NEW YORK (AP) — Retired NBA star Jayson Williams was freed from jail Friday after serving eight months for drunken driving in New York and 18 months before that in New Jersey on charges stemming from a limo driver's shooting death.
"I am eager to see my daughters, my mother and siblings and make amends for what they've been through, the former New Jersey Nets star said through his manager. "Start my life over with God being first and in the center of everything I do."
Williams drove his SUV into a tree in lower Manhattan in 2010, a week after he accepted a plea deal stemming from the 2002 shotgun death of a chauffeur in his New Jersey mansion. His manager and attorneys have said he has since attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, gone through counseling and taught Bible study.
Williams had a six-year, $86 million contract with the Nets before a leg injury forced him to retire in 2000. Two years after he left the sport, he killed driver Costas Christofi with a 12-gauge shotgun while showing it to friends, having failed to check the weapon's safety mechanism before snapping the gun closed.
Williams then wiped down the weapon and placed it in the chauffeur's hands, stripped off his own clothes, handed them to a friend and jumped into his pool, according to testimony. Williams' lawyers maintained that the shooting was an accident and that his actions were driven by panic.
The shooting marked the start of a cascade of troubles for Williams, who was promptly suspended from his post-basketball job as an NBA analyst for NBC.
While the case surrounding the shooting lingered after a 2004 mistrial on a top count, his wife filed for divorce, and police used a stun gun on him in a New York hotel after a female friend said he was acting suicidal. He was charged with assault in May 2009 after police say he punched a man in the face outside a North Carolina bar, but charges were dropped. His father also died.
Williams pleaded guilty in January 2010 to a lesser aggravated assault count in the shooting case while awaiting a retrial. Under his plea agreement, he had to serve at least 18 months in state prison because a gun was involved and up to five years for a prior conviction of trying to cover up the crime. The sentences were to run concurrent and he became eligible for parole after serving 18 months.
He was paroled from a facility in Wrightstown, N.J. in August, and was transferred to Rikers to serve up to a year after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated. He was released Friday after eight months.
A first-round NBA draft pick in 1990, Williams played nine seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets. He averaged 10 or more rebounds a game in his final four NBA seasons and was named to an All-Star team.
Associated Press writer David Porter contributed to this report from Newark, N.J.