Jayson Williams pleads guilty, will serve at least 18 months

SOMERVILLE, N.J. - Former NBA star Jayson Williams, his personal life in shambles, took responsibility for accidentally shooting his limousine driver to death 8 years ago by pleading guilty yesterday to assault and agreeing to serve at least 18 months in prison.

Williams was awaiting retrial on a reckless manslaughter count but pleaded guilty to the lesser aggravated assault count for the 2002 death of Costas Christofi.

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Williams

Williams remained poised during the hearing and mostly answered yes and no questions, though he did tell the judge that he had not fully checked a shotgun he was showing off to friends before snapping it closed.

"I didn't look in the direction the muzzle of the gun was pointed," he said, before admitting that his handling of the gun was reckless and that the gunshot caused Christofi's death.

Williams, who was charged with drunken driving after crashing his SUV into a tree in New York last week, had stitches visible above his right eye.

"Today is the first step in moving toward closure," said Williams' attorney, Joseph Hayden. He and Williams both declined to speak further about the case, citing a gag order.

The assault charge carries a minimum 18-month sentence because a gun was involved. The reckless manslaughter count would have carried a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Under his plea agreement, Williams will serve 18 months in state prison for the aggravated assault charge and up to 5 years for a prior conviction of trying to cover up the crime. The sentences will be concurrent and he'll be eligible for parole after 18 months.

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