Wednesday , Aug , 15 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Tim Donaghy’s Guilty Plea Could Shine Light On NBA’s Gambling Culture

Everyone expected Donaghy to plead guilty and cooperate with law enforcement to lighten his sentence. No surprise with today’s developments. The former ref will provide the government with details about his relationship with mobsters and bookies …

ESPN news services reports on the Tim Donaghy situation:

Former referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges Wednesday in an NBA betting scandal that rocked the league and raised questions about the integrity of games.

Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce.

Donaghy provided recommendations, called "picks," to co-conspirators about what team they should bet on, said U.S. District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon. If he was correct, they paid him. The picks included information about games that Donaghy officiated, the government said.

The information was not public, the judge said. Donaghy had "unique access," including what crews would officiate at games, the interaction of different officials and players, and the physical condition of certain players.

He concealed the scheme from the NBA and other referees to avoid detection, the judge said. Donaghy also must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.

Donaghy’s lawyer, John Lauro, told The Associated Press: "Tim is relieved this part of the proceeding is over and we look forward to completely resolving this matter in the coming months.

"Tim deeply regrets his involvement in this matter and especially the pain it has caused his family, friends and co-workers."

My Quick Take: Everyone expected Donaghy to plead guilty and cooperate with law enforcement to lighten his sentence. No surprise with today’s developments. The former ref will provide the government with details about his relationship with mobsters and bookies.

But Donaghy could also roll over on any other refs and players who have ties to illegal betting. This has to be Commissioner Stern’s worst nightmare. Other NBA employees probably have or have had a relationship with bookies.

Consider the facts:

1) The league has a culture of recreational gambling. Players pass time playing high-stakes poker and other card games on team planes. Tens of thousands of dollars exchange hands during these games.

2) Hall of Fame players have admitted to heavy gambling. Michael Jordan, the NBA’s greatest icon, has lost big money in the casino and on the golf course. Charles Barkley, the NBA’s greatest personality, has lost millions of dollars gambling. Sir Charles is also friends with former NHL star Rick Tochett. Tochett is currently charged with running an illegal gambling operation.

3) At the July 24th press conference, Stern didn’t rule out the possibility that other NBA employees were involved in gambling. The commissioner left himself wiggle room because he doesn’t know where this investigation will lead.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But it would be naïve to think the Donaghy scandal is an isolated act. Will the embattled ref tell on his former NBA colleagues? Only time will tell.

Do you think other NBA players and refs have been involved with illegal gambling? Get at us in the comment box below with your thoughts.

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