A New Jersey judge chastised former National Basketball Association star Jayson Williams yesterday for granting two interviews that were televised in the middle of jury selection in his aggravated manslaughter trial. The Newark Star-Ledger reports that Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman in Somerville imposed a gag order on everyone involved in the trial. He warned Williams and his legal team, which includes a jury consultant and a public relations consultant, not to talk with the media. “It has to end, and it will end at this point,” Coleman said.
Williams appeared with Barbara Walters on ABC-TV’s “20/20” Friday night and on Fox News on Sunday night. Coleman, who granted the defense a change of venue based on arguments that their client’s chances for a fair trial were reduced by negative pretrial publicity, was livid, the Star-Ledger says.
“It’s quite apparent that my efforts have been submarined to a certain extent,” he said. Coleman said of the “20/20” interview that, “clearly it was designed to influence the jury pool.” Extensive questionnaires already filled out by the 320 members of the original jury pool must be supplemented with new questions centered around the televised interviews.
Williams told Walters that he was “terrified” of going to prison and described the death of limousine driver Costas “Gus” Christofi as an accident. Christofi was killed Feb. 14, 2002, in the Williams’s bedroom after going to a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. One of those at the home that night, Dean Bumbaco, was interviewed by HBO for a report televised last night on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” “Literally from the time they walked in the bedroom to maybe five, 10 seconds later — boom,” Bumbaco said, adding, “I remembered right before hearing the boom, I heard ‘Yeah, mother————.’ “Boom.” He said the voice he heard was Williams.