Judge: Jayson Williams to remain free on bail

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SOMERVILLE, N.J. - Retired NBA star Jayson Williams will remain free on bail after a judge on Monday rejected a prosecutor's request to revoke the bail and send him to prison for covering up the shooting of a hired driver more than seven years ago.

Prosecutors asked the judge to reconsider the sentencing delay due to Williams' recent run-ins with the law, saying he has become "unpredictable."

In April, police used a stun gun on Williams during an altercation in a New York hotel room, and in May he was arrested in North Carolina and charged with assault for allegedly punching someone in a barroom dispute. Earlier this year, his wife filed divorce papers claiming he was abusive and had a drug problem.

Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Seana Pappas told the court Williams no longer lives in New Jersey and hasn't updated his new address with the court, and said a suicide note was found in the hotel room after Williams' clash with police.

But State Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman noted that Williams hasn't been convicted of anything since his 2004 trial and continues to show up to court as required.

"It doesn't make sense to me, frankly, to move ahead with the sentencing," Coleman said. He also denied prosecutors' request to increase bail from the original $250,000.

Williams' attorney Joseph Hayden said his client didn't start the bar fight, didn't hurt anyone at the hotel, and is not a threat to the public.

"He was not the aggressor and actually defended himself," Hayden said of the bar fight.

Following the hotel incident, Hayden said Williams voluntarily checked himself into a hospital for treatment and is currently getting counseling.

"None of that was a violation of the conditions of his bail," Hayden said.

Williams played nine seasons in the NBA with the Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers before retiring in 2000.

He was convicted in 2004 of trying to cover up the shooting death of his hired driver Costas "Gus" Christofi at his mansion in Alexandria Township, New Jersey. He was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter, but the jury deadlocked on a reckless manslaughter count.

A retrial is pending and Williams has been free on bail since the 2002 shooting.

Williams' retrial, scheduled for January, has been pushed back several times, notably after it was disclosed in 2007 that an investigator in the prosecutor's office used a racial slur to describe Williams in 2002.

Williams was not expected to receive a term longer than five years for the cover-up counts, however, his defense team is seeking to have those convictions reversed on grounds of racial bias.

Williams declined to comment on Monday's ruling as he left the courtroom.

His wife, however, seemed relieved that he wasn't immediately headed to jail.

"For the sake of my daughters, I am pleased the Judge Coleman was not swayed by the prosecutions attempt to capitalize on the negative publicity surrounding Jayson's recent deplorable actions," Tanya Young Williams said in an e-mailed statement.

"The truths noted in my divorce filing are necessary to establish a pattern of cruel and inhumane treatment towards me, not intended to be used by the prosecution against Jayson," she said. "He has to work through his psychological issues, they have to work through the facts of their case and I have to work at raising my daughters as best as I can under these circumstances."

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Associated Press writer Dan Gelston is Philadelphia contributed to this report.


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