Diego M. Ortiz
Andrea Adams sat with her eyes closed tight, resting her aged face on a large photo of her dead brother as her letter was read to the court. She was stoic, attempting to hide her emotions behind her thick glasses and at times covering her face with the glossy photograph, but in between listening to her own words being read she slightly picked up her head and sniffled.
A few moments later Jayson Williams had his chance to speak. The 6’ 9” former NBA All-Star turned toward the plaintiff’s and began reading his apology. He faced the floor and through the camera one could see his hair has begun to thin. He swayed back and forth holding back the tears while apologizing to the victim’s family, but when the apology turned to his family he could no longer fight the impulse to cry.
“ I am not a bad man,” he said, “ but I acted badly on February 14.”
This is a story about loss– for Mrs. Adams it’s a story about the loss of a brother who she loved and practically raised as a son. She has suffered the loss of a lost one and her health has deteriorated. For the Williams family it’s a story about the loss of a father, husband and bread winner. This is also a story about the consequences of celebrity and about falling from grace.
To understand the events that took place in the court room last February one must have an understanding of the events that lead up to it but in particular, what happened on the night of February 14, 2002.
According to the court, here is what happened: On Feb. 13 Kent Culuko, a good friend of William’s, got free tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game at Lehigh University. Williams brought along his father, nephew and several other friends, and the group visited the Globetrotters locker room at halftime.
Williams knew several of the Globetrotters and invited the entire team out for dinner after the game. Four players took him up on the offer, and Williams arranged for a car to transport what had become a large group to the restaurant. Williams’ nephew and father went home.
The limousine company sent driver Christofi, who was a sports enthusiast, and a large silver Ford van.
Christofi, upon hearing that he would be driving for Jayson Williams’ party, bought a disposable camera in hopes of a shot with the star.
Christofi drove the group to the Mountainview Chalet Restaurant in Bethlehem Township, N.J., arriving at about midnight. The Globetrotters, who had been chatting with Christofi during the ride, urged him to come inside while they ate.
According to prosecutors, Christofi sat apart from the group, eating dinner and drinking coffee. Williams’ entourage told “war stories” from their NBA days and consumed a lot of alcohol, according to court records. The liquor tab for 10 men during the two-hour meal was $627.
Some present later told police that Williams “singled out” Christofi and began swearing at him during the meal. Several witnesses were uncomfortable with what appeared to them to be uncalled for public humiliation of Christofi, acting Hunterdon County prosecutor Steven Lember wrote in court papers.
At one point Christofi got up to leave the restaurant, but Williams said he was only joking and the driver stayed.
As the meal ended, Williams invited the group to come for a tour of his home. The Globetrotters piled into Williams’ Bentley while the rest of the group got in the rented van with Christofi or in Culuko’s truck.
Some of the Globetrotters told police that Williams seemed drunk and was driving “fast, dangerous and/or erratic,” and one player, Benoit Benjamin, told officers he “uttered a silent prayer because he was afraid.”
Williams drove the Globetrotters around his darkened estate, pointing out his stables and trout-stocked pond among other amenities. Meanwhile, Williams’s friends entered the house and urged a reluctant Christofi to join them.
Williams’ wife and children were not home, but an adopted brother, Victor Santiago Williams, was sleeping in a bedroom.
Williams and the Globetrotters eventually entered the house and met up with Williams’ other friends in the master bedroom, where he kept his gun collection. With most of the group gathered nearby, he began taking the six weapons from their cabinet and showing them off.
Witnesses later told police that Williams joked that he was a “professional.” At one point, he grabbed a 12-gauge Browning shotgun and cracked it open, according to prosecutors.
More than one of the men gathered in the room later told detectives that Williams pointed the gun at Christofi, cursed at him and then flipped the shotgun up.
The shotgun immediately discharged from the lower barrel.
The barrel of the gun was just three feet from Christofi and the buckshot exploded into his stomach causing “severe, immediate and fatal damage to the victim’s internal organs.”
Prosecutors contend that the shot went off at 2:40 a.m., but no one in the house called 911 until 2:53 a.m. During this time, they claim, Williams realized what he had done and began looking for a way to shift blame.
When Victor Santiago Williams, who had been awakened by the blast, used his cell phone to call for help, he told emergency operators that the victim shot himself.
“This man has just got shot, he picked up a gun that was loaded and it shot him,” he is heard screaming on the tape.
When state police troopers arrived at the house, they found Christofi lying dead and Williams instructing his friends to wait until his lawyer arrived before speaking to anyone.
Williams refused to give a statement, but when detectives began interviewing his guests, they heard a common story: the group was downstairs in Williams’ recreation room when they heard a shot.
“They all ran up the stairs at once, and all together found the victim, Gus Christofi, laying on the floor of Jayson Williams’ bedroom, suffering from a gunshot wound,” a trooper later told a grand jury.
But as questioning continued, Kent Culuko approached a trooper and confessed the cover-up.
Jayson Williams was the shooter, he said.