Ex-NBA Ref's Attorney Blasts Feds

Tim Donaghy #21 stands on the court during a game between the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies on December 19, 2005 at FedexForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Getty Images/Joe Murphy

This story was written by CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton for cbsnews.com.

The attorney for former NBA referee Tim Donaghy sharply criticized the government Monday for effectively shutting down the NBA gambling prosecution, charging it put Donaghy at a disadvantage because the full story surrounding his gambling scandal will not be aired.

Donaghy, a 13-year veteran NBA official, pleaded guilty last August to betting on games he officiated at and providing picks to gambling associates based on insider information.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn Monday, his attorney John Lauro has asked a federal judge to spare the disgraced referee jail time when he is sentenced.

Donaghy cites his gambling addiction and his full cooperation with the investigation as factors that should be considered in requesting probation instead of imprisonment.

Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison but the term could be considerably lower based on sentencing guidelines. He is expected to be sentenced in July.

Lauro criticized federal prosecutors in the court papers for agreeing to a plea deal with Donaghy's two co-conspirators James Battista and Thomas Martino on the eve of their trial last month.

He contends that they were charged with far more serious offenses stemming from the gambling scheme than Donaghy, the papers stated.

Lauro argues that the government is treating Donaghy more harshly despite the fact that he has cooperated fully with the investigation and that his cooperation resulted in the indictments against Battista and Martino.

The U.S. Attorney's Office "is taking a unique approach - punish an early and truthful cooperator more severely than other defendants who acted contrary to the interests of the government,'' Lauro states in his letter to Judge Carol Amon, who is presiding over the case.


Furthermore Lauro states that Donaghy's cooperation initially focused on his gambling activities but eventually expanded to include "NBA matters that were of interest to law enforcement officials,'' but had nothing to do with Donaghy's conduct.

"Tim described the gambling of the activities of NBA officials,'' Lauro stated. "He also furnished information concerning circumstances that favored certain players or teams over others. In one instance, for example, confidential information was secretly passed from another referee to a coach.''

Donaghy admitted in court that he bet on games and provided NBA betting picks to gambling associates based on inside information.

Donaghy acknowledged the "unique access'' provided by his job_ including which crews would officiate certain games, the relationships between certain officials and players and the physical condition of certain players.

"The NBA allowed an environment to exist that made inside information including knowledge of the particular officials who wold work a game, valuable in connection with predicting the outcome of games,'' Lauro charged in the court documents.

For example particular relationships between officials and coaches or players affected the outcome of games, and other practices prevented games from being played on a level playing field,'' Lauro stated.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Goldberg said in a letter filed in the court last week that Donaghy bet on 14 games he officiated in the 2006-07 season.

"In the Spring of 2003, Donaghy provided picks for games he refereed on only 2-3 occasions,'' Godlberg wrote. "over the next three full seasons, (2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006), however Donaghy bet on numerous games that he worked,'' Goldberg stated.

"The government's investigation revealed that Donaghy provided picks for anywhere from 30 to 40 such games for each of those three seasons. During the 2006-07 season Donaghy bet on approximately 30 games including about 14 games that he referred,'' the prosecutor stated.

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the charges in Lauro's court papers. NBA spokesperson Tim Frank was not immediately available to comment. Two messages left at this office were not immediately returned.

By: Pat Milton
  • CBS Investigates

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