Tim Donaghy

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Tim Donaghy
Tim Donaghy in 2010.jpg
Tim Donaghy
Born (1967-01-07) January 7, 1967 (age 47)
Havertown, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Education Villanova University
(Bachelor's Degree, 1989)
League National Basketball Association
Years active 1994–2007
Spouse(s) Divorced
Children Four children[1]

Tim Donaghy (/ˈdɒnəɡi/;[2] born January 7, 1967)[3] is a former professional basketball referee who worked in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 13 seasons, from 1994 to 2007.[4] During his career in the NBA, Donaghy officiated in 772 regular season games and 20 playoff games.[4] Donaghy resigned from the league on July 9, 2007[5] before reports of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegations that he bet on games that he officiated during his last two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in those games.[6] On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. However, he could face more charges at the state level if it is determined that he deliberately miscalled individual games. Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on July 29, 2008.[7] He served 11 months in a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida to spend the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house,[8][9] but was sent back to prison in August for violating his release terms. He was released on November 4, 2009 after serving out his sentence.

Personal

Born in the Philadelphia suburb Havertown, Pennsylvania, Donaghy attended Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania[4] along with three other NBA referees: Joe Crawford, Mike Callahan, and Ed Malloy.[10] In 1989, Donaghy graduated from Villanova University with a degree in sales and marketing.[4][8] While at Villanova, he played on the school's baseball team.[1][4] According to the National Basketball Referee's Association, Donaghy participated and earned All-Catholic and All-Delaware County honors in baseball and All-Delaware County honors in basketball during high school,[3] but then–Villanova baseball coach George Bennett contends that Donaghy did not play on the varsity team and that no records indicate that he was selected to the All-Catholic team in baseball or named to the All-Delaware County basketball team.[11] Donaghy and his wife Kimberly had four daughters before terminating their 12-year marriage in 2007.[12]

Officiating career

Before officiating in the NBA, Donaghy spent five years working Pennsylvania high school games[3] and seven seasons in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), and he was the head official for the 1993 CBA All-Star Game.[13] The following year, he joined the NBA, where he worked for 13 years, officiating in 772 regular-season games and 20 playoff games.[4] Donaghy was a participant in the NBA's Read to Achieve program, for which he participated in an event at the Universal Charter school during the 2002 NBA Finals.[4] His uniform number was 21.[3]

Donaghy was one of three referees who worked the Pacers–Pistons brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills on November 19, 2004, which ended in a fight between Pacers players and Pistons fans.[14][15][16]

Donaghy was involved in another controversial incident in 2003, when he called a technical foul on Rasheed Wallace, then playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, for allegedly throwing a ball at another official during a game played at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon.[17] While Donaghy was leaving the arena, Wallace confronted him at the arena's loading dock, where he screamed obscenities at Donaghy.[17] Donaghy claimed that Wallace threatened him, and after an investigation by the NBA, Wallace was suspended for seven games;[17] this was the longest suspension issued by the league for an incident not involving violence or drugs.[18]

Betting scandal

On July 20, 2007, columnist Murray Weiss of the New York Post reported an investigation by the FBI into allegations of an NBA referee betting on games to control the point spread.[19] It was revealed that Donaghy, who has a gambling problem, placed tens of thousands of dollars in bets on games during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 season and had been approached by low-level mob associates to work on a gambling scheme.[20] Mike Missanelli of The Stephen A. Smith Show suggested that Donaghy had gotten himself into debt and tried to make it up by betting on games.[21]

The report sent shock waves through the NBA. While the league devotes significant resources to monitor officials' performance, it only found out about the affair when the FBI stumbled upon Donaghy in the midst of a broader organized crime investigation.[22] NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement, "We would like to assure our fans that no amount of effort, time or personnel is being spared to assist in this investigation, to bring to justice an individual who has betrayed the most sacred trust in professional sports, and to take the necessary steps to protect against this ever happening again."[20] He called the scandal a "wakeup call that says you can't be complacent".[23]

Sports gambling expert R. J. Bell, president of sports betting information site Pregame.com, tracked every game Donaghy worked from 2003 to 2007. He discovered that during the two seasons investigated by the NBA, the teams involved scored more points than expected by the Las Vegas sports books 57 percent of the time. In the previous two seasons, this only happened 44 percent of the time. According to Bell, the odds of such a discrepancy are 1 in 1,000, and there was "a 99.9 percent chance that these results would not have happened without an outside factor". He also found 10 straight games in 2007 in which Donaghy worked the game that the point spread moved 1.5 points or more before the tip—an indication that big money had been wagered on the game. The big money won every time—another indication that "something (was) going on". However, Bell suggested that there was no way anyone who wasn't in on the fix could have known that something was amiss about Donaghy's actions during a game; he said it would have been another year at the earliest before anyone could have caught on.[24]

Handicapper Brandon Lang told ESPN that it is fairly easy for a crooked sports official to fix a game, despite Stern's insistence that Donaghy was a "rogue official". According to Lang, an official can directly influence the outcome of a game 75 percent of the time if he has money on the game. Lang also believed that a bookie connected to the mob turned Donaghy in to the FBI.[25]

On July 27, U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, asked to meet with Stern regarding the Donaghy matter. In a letter to Stern, Rush indicated that he might call a hearing "should the facts warrant public scrutiny." He also said that the affair could potentially be "one of the most damaging scandals in the history of American sports".[26]

Earlier in the day, federal sources told the New York Daily News that Donaghy would surrender to the FBI and pleaded guilty to gambling charges. The Daily News also learned that the bookies in the scandal were two high school classmates of Donaghy's who embellished their mob ties. The Daily News reported that at his friends' request, Donaghy passed word about the crews working the games they planned to bet on.[27] The Associated Press identified one of the men as James Battista, former owner of a sports bar in Havertown, Pennsylvania; a Philadelphia suburb. Battista's lawyer told the AP that his client expected to be indicted.[28]

At his home in Bradenton, Donaghy did not initially comment on his situation. He reportedly claimed to be "the butler" to visiting reporters and turned his sprinklers on a freelance photographer for the New York Times when he got too close.[27] His wife (at the time), Kimberly, passed a note to reporters telling them not to bother asking them any questions.[29]

On August 15, Donaghy appeared in a Brooklyn federal court and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce. Donaghy told U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon that he used coded language to tip Battista about players' physical condition and player/referee relations. In doing so, Donaghy disclosed classified information that he obtained as an NBA referee. Donaghy initially received $2,000 per correct pick, but his calls were so accurate that Battista increased his take to $5,000. In total, he received $30,000 to pass inside information to the bookies.[30] Another high school friend of Donaghy's, Thomas Martino, acted as the middle man. Donaghy also admitted that he had a severe gambling addiction, for which he was taking antidepressants.[31]

Donaghy specifically admitted to passing information about two games during the 2006–07 season. Prosecutors also said that Donaghy bet on games himself. Donaghy was fined $500,000, and will also have to pay at least $30,000 in restitution.[32] ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson believes that Battista is one of the FBI's prime targets, based on the large amounts of money he bet.[33]

Donaghy was released on a $250,000 bond and awaited sentencing on January 25, 2008.[34] On June 19, 2008, the NBA filed a demand that Donaghy reimburse the league for the costs of his airfare and meals, complimentary game tickets, and other expenses, including $750 in shoes. Donaghy's lawyer said that this was the league trying to retaliate against Donaghy for his misconduct.[35] A judge delayed sentencing to allow for more time to decide how much restitution Donaghy and two co-conspirators should pay the NBA for their roles in the betting scandal. The NBA has claimed Donaghy owes it $1.4 million, including $577,000 of his pay and benefits over four seasons, plus hefty legal fees and other expenses related to an internal investigation. His lawyer has argued that the punishment should apply to only one season—a position supported by the government in court papers.[36]

According to the Associated Press, Andrew Thomas, the former county attorney for Maricopa County, Arizona, asked the NBA and FBI if Donaghy intentionally miscalled two Phoenix Suns road playoff games. The games in question occurred on April 29, 2007 versus the Los Angeles Lakers and May 12, 2007 versus the San Antonio Spurs. In a letter to Stern and FBI director Robert Mueller, Thomas said that Donaghy's conduct may have violated Arizona criminal law, and could face charges there.[37] Per the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ponzi v. Fessenden, federal plea bargains have no standing regarding state charges.[38]

Allegations against the NBA

On June 10, 2008, Donaghy's attorney filed a court document alleging, among other things, that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings was fixed by two referees. The letter states that Donaghy "learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be 'company men', always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series."[39] The Lakers won Game 6, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter, and went on to win the 2002 NBA Finals. The teams were not named, but the Western Conference Finals was the only seven-game series that year.[40] The document claimed that Donaghy told federal agents that to increase television ratings and ticket sales, "top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees".[39] It also said that NBA officials would tell referees to not call technical fouls on certain players, and states that a referee was privately reprimanded by the league for ejecting a star player in the first quarter of a January 2000 game.[39] Stern denied the accusations, calling Donaghy a "singing, cooperating witness".[40]

Sentencing

On July 29, 2008, Donaghy was sentenced in Brooklyn Federal Court[41] to 15 months in prison for his participation in the gambling scandal. Donaghy could have faced up to 33 months, but Judge Carol Amon reduced his sentence to 15 months (two 15-month terms served concurrently, followed by 3 years of supervised release) in exchange for his cooperation. His lawyer, John Lauro, asked for probation, but the request was denied. Donaghy apologized in court, saying "I brought shame on myself, my family and the profession."[7] Battista and Martino were sentenced earlier that month, earning sentences of 15 months and 366 days, respectively.[42]

Effect on the NBA

As a result of the betting scandal, Stern revised the guidelines on the behavior of NBA referees during the Board of Governors' meeting in 2007. Despite the labor agreement for referees, which restricted them from participating in almost all forms of gambling, it was revealed that about half of the NBA's officials had made bets in casinos, albeit not with sportsbooks. In addition, all referees had admitted to engaging in some form of gambling. Stern stated that "[the] ban on gambling is absolute, and in my view it is too absolute, too harsh and was not particularly well-enforced over the years". The gambling rules were revised to allow referees to engage in several forms of betting—though not on sports. There were several other referee-related rule changes made: the announcement of referees of a game was moved from 90 minutes before tip-off to the morning of the game, to reduce the value of the information to gamblers; referees received more in-season training and counseling on gambling; more thorough background checks were carried out; the league declared its intention to analyze the statistical relationship between NBA games and referees' gambling patterns for those games; and the interactions between referees and NBA teams were made easier and more formal.[43]

Post-sentencing

In the federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, Donaghy started to write his memoir, Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA. The book was to have covered his NBA career, described his dealings with the "underworld" during the betting scandal, and explained how he would determine the winning team in the games he refereed. Donaghy also promised to "discuss the relationship that players, coaches and referees have with each other".[8] The book was due to be published in October 2009. However, Donaghy's publisher, Triumph Books, canceled it because of liability concerns. Pat Berdan, Donaghy's liaison with Triumph, said the book was canceled after the NBA threatened legal action—which the NBA denies.[44] Donaghy found a new publisher, VTi-Group, willing to release the book, which was renamed Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA. The book was released in December 2009.[45][46]

During his imprisonment, Donaghy was attacked and threatened. In November 2007, a man claiming to be an associate of the New York Mafia struck Donaghy with a paint roller extension bar, resulting in injuries to his knee and leg which required surgery.[8][9]

Donaghy was released from prison after serving 11 months and was due to finish his sentence in a recovery house near Tampa, Florida, where he will be treated for his gambling addiction as mandated by the court.[8][9] He was arrested and put in the county jail in late August after being caught at a health club without permission, when he should have been at work. His lawyer and ex-wife insisted that Donaghy should not have been taken into custody, as he was allowed to visit the center to rehabilitate his injured knee.[47][48]

On November 4, 2009, Donaghy was released from prison in Hernando County after serving out the remainder of his sentence.[49]

Donaghy sued VTi-Group, the publisher of his memoir, for not paying him. In June 2012, a jury found VTi liable for breach of contract.[50] Donaghy was awarded $1.3 million.

On April 22, 2014, Donaghy claimed that the league office was going to push referees to fix playoffs games to have Brooklyn Nets beat the Toronto Raptors, so they could advance to the second round and face the Miami Heat because it would be good for ratings,[51] which it was.[52] On May 4, 2014, the Nets eliminated the Raptors after a game 7 win.

References

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  2. ^ Listen at inogolo:pronunciation of Tim Donahee.
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  50. ^ "Ex-ref Tim Donaghy wins lawsuit". ESPN. June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  51. ^ "Disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy claims NBA has pressured officials to call games for Nets in Raptors series". 
  52. ^ "NBA Playoffs TV Ratings: Heat/Nets Strong on TNT; Other Games Solid". 

See also