Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy asserted in publicly filed court papers Tuesday that six other officials had manipulated the outcomes of four NBA games, including two playoff games. Although Donaghy and his attorney, John F. Lauro, offered detail to support their claims of misconduct by referees, team executives and NBA executives, they did not offer the identities of the teams or the individuals.
Donaghy's explosive charges came in response to a demand from the NBA that Donaghy pay $1 million to the league, which claims to be a victim of the referee's admitted crimes. The league's demand for $1 million in restitution and Donaghy's response raise a number of legal questions. Here are some of the questions and their answers:
Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges last summer, admitting he was guilty of gambling violations and money laundering. Everything seemed to have settled down, with Donaghy cooperating with federal investigators and awaiting his sentence. What prompted these developments in the middle of the NBA Finals?
Donaghy's sentencing is scheduled for July 14. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. In the usual course of presentence investigations and procedures, the federal probation department asks the "victim" about the damage resulting from the crime. As a "victim" of Donaghy's crimes, the NBA claimed in a June 5 letter that it was entitled to $1 million in restitution from Donaghy. Restitution, or the reimbursement of the victim's losses, typically pays back a bank or a charity for money lost in an embezzlement or a theft. Donaghy obviously damaged the NBA and its reputation, but there is no indication he stole any money from the league. The NBA claimed that it was forced to spend the nice round sum of $1 million investigating Donaghy and the damage he caused, and the league wants its money back. Clearly enraged by the unexpected demand from the NBA for $1 million, Donaghy and Lauro retaliated with detailed accusations of manipulation by other referees. It is the worst nightmare for the NBA, which might now be reconsidering a withdrawal of its demand for restitution.
Are Donaghy's allegations of referee misconduct new? How serious are his charges?
Donaghy first began telling the FBI about other referees in July 2007. He gave federal investigators additional information in a meeting in September. His claims are serious. They include allegations that the NBA attempted to insulate star players from technical fouls to build up ticket sales and television ratings. Most seriously, he claims there was a successful effort by two referees to extend a playoff series to a seventh game, assisting in the victory for the team that trailed 3-2 in the series. The accusations are the kinds of things that fuel conspiracy theories that abound among NBA fans, but Donaghy is now adding dates, places and games. According to Donaghy and Lauro, two referees in 2002 deliberately ignored fouls that resulted in injuries and called "made-up fouls" to give addition foul shots to one team. Even worse, Donaghy asserts that the referees did all of it because they were "company men" who "always act[ed] in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series."
Is it legal for Donaghy to go public with these charges?