Congressman requests meeting with Stern to discuss gambling scandal

Updated: July 27, 2007, 8:36 AM ET news services

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of a House subcommittee is requesting a meeting with NBA commissioner David Stern concerning the betting scandal involving former referee Tim Donaghy.

Rep. Bobby Rush, who heads the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, said he is also considering calling a hearing on the matter "should the facts warrant public scrutiny."

"If the allegations prove true, this could be one of the most damaging scandals in the history of American sports," the Illinois Democrat wrote in a letter sent to Stern on Wednesday and released to the press on Thursday.

Donaghy is the target of an FBI investigation for allegedly betting on games, including some he officiated, over the last two seasons. He resigned July 9.

According to a report in the New York Daily News on Thursday, two high school friends of Donaghy's have been identified as bookies in the gambling scandal.

The pair attended Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., with Donaghy, who was a standout on the school's varsity basketball and baseball teams. The newspaper reports that the two bet-takers have exaggerated their Mafia connections.

"They're nobodies," a law enforcement source told the newspaper.

Friday, the New York Times identified one of the men as James Battista, 42, of Phoenixville, Pa.. The Times said that Battista's lawyer, Jack McMahon of Philadelphia, told it that federal prosecutor overseeing the investigation "suggested to him" charges would be brought against Battista.

McMahon confirmed that Battista went to the same high school as Donaghy.

The Daily News reports that Donaghy allegedly told the bookies ahead of time on officiating crews of games they planned to place bets on, the source said.

Federal sources have told the newspaper that Donaghy is expected to surrender to the FBI by next week to plead guilty to gambling charges.

An educator at the school, who requested anonymity, confirmed to the Daily News that feds have identified two alums of the school as the bookies. The educator said both men graduated a few years ahead of Donaghy.

Rush wrote that he appreciated the need for the league to conduct its own investigation and that he would like to meet with Stern at "the earliest appropriate time."

"Unfortunately, fairly or not, the NBA, more than any other professional sport, has been consistently dogged with allegations that league referees needlessly affect the outcomes of games by making bad calls," Rush wrote.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.