I was working at golf course in New Jersey in 2002 when Jayson Williams, former standout center for the home state NBA
Nets, came to play a round fresh off posting bail in the wake of his arrest for manslaughter in the accidental shooting of limo driver Costas “Gus” Christofi. Jayson Williams was surprisingly upbeat for a man who was dealing with such a serious scandal; he was also a very generous tipper. He handed out brand new sneakers (which he autographed, though no one asked him to do so) and about 100 bucks in tens and twenties throughout the course of the day. He was all smiles and extremely nice to all the bag drop kids who were normally used to being treated like indentured servants as they cleaned clubs and pretended to be nice to the asshole patrons and members, myself included. At the time, I thought it was strange that he was even playing golf, let alone smiling. When Jayson Williams left that day, I fully expected him to be found guilty of allcharges- it seemed like an open and shut case. It seemed like Jayson Williams was going to jail.
The court case was lengthy and full of potholes for the prosecution, and eventually was thrown out after the jury was deadlocked on the charge of reckless manslaughter. Frankly, I was shocked. I’m not saying that Jayson Williams is a vicious murder who needs to be put away for life, but how can one believe that getting wasted and playing with a shotgun are not actions that deserve to be constituted as anything else than recklessness. To me, that sounds like a textbook definition of what reckless manslaughter is.
But Jayson Williams got off; free to sign sneakers for other kids in the garden state who might have otherwise actually used the basketball shoes for, well, playing basketball.
[On a side note: It’s funny that once something becomes autographed it is generally believed that the object, whatever it may be, can no longer be used for anything else besides decoration.]
But just this past week, the courts have ruled that Jayson Williams can be retried and I can’t help thinking that this is an intensely fair move on the part of the New Jersey legal system. I liked JaysonWilliams, he was the most welcoming and pleasant semi-celebrity that I have ever met (aside from maybe Steven Spielberg who signed a napkin for my cousin while I was on vacation in Long Island as a kid). But somebody needs to pay for what happened at that mansion. I don’t really have that big a problem with somebody getting shot by a drunk person on accident, these things happen. However, most reports and eyewitness accounts detail a botched cover-up that took place while poor old Gus bled to death; and that’s just not cool.
If I were Jayson Williams, I probably would have died already. The guilt would have killed me. Spending a few years in jail is the least he could do for not calling 911. Because, when he gets out, he’ll still have his millions, his mansion, his family and his golf. That’s a lot more than most people have.