Donaghy Report Clears Other Refs
Friday, October 3, 2008
A 14-month review of the NBA's gambling and officiating program yielded a 116-page report yesterday that concluded what Commissioner David Stern had suspected and hoped for some time -- that Tim Donaghy was the only referee involved in criminal activity and illegal gambling.
Former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz compiled the report and suggested several changes for the league to strengthen the way it monitors gambling and protect the game's integrity. The report also dismissed many of the claims former referee Donaghy made before being sentenced to 15 months in prison in July for two felony charges stemming from his role in a gambling operation.
A letter submitted by Donaghy's attorney this summer alleged that the NBA encouraged referees to manipulate the results of playoffs games to boost the league's television ratings.
"We found no support for Donaghy's allegations," Pedowitz, a partner at the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, said during a teleconference.
Pedowitz also provided several recommendations, which have been or will be implemented by the league, Stern said in a separate teleconference later in the afternoon.
The review already resulted in the league making referee assignments public on the mornings of games and the reorganization of the officiating program, which included the hiring of retired Army Major General Ronald L. Johnson to serve as senior vice president and Bernie Fryer being named vice president and director of officials.
Pedowitz also suggested a "hotline" this season for league and team employees to anonymously raise questions and report problems concerning gambling and game integrity issues; increased monitoring of games for suspicious activity and greater education about gambling, specifically for players.
Stern said he would advise the league's owners to implement the changes at the next Board of Governors meeting later this month.
"We will be up there with the very best, and no one will have a better system than we do," he said. "All of that said, the idea that criminal activity will exist every place else in the world except sports is something that we can't guarantee. But we're going to have the most effective system that's ever been devised."
Stern ordered the review last August after Donaghy, an NBA referee for 13 seasons, was charged with betting on games he officiated and providing inside information to gamblers. Pedowitz and his firm found that several referees had violated the league's previous rules that allowed them to bet at a race track during the offseason. None of those activities reached the criminal level, the report said.
The report also found to be "meritless" a suggestion that referee Scott Foster was involved in the gambling operation because Donaghy called him 134 times during the 2006-07 season.
After reviewing a group of 17 games that included 16 for which Donaghy provided picks during the 2006-07 season, Pedowitz was unable to contradict the government's conclusion that Donaghy never made a ruling during a game in order to increase the likelihood of his gambling pick. But Pedowitz warned that the league's "broadly drafted" anti-gambling rules and its failure to enforce them contributed to a "permissive atmosphere."
The release of the report was delayed several times, as Donaghy's case continued. A new round of investigations followed in June after Donaghy alleged that several officials were involved in rigging the outcome of playoff games, including the controversial Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.
Pedowitz's firm conducted more than 200 interviews with referees and team and league personnel, but Donaghy did not cooperate with the investigation. Pedowitz was also unable to speak with co-conspirators James Battista and Thomas Martino.
Stern admitted that the report wouldn't completely eliminate suspicions from fans, team executives, owners and players that referees allow personal biases to influence calls. But he said that with the changes the league has and will make, "we feel good about our ability to tell the story, respond to teams' concerns, and very much chip away at the issues that are raised because fans think their team got a raw deal on a particular call or in a particular game."
As for fans who may have been burned by the Donaghy situation, Stern said, "We'll win them back."