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Judge refuses to modify gag order

1/22/2004 - New Jersey Nets

SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- The judge presiding over Jayson
Williams' manslaughter trial refused the defense's request to
modify a gag order he issued earlier this week.

Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman has barred Williams, his
lawyers, spokeswoman and prosecutors from speaking outside court
about the Feb. 14, 2002, shooting of a limousine driver at
Williams' mansion in Hunterdon County.

Coleman issued the order Tuesday after two interviews by
Williams and his wife, Tanya, were televised over the weekend.

The judge said the interviews, which aired after the first week
of jury selection, could bias potential jurors. His order came just
hours before an interview with Dean Bumbaco -- who was at Williams'
mansion when the shooting occurred -- aired on HBO's "Real Sports
with Bryant Gumbel."

Bumbaco, scheduled to testify as a prosecution witness, said
Williams tried to make it appear that the victim, Costas "Gus"
Christofi, 55, had killed himself. The allegations spurred
Williams' attorney, Joseph Hayden, to seek permission Wednesday for
his client's spokeswoman, Judy Smith, to respond to Bumbaco's
claims.

"We can't have a state's witness going on television on the eve
of trial and trying to stick it to us on the facts," Hayden said.

Coleman rejected the request, saying that allowing spokespeople
to respond would only add to the media "feeding frenzy"
surrounding the case.

Meanwhile, three more potential jurors were added to the jury
pool Wednesday, bringing the total to 27. The selection process
will continue Thursday and, once 60 potential jurors are chosen,
each side will be allowed to exercise peremptory challenges, or
those for which no reason need be given. The defense has 20, the
prosecution 12.

A 12-member jury -- along with four alternates -- will eventually
hear the case against Williams, 35, who played for the New Jersey
Nets before becoming an NBA analyst for NBC. He was suspended from
his television job after the shooting, which he maintains was a
tragic accident.

At the request of the defense, Coleman moved the trial to
neighboring Somerset County, agreeing extensive publicity hurt
chances for a fair trial in Hunterdon.