Prosecutors: Donaghy exaggerated cooperation in bet probe

Updated: June 27, 2008, 7:18 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy has exaggerated his cooperation in a gambling investigation in hopes of lessening his prison term and avoiding paying hefty restitution, prosecutors said in court papers filed Friday.

He also has minimized his own role in the scheme, according to the filing in Brooklyn federal court.

Prosecutors rebuffed defense arguments that Donaghy should get a break on his sentence for voluntarily coming forward and giving prosecutors inside dirt about alleged game-fixing and other misconduct by other referees and league officials.

In the court papers, prosecutors said that by the time Donaghy decided to cooperate last year, "the government had a clear understanding of the criminal conspiracy, and who was involved." Though he deserves credit for giving investigators information on his two co-defendants, his claims of other internal NBA corruption "did not lead to evidence of prosecutable federal offenses," the papers added.

Defense attorney John Lauro declined comment Friday.

The 41-year-old Donaghy pleaded guilty last year to felony charges of taking cash payoffs from gamblers in the 2006-07 season. He faces up to 33 months in prison at sentencing, set for July 14.

His attorney has argued that it's unfair that Donaghy's co-defendants, a professional gambler and a middleman who also pleaded guilty, are facing less time - up to 16 months and up to 18 months, respectively. Their sentencing is scheduled for July 11.

But the government papers filed Friday argued the disparity makes sense because Donaghy was the plot's central figure.

"It was only Donaghy, by virtue of his position as an NBA referee, who had access to nonpublic and other inside information on which he based his gambling picks, and it was only Donaghy who had a duty to provide honest services to his employer, the NBA," prosecutors wrote. "Without Donaghy, the scheme simply could not have been carried out."

Prosecutors also supported NBA attorneys' arguments that Donaghy's betting over three seasons, starting in 2003, was "relevant conduct" that should be considered in deciding what he owes the NBA for his crimes.

The league wants the former referee to pay back more than $500,000 in salary from those seasons as part of a $1.4 million restitution request. The amount also includes legal bills from a league investigation, free tickets Donaghy received and even the cost of his basketball shoes.

A judge has ordered the league to produce more evidence supporting the restitution request, suggesting it was too high.

Donaghy's lawyer has argued the former referee's punishment should apply only to the 2006-2007 season. He accused the NBA of seeking to financially "destroy" his client for clouding the recently completed NBA finals with fresh accusations that the league routinely encouraged refs to call bogus fouls to manipulate results for the sake of ticket sales and television ratings.

The allegations include one instance in which, Donaghy said, referees made bad calls to force a 2002 playoff series to a revenue-boosting seven games. Though Donaghy's court 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.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press