Hey, congratulations, Jayson Williams.
Looks like you won't be going to the clink for shooting and
killing that limousine driver. All the jury nailed you for was
covering up something the jury said wasn't a crime. Neat trick,
You beat the most serious charges. Unless they retry you for the
reckless manslaughter thing (the jury was deadlocked) you might
only do some house arrest. And since you live in a
31,000-square-foot mansion on a 65-acre lot with two par-3 golf
holes, a skeet range and an ATV track--paid for courtesy of the
New Jersey Nets--that ain't exactly Leavenworth.
But before you go on with your life, some of us just want to let
you know a few things about the man you shot dead and then tried
to tar as a suicide.
See, that's the funny thing. Gus Christofi was about as far from
suicide that day as a man could be. The day before you blasted
him with your shotgun, his sister agreed to cosign a loan for
him. Gus was so pumped. He was going to own his first house. At
Gus's life really didn't begin until about 10 years ago, when he
finally beat alcoholism and heroin addiction. He went to a New
Jersey rehab center called Freedom House for 18 months and
emerged such a changed man that the place hired him as a
counselor. Recovering addicts could count on Gus to take the
phone call, jump in his beat-up old Plymouth and come over with
enough coffee and patience and love to get them through a wicked
You should've seen the funeral, Jayson. It was packed. Hundreds
of people, many of whom Gus's relatives didn't even know. "I
can't even tell you how many people came up to me and said, 'Your
uncle saved my life,'" says Anthony Christofi Jr., Gus's nephew.
"Or they said, 'Your uncle saved my boy's life.' It was amazing."
How's that for irony? You, a guy whose blood-alcohol level was
still over the legal limit eight hours after the shooting, killed
a guy who thought he was finally safe from booze. Boy, was he
Really, life was just about as good as it had ever been for Gus
that night. He was sober, reunited with his family and doing
great at the limo company. In fact, he was so well-liked there
that when the job came up to drive your party from a
Globetrotters game to a restaurant, the owner surprised Gus with
the trip, seeing as how Gus was such a huge sports fan.
Gus even bought one of those little disposable cameras to take a
few pictures. Of course, maybe it wasn't such a Kodak moment when
you--as people later testified--made fun of Gus, swore at him,
called him a "stoolie" and a "fed," and, when Gus got up to leave
the restaurant, told him, "Sit back down and get your shine box,
kid." Then you said, "I'm only kidding with you, man." Hilarious.
Gus must have really felt clammy, though, when you got the gun
down from the cabinet. Gus hated guns, had hated them since he
was a kid and his dad would invite him to go hunting. You can't
shoot those rabbits, Dad, he pleaded. You just can't.
Gus would've hated hanging with you, Jayson, since you once
allegedly shot your own rottweiler in the head, shot out the
tires of a security truck at the Meadowlands and accidentally
shot close to New York Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet. Do you
realize how many times you mentioned guns in your autobiography?
Twenty-five empty shells were also found in your master bedroom,
where you kept six guns, four of them loaded.
Maybe, around three that morning, you were only clowning with
Gus--pointing the gun at him as if to say, You again?--and maybe
you weren't. But it was for damn sure pointed at Gus when it went
off, turning the early hours of Valentine's Day good and red.
The jury called it an "accident," but Gus's nephew Anthony wants
to know exactly what the accident was. "When Williams got drunk?"
Anthony asks. "When he got the gun out of the cabinet? When it
went off? To me, if Williams [shoots] a hole in his floor or his
ceiling, that's an accident. If the hole is in my uncle's chest,
You ought to know that you left a pretty big hole in Gus's
family, too, Jayson. The little kids still cry when they think
about their uncle. Gus's niece Maria El Hadidi has nightmares
about his blood-soaked shirt. And his relatives all want to spit
when they remember some of the things said by the jurors, like
the woman who announced, "He didn't have the look of a
cold-blooded killer. I didn't see it in his eyes." You know
you're in good shape when the prosecutors aren't exactly a Dream
Team and the jurors are calling you by your first name and
looking at eyes, not evidence, right?
But you know what really makes the family push away their supper
plates? This: As Gus lay there bleeding, some witnesses said, the
first thing you hollered was, "Oh, my God! My life is over!"
Wrong life, pal.
If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
things about the man you shot dead.