Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

With release in sight, disgraced referee Donaghy plans memoir

Attention, compulsive gamblers: Tim Donaghy wants to help you.

Donaghy, the NBA referee-turned-felon who is serving time at a Florida prison camp on federal gambling and wire-fraud charges, is getting out next week.

And the story of the Villanova graduate who succumbed to a pathological gambling addiction, then accused league executives of manipulating games to preserve TV ratings, did not end when he was sentenced in a New York courtroom.

Because Donaghy hasn't finished writing it. The ex-ref's memoir - part "tell-all" barnburner, part self-help book for gambling addicts - could hit store shelves as early as November.

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"He's working on a publishing deal as we speak," said Pat Zaranek, an inmate consultant who is serving as Donaghy's spokesman.

"It's a compelling story that tragically illustrates the destructive power of addiction to gambling," he said. "What Tim wants to do is share this story with the hope that it will help others."

But the book is sure to rile NBA executives, coaches and players by elaborating on the explosive charges that Donaghy made in court filings last year. It will delve into what Donaghy calls a "culture of manipulation and fraud" that permeates the league, Zaranek said.

"It's a tell-all about his 13 years in the NBA," he said. "He describes how he picked winners 70 to 80 percent of the time and goes into detail about his knowledge of the special relationships between referees and players and coaches" - and how league executives allegedly influenced referees' calls.

NBA commissioner David Stern has strongly denied those claims.

Donaghy's stay at the minimum-security Pensacola prison camp has not been pleasant.

While on work detail last November, about 2 months after he arrived there, he was threatened and assaulted by an inmate who claimed to have ties to the New York mob. He sustained a torn lateral meniscus in his knee and will require surgery.

"This guy - I don't know whether this is fact or not, but the rumor has it, he was connected to the mob in Brooklyn - attacked him with a paint roller that was on a long, metal handle. Whacked him on the chest a few times. Whacked him in the knee," said Donaghy's father, Gerry, a former NCAA referee who visited his son last weekend.

Zaranek, of Executive Prison Consultants, which helps inmates navigate the legal system, said it is unclear whether the assailant, who was transferred to another facility after the attack, actually had any ties to organized crime. A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the incident.

"The person that did this claimed that they were connected to the mob, and the implication there is it had to do with the whole gambling connection," Zaranek said. "Tim was threatened that he would be shot by this guy and that they would break his kneecaps."

Donaghy is scheduled to be released from the prison camp Wednesday afternoon and be transferred to a halfway house in Tampa, his father said. If he does not violate any of the halfway-house regulations, he could receive house arrest until October, when his prison term is completed.

Zaranek said the ordeal has taken a toll on the disgraced referee, who is now divorced and unsure about his future career.

"It's been rough," he said. "There's significant remorse. Separation from the children has been horrible, and he wants to right his ways and get back to where he can help others and prevent this type of thing from occurring to someone else."

Donaghy, a Delaware County native, admitted using his position to provide inside betting tips to two childhood friends from Cardinal O'Hara High School - James "Baba" Battista and Thomas Martino - in exchange for payments of $2,000 to $5,000 for each basketball pick that hit. Battista, of Phoenixville, and Martino, of Boothwyn, pleaded guilty to interstate gambling and wire fraud, respectively.

Prosecutors found no evidence that Donaghy ever "intentionally" made calls on the court to help his gambling chances. Rather, Donaghy said in court, he called in solid picks - sometimes moments before tipoff - by using his access to officiating schedules and his knowledge of players' conditions and "the manner in which officials interacted with players and called games."

Referee schedules, previously confidential, are now published the mornings before games.

In the wake of the Donaghy betting scandal, Stern hired former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz to conduct a 14-month internal investigation, which turned up "no evidence that the league has ever put a thumb on the scales and asked referees to call games to favor particular teams or players." The 116-page report, released last October, also found that no other NBA referees had engaged in illegal gambling.

Yet, one question remains: How exactly was Donaghy able to bet so successfully - estimates have ranged from 60 percent to 80 percent - with only the limited information that he supposedly used?

For that answer, you'll probably have to read the book. *

 

WILLIAM BENDER & DICK JERARDI benderw@phillynews.com
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