Donaghy's lawyer says NBA out to 'destroy' ex-ref financially

Updated: June 23, 2008, 10:10 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NBA wants to financially "destroy" disgraced referee Tim Donaghy for embarrassing the league during the playoffs with allegations that outcomes of previous games were purposely manipulated by bad calls, his lawyer charged Monday.

The attorney, John Lauro, asked a federal judge to force the league to produce more evidence supporting its demand Donaghy pay the NBA nearly $1.4 million in restitution as part of the sentence in his gambling case. The amount covers everything from hefty legal bills to the cost of Donaghy's basketball shoes.

"The message from the NBA is quite clear: If you cooperate in a federal investigation against the organization, we will take you out," Lauro wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Carol Amon.

Donaghy, 41, pleaded guilty last year to felony charges of taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games himself. He faces up to 33 months in prison at sentencing, set for July 14.

Earlier this month, the case cast a cloud over the NBA Finals with 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 -- include one instance in which 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.

"No further purpose will be served by responding to Mr. Lauro's repeated misstatements as these matters will be addressed in court," the NBA said in a statement.

In its own court papers filed last week, the NBA argued Donaghy should pay back $577,312 of his salary from 2003 to 2007, covering scores of games on which he either bet or provided inside tips to gamblers.

It also said Donaghy should foot the bill for the legal fees and other expenses related to an internal "risk review" prompted by the case, including a $516,971 tab for a law firm that interviewed 57 NBA referees. Other costs the league wants repaid: $750 it spent on sneakers for the referee, $4,500 for complimentary tickets he received over the years, and other miscellaneous items.

Lauro called the demand purely vindictive.

"The NBA became angry that information about organization practices became public during the playoff season, and it retaliated by seeking to destroy Mr. Donaghy financially and to leave his family destitute," he wrote in the letter to Amon.

A court hearing is set for Wednesday on the restitution issue.

Last week, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, wrote Stern saying he was closely monitoring the case and was prepared to intervene if necessary. The committee oversees sports-related matters.

"At this point, the veracity of Mr. Donaghy's allegations must be viewed with some skepticism," Rush wrote. "Nonetheless, critics have once again renewed their calls for reform, and the NBA is once again facing questions about the integrity of the product on the court."

The NBA said it would cooperate fully with whatever requests Rush makes.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press