Williams' sentencing scheduled Friday
TRENTON, N.J. -- Former NBA star Jayson Williams has agreed to accept a deal in the 2002 accidental shooting death of a limousine driver at his home, according to multiple reports.
A wife speaks
ESPN's Hannah Storm talked with Tanya Young Williams on Tuesday for "Outside The Lines." Williams says she's still in frequent contact with her husband, despite filing for divorce on Valentine's Day 2009. Williams also told ESPN Thursday that her husband has not accepted a deal. Among her comments:
On his problems: "Jayson has a mental illness or disorder ... If his lawyers have said bipolar I would agree with that. I would suggest that it is bipolar and probably other disorders, and for those disorders he needs help."
On Williams' attempt to cover up the shooting: "I think all of the actions are outrageous and nothing that anyone should be proud of. Knowing Jayson the way that I do, he wasn't thinking. He panicked and I think ... that is part of when I say a mental illness, not being able to process things, you go into almost a 'me mode' first. I don't think he was rational."
On what triggers Williams' behavior: "When Jayson has alcohol, and when I say drugs it would be a prescription drug or a sleeping pill, it affects him in such a bizarre way. ... I didn't know that and I think that it has gotten progressively ... worse."
On seeking counseling: "I think that's a tough hurdle for anyone but also for one who is a professional athlete who appears to have it all ... who can command an audience in a room of one or a thousand. He has that ability to do it. You could walk on a basketball floor and you have 40,000 people cheering for you and now they have to say 'You know what, I have a flaw. I need help.' That's tough."
On the future: "I hope for me and my [two daughters] that we come out unscathed. I hope for Jayson that he becomes healthy. I hope that the beautiful and the best parts of him are the parts that can control his life instead of the dark side that end up making the most noise."
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Williams agreed to a plea deal for aggravated assault in the death of Costas Christofi that would send him to prison for at least 18 months and up to three years. The deal was first reported by the Star Ledger of Newark.
Linnette Higley, who works for Superior Court of New Jersey trial court administrator Eugene Farkas, told ESPN's Kelly Naqi that Farkas confirmed Williams has agreed to accept a plea deal and will do so sometime after 1:30 p.m. ET Friday.
The secretary for Judge Edward Coleman of Somerset County Superior Court confirmed to ESPN that Williams was expected in court on Friday afternoon, but would not say what the appearance would be about.
However, in a phone interview with ESPN on Friday morning, Williams' wife said her husband has not committed to a deal.
"I spoke with Jayson throughout the night and morning. Hot got very little sleep. He told me this morning that he will not be in New Jersey today and he has not signed any offer, but he is taking this very, very seriously," said Tanya Young Williams, who filed for divorce in February but says she is in frequent contact with Jayson.
"Once he gets more clarity from his attorneys, he and I will have a discussion, he will speak with his mother and he will take the necessary next steps. Jayson is still in South Carolina dealing with the loss of his dad emotionally, as well as addressing the necessary estate issues." Williams' father died Nov. 10 in South Carolina and was laid to rest last weekend.
Calls to Williams' attorney were not immediately returned.
Williams, who retired in 2000 after playing nine seasons in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, was to face a retrial in January on a reckless manslaughter count. The plea deal would resolve all charges in a case that dragged out for nearly eight years.
Christofi's sister, Andrea Adams, said Thursday that she was told by prosecutors this week to be ready to go to court Friday because a plea deal was possible. They offered no specific information on the deal, she said.
Adams has mixed feelings about a prison term of three years or less.
"I would like to see him do jail time," she said. "I don't know if that's enough time."
Witnesses testified that Williams was showing off a shotgun in his bedroom in February 2002 when he snapped the weapon shut and it fired one shot that struck Christofi in the chest, killing him. They also testified that Williams initially placed the gun in the dead man's hands and instructed those present to lie about what happened.
The defense has maintained the shooting was an accident and that Williams panicked afterward.
During his trial, the jury deadlocked on the reckless manslaughter count, acquitted Williams of aggravated manslaughter and convicted him of covering up the shooting. He was never sentenced for the cover-up counts, pending the outcome of the retrial, and has remained free on bail.
Williams had been offered pleas that would have called for him to serve less prison time, the person told the AP.
One of the earlier offers, the person said, came just before a hearing last month on whether a racial slur used by a detective and other conduct by the county prosecutor's office should result in dismissal of the reckless manslaughter count and the cover-up convictions. Coleman later rejected the defense's claim that, had it known about the slur, the defense would have changed its trial strategy.
Information from The Associated Press and Willie Weinbaum of ESPN's Enterprise Unit was used in this report.