A letter to Jayson Williams
by Rick Reilly
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, huh?
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 gold 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 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. Gus was so pumped. He was going to own his first house. At age 55.
Gus's life didn't really 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 adicts 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 and love to get them through a wicked night.
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 wrong.
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 bak down and get your shine box, kid." Then you said, "I'm only kidding with you, man." Hilarious.
Gus must have felt really 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 have 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 accidently 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, that's reckless."
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.
Last edited by Foo Fighter : 05-30-2004 at 11:05 AM.