Ex-Ref Blows Whistle On NBA

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

CBS News Investigative producer Pat Milton wrote this story for CBSNews.com.

Ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy at the center of a gambling scandal charged that refs were routinely told by league executives not to eject star players from games in order to protect ticket sales and television ratings.

Donaghy also claimed that the NBA urged them to make phony foul calls to manipulate game outcomes and that two referees actually rigged a 2002 playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, to force it into a revenue boosting seven games.

The allegations by Donaghy, a 13-year veteran NBA referee, are contained in a letter filed in Brooklyn Federal Court Tuesday by Donaghy's lawyer, John Lauro.

Donaghy, 41, of Bradenton, Florida, pleaded guilty last year to felony fraud charges alleging that he bet on games he officiated, provided inside information to gamblers and received payoffs from them for recommended picks he hit. He faces up to 33 months in prison at sentencing on July 14.

NBA officials called Donaghy's charges baseless and a self-serving move to obtain a lenient sentence.

"All I can say is that he's looking for anything that will shorten his sentence, and it's not going to happen,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said Tuesday night prior to the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics NBA Finals game.

NBA Vice-President Richard Buchanan said Donaghy's allegations "are part of his desperate attempt to lighten the sentence that will be imposed for his criminal conduct. The NBA remains vigilant in protecting the integrity of the game and has fully cooperated with the government at every stage of its investigation," Richard Buchanan, NBA executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Lauro and prosecutors declined comment.

In his four-page letter to Federal Judge Carol Amon, who is presiding over the case, Lauro said that he was including the information provided by Donaghy to federal investigators because none of it was contained in a letter from the government to the judge seeking leniency for Donaghy.

In a letter filed with the court last month, Lauro took issue with the fact that Donaghy's two co-defendants, who pleaded guilty to gambling charges stemming from the scandal, were given less jail time than Donaghy is expected to receive despite the fact that Donaghy provided extensive cooperation with federal investigators.

By Pat Milton
  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer

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