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Posted: 2/27/2002 8:51:56 PM EDT
Williams Had Been in Gun Safety Ads Wed Feb 27, 7:26 AM ET By SHEILA HOTCHKIN, Associated Press Writer TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Long before former basketball star Jayson Williams was charged in the shooting death of a limousine driver, his image appeared in newspaper advertisements for gun safety. Those ads, along with gun safety talks at high schools and summer camps, were part of a court agreement that helped the NBA All-Star avoid a felony conviction that would have barred him from owning firearms. Eight years later, authorities say a blast from one of Williams' shotguns hit Costas Christofi in the chest. Now Williams is charged with second-degree manslaughter and could face five to 10 years in prison if convicted. 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. Over prosecutors' objections, a judge let Williams into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. Williams spent a year preaching gun safety to kids and placing ads in The Record of Hackensack. A January 1995 ad said "Shoot for the top. Shoot for your future. Shoot Baskets, not Guns." It carried Williams' name and photo. Williams completed the program a year later, and the charges were dismissed. Former Bergen County Prosecutor John Fahy has said a stiffer penalty might have prevented Christofi's death by barring Williams from owning firearms. Fahy did not return several calls for comment Tuesday. Brian Neary, the attorney who represented Williams in the earlier case, said Williams was treated like any other first-time offender and might have prevented other shootings with his community service. "I thought it was the right thing at the time, and still do," Neary said. "His activities may have had an impression on kids way back when that may actually have saved people." Williams has surrendered five shotguns and a handgun since Christofi's death on Feb. 14, including the 12-gauge shotgun that killed the driver. Two more shotguns will be turned over when they get out of a repair shop. The former New Jersey Nets player is free on $250,000 bail, and will be arraigned Monday. Acting Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven C. Lember contends that Williams recklessly handled the shotgun that killed Christofi, 55. Williams' lawyer, Joseph Hayden, has called the shooting "a tragic accident," and said the facts of the case would make it clear that Williams is innocent of recklessness or any criminal conduct. Christofi was hired to drive several of Williams' friends from a Harlem Globetrotters show in Bethlehem, Pa., to a restaurant, and then to Williams' home 30 miles northwest of Trenton. According to the criminal complaint, witnesses said Williams was the only person near Christofi when the shotgun discharged. Williams has not discussed the case publicly. Williams, who is in his first season as an NBA analyst for NBC Sports, is off the job until the case is resolved. 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 Tuesday. The 6-foot-10 Williams was among the NBA's best rebounders until leg injuries ended his career. He retired from the Nets in 2000.
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Link Posted: 2/27/2002 8:56:25 PM EDT
This guy did gun safety PSA's for a year in a deal to keep his right to own guns after a previous conviction. Now he clames that his shooting a former chauffer in the stomach with a 12 gauge and leaving him to bleed to death without calling 911 (he called his lawyer first) was "accidental". The only good thing, and a sign that things have really changed in the last year, is that this isnt blasted as the top story on the Networks national broadcasts... Oh yeah, he was working for anti-gun NBC at the time. Go figure.
Link Posted: 2/27/2002 9:08:30 PM EDT
Why is it bad? His message was anti-gun--he said "play hoops, dont' shoot guns" or some such. Like most professional athletes, he's basically an uneducated fool who had a lot of dollars and not a lot of sense. Now he'll be doing some hard time for his lousy gun handling, which I think is proper.
Link Posted: 2/28/2002 6:05:46 AM EDT
THe thing that bothers me is that the judge was lenient on him because of his prominence. How many of us would get that same deal? The same standards need to be applied to all defendants, regardless of wealth or celebrity.
Link Posted: 2/28/2002 6:41:20 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Arc_Angel: THe thing that bothers me is that the judge was lenient on him because of his prominence. How many of us would get that same deal? The same standards need to be applied to all defendants, regardless of wealth or celebrity.
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Like that'll ever happen.
Link Posted: 2/28/2002 7:08:46 AM EDT
I saw a story about why pro athletes get away with this stuff and why they seem so prone to do stupid stuff. It stems from having a special protection when they start showing athletic prowess. They are held to a lower level of responsibility because the coach wants them to play. They are alowed to get by with lower grades, lax attendance and in general worse behavior starting in early high school. The same treatment is given in college if they are good enough. By the time the have reached maturity (assuming that's what you'd call it at age 23, a college degree and still can't spell gymnasium) they think they're special.
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