Jayson Williams's 30,000-square-foot estate in Alexandria Township, N.J., has the look and feel of a Best Western convention center. The former Nets star entertains an endless stream of guests on his 65-acre property, which boasts an indoor gym and pool, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a skeet shooting range and lots of space to zoom around on Williams's go-karts. It's not only a pleasure palace, though—Williams often hosts charitable events for children there.
On Feb. 14, however, events at the five-year-old mansion turned tragic. One blast from a 12-gauge shotgun, which according to law-enforcement sources interviewed by Newark's Star-Ledger, was accidentally fired by Williams, killed limo driver Costas Christofi, 55. Earlier that night Christofi had picked up Williams and about a dozen friends in Bethlehem, Pa., after a Harlem Globetrotters game, then squired them to a restaurant and to Williams's home. Williams was reportedly showing off the gun to his guests, twirling the weapon when it discharged. Authorities were called at about 3 a.m. to the house, where Christofi was pronounced dead a half hour later.
Williams's lawyer, Joseph Hayden, told The Star-Ledger, "There is no basis in fact for any allegation that Mr. Williams was involved in any horseplay with a gun." Acting Hunterdon County prosecutor Steven Lember wouldn't comment on who'd fired the weapon, although he did say evidence suggests the shooting was unintentional so that, if charges are filed, they wouldn't include murder.
There have always been two sides to Williams—the get-along-with-everybody quote machine and the can't-stay-out-of-trouble rascal with a dark edge. Included on his resume are a weapons arrest in 1994 (charges were dismissed after Williams entered a pretrial program) and an obstruction of justice charge after he shoved a police officer outside a Branchburg, N.J., bar in November. ( Williams pleaded not guilty; the case will be heard on Feb. 27.) "Jayson still travels with a rough crowd," says someone who knows him well.
Williams, 34, is known as a partyer; boxer Larry Holmes has described the sight of Williams target shooting with one hand while drinking a beer with the other. Still, almost everybody who meets Williams likes him, and his telegenic qualities have become clear as an NBC analyst this season. "He's a big, tough guy with a heart of gold," says former Sixers president Pat Croce, one of Williams's studio partners. "He's the first guy to reach into his own pocket and take care of everybody, the consummate host." For a while, though, the lord of the manor had best conduct affairs at his place more temperately