Add Jayson Williams' DWI Car Crash to His Long List of Legal Follies

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2010

SOMERVILLE, NJ - FEBRUARY 11:  Former New Jersey Nets basketball player Jayson Williams sits at the defense table during his manslaughter trial at the Somerset County Courthouse February 11, 2004 in Somerville, New Jersey. Williams is on trial for the shooting death of limousine driver Costas Christofi at his New Jersey mansion and attempting to make it look like a suicide.  (Photo by Frank H. Colon-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

With news breaking today that ex-Nets player Jayson Williams veered off an exit ramp early this morning and slammed his SUV into a tree (and has since been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol), it was just another reminder of how far the mighty Williams has fallen.

Once one of the most dominant rebounders in the NBA and quite possibly the best offensive rebounder since Charles Barkley, Williams' NBA career ended prematurely in 2000 due to a broken leg.  

At the time, he was only in the second year of a six-year, $86 million deal (a true testament to the spend-crazy GMs back at the turn of the millennium).

But Williams' place in NBA history will likely be for an off-the-court incident that occurred at his house in early 2002, where he "accidentally" shot and killed his 55-year-old limousine driver with a shotgun. 

With that said, let's take a look at Williams' five greatest law enforcement follies since retiring from the NBA and see where this recent car crash fits in.

No. 5: In Williams' biography Loose Balls, which he co-wrote with journalist Steve Friedman in 2000, he confessed to nearly accidentally shooting former New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet at a shooting range.

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"We were taking turns shooting the .50-caliber Desert Eagle, the most powerful handgun in the world," Williams wrote.

"What I didn't realize was that Wayne was right in front of me, kneeling down to pick up one of the cartridges," Williams continued. "So when I fired the gun, it must have been just a few inches from Wayne's face, 'cause the noise knocked him out cold." 

When nearly shooting someone is only the fifth biggest mistake you made in the past 10 years, you know you're in trouble. 

No. 4: Williams' "good name" started popping back up in the news this year for all the wrong reasons.

In late April, a friend of Williams' called the police, reporting that Williams was acting suicidal. When the NYPD arrived at his hotel room in Manhattan, they found empty pill bottles scattered on the floor and a seemingly drunk Williams refusing to go to the hospital.

The police responded by using a taser on Williams to subdue him. The New York Daily News reported that it took two sets of handcuffs to restrain him and that police found suicide notes scribbled around the room (including one on his hotel room's wall).

No. 3: His car crash from earlier this morning comes in at No. 3, with news breaking that Williams will be facing DWI charges after refusing a breath test at the scene of the accident.

When cops arrived, Williams was sitting in the passenger seat and said he wasn't driving the car when it crashed...but witnesses placed him as the driver, and more importantly, there wasn't anyone else in the car.

Williams refused a breath test when he got to the hospital, and the New York Post is reporting that he will face driving under the influence charges related to the accident, in which he sustained minor injuries.  

This certainly wasn't the dumbest thing Williams has done in his lifetime (just wait until we get to No. 1)...but getting a DWI when you're already facing a trial wasn't a Mensa moment for Jay Jay.

No. 2: A month after the suicidal-taser incident, Williams found himself in the news (and police department records) again after being arrested for allegedly punching a man in the face outside a bar in North Carolina.

Police charged him with simple assault, as he reportedly started the fight over a spilled drink.

What's that saying about not crying over spilled milk? Someone should probably tell Williams not to punch someone in the face over a spilled drink. These things do have legal ramifications sometimes...which ironically leads to...

No. 1: It's impossible to put anything else here besides the incident from Feb. 14, 2002, where Williams shot and killed his 55-year-old limousine driver, Costas "Gus" Christofi. (NJ.com has an entire section dedicated to the incident.)

On the night in question, members of Williams' charity NBA team (including four Harlem Globetrotters) were in his house when they heard a gunshot ring out from his bedroom.

Those with Williams testified that he had been drinking and showing off his shotgun, but when he snapped the shotgun's barrels in place, the gun unexpectedly fired and hit Christofi in the chest, killing him. The witnesses testified that Williams wiped the gun with a towel, presumably to remove his fingerprints, and that he initially placed the shotgun in Christofi's dead hands.

After a lengthy trial, Williams was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter but convicted of trying to cover up the murder (he settled with Christofi's family for a $2.75 million settlement out of court), and the jury deadlocked on the charges of reckless manslaughter.

The story careens off the edge of sanity from there, as Williams' lawyers began accusing the prosecution of hiding a racial slur that they say should overturn the convictions of trying to cover up the murder, while a county judge ruled that Williams would be retried on the count of reckless manslaughter.

In November of this past year, the case finally looked like it was heading towards a resolution, as Williams was expected to agree to an 18-month plea deal; however, the death of his father (on Nov. 10) sent Williams off the edge and caused him to not show up in court the day he was expected to submit his plea.  

The trial has since been put on indefinite hold, leaving Williams a free man. 

Free enough to do something else stupid, like drive drunk and crash his car into a tree.

It's looking more and more like Williams' days as a free man are quickly coming to an end.  

A DWI conviction and "accidentally" murdering someone tends to do that to a guy...even if he used to be famous.