Hearing reportedly delayed by travel

Updated: November 20, 2009, 2:40 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEWARK, N.J. -- Retired NBA star Jayson Williams will not be in a New Jersey courtroom Friday to enter a plea in the 2002 shooting death of a hired driver.

State Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman indefinitely delayed a hearing in Somerville in which Williams was expected to plead guilty.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a gag order imposed by Coleman, told The Associated Press that the delay was partly because of travel problems Williams experienced getting to New Jersey from his home in South Carolina.

A person with knowledge of the case told the AP on Thursday that Williams would plead guilty to aggravated assault in the death of limousine driver Costas Christofi. That would send him to prison for at least 18 months and up to three years.

Williams was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter in 2004 but convicted of covering up the shooting at his central New Jersey mansion.

The jury deadlocked on a reckless manslaughter count. He has been awaiting a second trial for reckless manslaughter, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

In a phone interview with ESPN on Friday morning, Williams' wife said her husband has not committed to a plea deal.

"I spoke with Jayson throughout the night and morning. He 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 Williams.

"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.

Jayson Williams has been free on bail since the Feb. 14, 2002, shooting of Christofi. Williams paid more than $2 million in 2003 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Christofi's family.

The 41-year-old Williams played nine seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets before a leg injury forced him to retire in 2000. He attempted a short-lived comeback in the minor league Continental Basketball Association in 2005.

Information from The Associated Press and Willie Weinbaum from ESPN's Enterprise Unit was used in this report.

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