Donaghy Pleads Guilty in Scandal

tim donaghy - nba referee
Tim Donaghy, 40, who refereed NBA games for 13 years before resigning last month, will be sentenced Nov. 9 on the conspiracy and fraud counts. (AP)
By Robin Shulman and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 16, 2007

NEW YORK, Aug. 15 -- Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee at the center of a betting scandal that has rocked professional basketball, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two federal conspiracy charges, acknowledging that he used inside information to predict the winners of NBA games and passed on his picks to a professional gambler in return for cash.

Donaghy, 40, who refereed NBA games for 13 years before resigning last month, faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced Nov. 9. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of a scheme to defraud the NBA and conspiracy to transmit wagering information across state lines. The first charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the second could bring up to five years. Donaghy, who grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in Florida, was released on $250,000 bond. He has surrendered his passport, his attorney said. In addition to the fine, Donaghy is liable for at least $30,000 in restitution.

"I was in a unique position to predict the outcome of NBA games," Donaghy told U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon. "Some of my picks included games I had been assigned to referee." He said he had "received cash payments for successful picks," but he did not mention specific amounts in court.

Speaking softly as he addressed the court, Donaghy said he has a "gambling addiction." He said he is seeing a psychiatrist and is taking medication for depression and anxiety.

Donaghy told the court that between December 2006 and April 2007, he used "nonpublic information" to pick the winners of particular NBA games and to "cover the point spreads set by professional bookmakers." Others would then use his picks to place bets, he said.

He admitted making phone calls around the country to communicate his picks, often using "a coded language." If a pick did not pan out, he would not be paid and "would not lose any money," he said.

Although prosecutors said Donaghy admitted betting on games himself, the plea agreement did not include that particular charge.

Reading the charges against Donaghy, Amon said the referee had "unique access" and possessed inside information, such as which crews would officiate games, the physical condition of certain players and the interactions of certain referees, players and team personnel. The judge said Donaghy concealed the scheme from the NBA and other referees.

Also charged in the case are two alleged co-conspirators: James Battista, 42, and Thomas Martino, 41. They were arraigned in federal court Wednesday afternoon and released on $250,000 bond each. If convicted, both face up to 20 years in prison, officials said.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday morning, Battista, also known as "Baba" and "Sheep," is a professional gambler, and Martino is a high school friend whose house Battista used to conduct his gambling business.

Battista appeared in court Wednesday wearing shorts, a polo shirt and running shoes. Neither he nor Martino immediately entered a plea.

Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro, told reporters after his client's guilty plea: "He's had a severe gambling problem for a while. It went untreated." He said Donaghy's gambling problem now "is getting addressed." Donaghy has "a great deal of remorse" about the pain he has caused his family, friends and co-workers, Lauro said.

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