Williams' friends at a Harlem Globetrotters game in Bethlehem, Pa., prosecutors said.

Williams appeared in court on the earlier charges in March. He did not enter a plea and was not required to do so until the grand jury indictment. He remains free on $270,000 bail.

Judy Smith, a spokeswoman for the Williams, has said he would plead innocent ``at the appropriate time.''

The 6-foot-10 Williams was once among the NBA's best rebounders, but leg injuries ended his career and he retired from the Nets in 2000. Since the shooting, he has been suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC.