NBA calculates figure it says Donaghy owes for restitution

Updated: June 20, 2008, 5:14 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

The NBA on-court action is over for the season, but the legal war in the courts continues between the NBA and disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy.

After initially seeking $1 million in restitution from Donaghy, in part to cover the league's in-house investigation into whether he bet on NBA games, as well as back wages paid the former ref, the NBA has jacked the dollar figure up to $1,395,104.89, according to court records obtained by ESPN.com. The filing came in response to a request from Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro, for a detailed breakdown of how the league arrived at the $1 million figure.

Paul Schectman, outside counsel to the league, said Friday of the new figure: "We sort of estimated $1 million and he submitted a response that said, 'Prove it. Document it.' So we did. Initially, the commissioner's [David Stern] view was $1 million is a big enough number. But once he [Lauro] wanted the math done, we sat down and tried to be pretty precise about it."

Lauro declined comment when reached Friday afternoon. He is expected to file a response on Monday.

Lauro has asked U.S. District Court Judge Carol Amon to require the NBA to turn over documents from its in-house investigation conducted by independent investigator Lawrence Pedowitz, as well as address the issue of monetary restitution. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard next Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.

Donaghy, 41, pleaded guilty last year to betting on games he officiated and providing confidential information to gamblers. He could face up to three years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for July 14.

In a June 10 filing, Lauro accused the league of retaliating against Donaghy in demanding the $1 million restitution, saying it "came immediately after Mr. Donaghy raised issues concerning the Government's conduct in this case, and the possible influence exerted by the NBA." Lauro asserted in the same publicly filed court papers that six other officials had manipulated the outcomes of four NBA games, including two playoff games.

The furor caused NBA commissioner David Stern to hold a news conference before Game 4 of the Finals in Los Angeles to deny any wrongdoing on the part of league officials. The league's legal filing came Tuesday, shortly before the Celtics beat the Lakers in Game 6 of the Finals to claim the championship.

One of the expenses cited in the court filing is a sum of $516,971.25 billed by outside counsel -- Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz -- to interview 57 NBA referees as part of the internal investigation. Donaghy is also being asked to repay $284,070.75 for two outside firms retained by the NBA to assist the government's investigation.

Court filings revealed that, at the government's request, two top league employees spent 125 hours reviewing videotapes of games in which Donaghy was the referee. As part of the restitution, the league claims director of officials Ronnie Nunn spent 25 hours going over tapes at a rate of $270 an hour, while Christopher Boghosian, senior manager of game administration, spent 100 hours at a rate of $100 per hour.

The league is also seeking total restitution of $577,312.89 for salary earned by Donaghy from games in which he officiated and also bet on or provided betting picks. Citing the government's claim that Donaghy bet on 30 to 40 games a season between the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, the league is asking he return 47 percent of the $1,073,870.52 salary earned during those years -- or $504,719.15. During the 2006-07 season, the government alleges he provided betting picks in 16 of the 79 games he officiated, so the league is seeking $72,593.75 in restitution. Donaghy earned $202,947.39 in base salary in 2005-06, his last full season as a referee.

Asked how Donaghy could be expected to pay nearly $1.4 million to the league, Schectman, the league's outside counsel, said, "Look, I don't know the answer to that. Obviously, it is a lot of money. One thing about restitution awards is they are one of few things in life that actually pierce through pension plans. So I guess he does have an NBA pension plan.

"I think people in the league are of two minds," he said. "One is nobody is very thrilled about him keeping money he made from games that he was conflicted on. On the other hand, people realize there is a wife and children out there and he has got obligations to them. Whatever the feelings are towards him, people feel much better about his kids. If you wanted to strip him of his pension -- and the law allows you to do it -- people are sensitive to the fact that he has got obligations to young ones.''

Schectman refused to discuss whether there is any indication that Donaghy had attempted to influence games, saying "I can't comment on it. All I can say is that we were asked to do it and we did it … We told the government and they have not made anything public."

Lauro has described Donaghy as suffering from a "pathological gambling condition," though he steadfastly has insisted his client never did anything to influence games. Instead, he has maintained that Donaghy simply shared information that was widely known within the league's inner circle -- such as relationships between refs and players, coaches and team executives -- with two gamblers (Thomas Martino and James Battista) with whom he'd earlier attended Cardinal O'Hara High School in the Philadelphia area.

Federal authorities have not accused Donaghy of influencing the results of games.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.