Rogue ref, Donaghy, learns his sentence

July 29, 2008 10:59:05 AM PDT
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison Tuesday for setting off a gambling scandal that tarnished the reputation of the league and raised questions about the taint of betting on the sport.

The sentencing of Donaghy on Tuesday closes a chapter in a scandal that convulsed the NBA.

The league has angrily denied Donaghy's claim that corruption among referees runs deeper.

Donaghy pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

Last week, two of Donaghy's former high school classmates were sentenced to over a year in prison for their roles in the scheme.

Donaghy has claimed corruption among referees runs deeper, drawing angry denials by the league and demands that he pay hefty restitution. He's also asked for mercy, citing an analysis that found he "would never have committed these offenses if he was not a pathological gambler."

Donaghy, 41, pleaded guilty on Aug. 15, 2007 to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

"By having this nonpublic information, I was in a unique position to predict the outcome of NBA games," he told a judge at the time.

Donaghy didn't stop there: In June, he marred the NBA finals by making fresh accusations that the league routinely encouraged refs to ring up bogus fouls to manipulate results but discouraged them from calling technical fouls on star players to keep them in games and protect ticket sales and television ratings.

The allegations - contained in court papers arguing that Donaghy deserved leniency for voluntarily disclosing the alleged corruption - included one instance claiming referees rigged a 2002 playoff series to force it to a revenue-boosting seven games.

Though the papers didn't name the teams involved, only the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings series went to seven games during those playoffs. The Lakers went on to win the championship.

NBA commissioner David Stern has called the allegations baseless, saying Donaghy was only "singing" to get a lighter sentence. Prosecutors said though he deserved credit for helping make the case against two co-defendants, nothing else he alleged was criminal.

The league had sought nearly $1.4 million in restitution covering hefty legal bills and a portion of Donaghy's salary dating to 2003. But the last week the judge ruled the claim was excessive, instead ordering the three defendants must jointly pay the NBA $217,266 in restitution.

"It is undisputed that Donaghy dishonestly refereed 16 games during the 2006-2007 season, and a corresponding portion of his compensation for these games is an appropriate measure of the NBA's loss," she wrote.

Also charged were two of Donaghy's former high school classmates: James Battista, the professional gambler who paid thousands of dollars for Donaghy's tips, and Thomas Martino, the scheme's middleman. Both men pleaded guilty and were sentenced last week, Battista to 15 months in prison and Martino to a year and one day.


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