It is often said during Donaghy’s media appearances (without his refutation of the claim) that the FBI “confirmed” that Donaghy won “70-80%” of his bets on NBA games, and Donaghy states in these appearances that his betting success rate was the same for games he officiated and for those he didn’t.
[The following are largely presented in order of appearance in his book, Personal Foul (VTi, 2009)]
Donaghy claims in his book and during his related media appearances that he was paid $2,000 (by pro gambler Jimmy Battista via intermediary and mutual friend Tommy Martino) for each winning bet on NBA games, including games Donaghy officiated.
For example, in his book he writes: “every time I picked a winner, the cash register in my brain would ring up another $2,000 sale. Cha-ching!” (p. 122); “My $2,000 share of each win started to accumulate” (p. 127); “A win paid $2,000 and a loss was a loss” (p. 128); and “I scored another $2,000” (p. 132).
Donaghy continued with this assertion during his media appearances beginning in December 2009, and in fact said that the relatively small ($2,000) figure was proof of his gambling addiction (i.e., risking his $260,000 per year job as an NBA referee for such little financial reward illustrates that it wasn’t about the money, but about the rush of betting).
The official record, some of which is available online, clearly demonstrates that although Donaghy was originally paid $2,000 per successful wager, his payment was soon upped to $5,000 for each winning pick. For example, in the government’s Presentence Investigation Report (which follows a guilty plea or conviction and is prepared in advance of sentencing) for Jimmy Battista, contained within the section entitled “The Scheme”, it plainly states (emphasis added): “In exchange for each correct pick, Battista would pay Donaghy $2,000; the parties later agreed Donaghy would receive $5,000 per correct pick.”
As a result, the “$2,000 to $5,000 payment” situation was noted in many news reports beginning with Donaghy’s August 15, 2007 guilty plea (see, e.g., here, here, and here).
Donaghy claims in his book and during his related media appearances that he stopped betting with Jack Concannon on NBA games, including those Donaghy officiated, in November 2006.
For example, in his book he writes: “in early November 2006, I just said, ‘Jack, I don’t feel comfortable doing this anymore. Let’s quit. We’re never going to do this again’” (p. 6); and “Jack and I placed out last bet on an NBA game in November of 2006” (p. 121).
Not according to the FBI, whose analysis in this regard was included in court filings which stated that Donaghy bet again with Concannon from February 2007 to April 2007 “on an additional 5 games which Donaghy officiated, netting between $8,000 and $10,000”.
[Thus, according to the FBI, Donaghy was betting simultaneously with Concannon and Battista from February to April 2007.]
Donaghy claims in his book and during related media appearances that he placed his last bet on NBA games, including bets on games he officiated, on March 18, 2007 (the date Jimmy Battista entered a drug rehabilitation facility).
For example, in his book he writes: “I placed my last bet on March 18, 2007” (p. 29); “The last game I picked for [Battista] was on March 18, 2007” (p. 131); and “It was the first of June and I hadn’t made a bet on any sporting event since March 18” (p. 134, emphasis added).
Battista and cooperating government witness Tommy Martino have each independently stated they continued betting with Donaghy after March 18th. The logistics for how the co-conspirators addressed (with the assistance of a pro gambler who later became a cooperating government witness) the dilemma of Battista’s rehab stint are explained in detail in Gaming the Game. In the government’s court filings, it is stated that Donaghy provided picks “until approximately April 2007”. Indeed, while Battista’s plea agreement states his illicit actions were from December 2006 to March 2007, Donaghy’s and Martino’s agreements state their actions were from December 2006 to April 2007.
The issues of how many Donaghy-officiated games were part of the scandal and the ending date of the scheme (as well as Donaghy’s reaction to the scheme being shut down) are discussed at length in GTG, where Jimmy Battista’s considerable insights into this issue are offered for the first time (indeed, until now, even Martino’s version of these events was not publicly known).
In his book and especially during his related media appearances, Donaghy describes the NBA betting conspiracy as one in which was essentially an extortion victim, forced to take part by Jimmy Battista.
In addition to Donaghy’s related mob claims, he writes “Could I actually get out from under [Battista’s] thumb?” (p. 132); and “I remained hopeful that [Battista] would cut me loose after the NBA Finals that year” (p. 132).
The federal government, after hearing Donaghy’s version of events in their dealings with him, explicitly wrote: “[Donaghy] has never taken the position that he was anything other than a willing participant in the scheme with Battista and Martino, and, before them, with Jack Concannon.” Needless to say, Battista was never charged with extortion.
Additionally, when sentencing Donaghy to 15 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon stated that far from being a victim in the case Donaghy was actually “more culpable” than his co-conspirators and that “without Mr. Donaghy, there was no scheme”.
Donaghy claims in his book and during related media appearances that FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Phil Scala headed the NBA betting scandal investigation (and implies that Scala was thus privy to all or the majority of the information gathered during the probe). [Of note, Phil Scala penned the foreword to Donaghy’s 2009 book, wherein, ironically, Scala states (p. xi) that “Tim Donaghy gives me too much credit for solving this case” before identifying other officials who ran the case, led by Special Agent Paul Harris.]
For those who have not read Donaghy’s book or listened to his media appearances, please know that the following snippets are not taken out of context whatsoever. That is, Donaghy makes almost no mention of FBI SAs Paul Harris (the lead case agent) and Gerry Conrad, the officials who actually conducted the investigation – of which only a portion made its way to SSA Scala (who headed the unit which housed the investigation). Here, then, are some ready examples of Donaghy promoting the notion that this was SSA Scala’s probe:
“Phil Scala was the right man for the job” (p. 156); “Special Agent Phil Scala was determined to get the answer” (p. 184); “This was the question on everyone’s mind in the summer of 2007: just how big was the scandal? The media wanted to know, the prosecutor wanted to know, and Phil Scala wanted to know” (p. 194, emphasis added); “Scala’s investigation was steaming along” (p. 201, emphasis added); “I did my part, Scala was doing his – it was up to [Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff] Goldberg to take care of the rest” (p. 201, emphasis added); “Scala knew of McMahon’s reputation” (p. 203); “Phil Scala had his hands full” (p. 205).
To some, this may seem a trivial point. However, given the context of what has transpired since Donaghy’s release from prison (i.e., Scala penning the foreword to Donaghy’s book; and Donaghy frequently citing Scala as a staunch supporter of Donaghy’s myriad claims), it is worthy of attention. Furthermore, it is more for us to consider when vetting Donaghy’s credibility.
Donaghy claims in his book that Jimmy Battista was a short-sighted, flamboyant big spender.
“guys like [Battista] never look at the big picture. They live for today; driving the fancy cars, wearing the imported Italian suits, flashing wads of cash – that’s how guys like [Battista] lived their lives” (p. 127).
This is perhaps the most factually incorrect statement among the many others, though its relative significance is debatable (though it is yet another means to test Donaghy’s credibility). In Battista’s case, he was involved with big-time sports betting for years, which can only be done if you’re not “living for today”. In order to move millions of dollars in bets each day, pro gamblers need to establish trust, first and foremost, which can only be done over time and by demonstrating an ability to: defer to others; be on time; be responsible (with bets, with handling money, with not disclosing sensitive information, and so on); and pay on losses. More laughable is Donaghy’s sensational reference to “fancy cars, [and] wearing the imported Italian suits.” Battista has driven an old Dodge Caravan with more than 100,000 miles on it for years (in part as to not attract attention), and has dressed in practically nothing other than shorts and sweats for as long as people have known him (this, too, was for business reasons as much as for comfort). Some NBA betting scandal followers may recall that Battista wore his trademark shorts, golf shirt, and sneakers to an appearance in federal court. The informal wardrobe, which outraged his attorney, was so noteworthy that it earned a mention in USA Today. [On a related note, I think many Gaming the Game readers will find Battista’s rationale for that day’s outfit comical.]
Donaghy gets the sequence and substance of investigative events wrong (which often has an adverse impact on his interpretation [read: apparent assumptions] of other related events)
“It turned out that even [Battista] got a heads-up [about the investigation] from Tommy” (p. 137).
As with so many other Donaghy claims, according to whom? In fact, for reasons I note here and explain in GTG, the feds visited Battista first, before they ever moved on to Martino and others.
“[Battista] and Tommy were trying to work out deals of their own, but opted for a different approach – playing hardball” (p. 185).
Of course, Donaghy has no idea whether either man was cooperating behind the scenes with authorities. The feds had, in fact, unsuccessfully reached out to Battista on several occasions early on in the probe. With respect to Martino, Donaghy will be surprised to know that by August 15, 2007 (the day Donaghy is describing in the narrative) Martino had already cooperated with the government, meeting with them on 3 occasions by August 9th in the hopes of obtaining leniency in the proceedings against him by walking back his earlier false statements to authorities and to the grand jury.
“As a result of my guilty plea, [Martino] was no longer in a position to offer up his testimony against me in exchange for a lighter sentence” (p. 201).
Actually, Martino technically was in a position to offer up his testimony. What the government would have done/how they would have viewed this is open for debate, however.
“[Martino] quickly turned to Plan B and agreed to testify against [Battista]” (p. 201).
Really? How does Donaghy know this? How would Donaghy know this?! In fact, Martino had worked with the feds for 3 weeks by that point and had already attended 3 proffer sessions by 8/9/07.
“By FBI standards, Tommy was a small fish in the operation, a low-level hack stuck in the middle between the big prize (me) and the boss ([Battista])” (p. 201).
Technically speaking, the government rejected the notion of a hierarchy within the conspiracy and held that the three men were equally culpable.
Donaghy claims or implies in his book and during related media appearances that the NBA pressured the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to forego trials of Battista and Martino and the prosecutions of other individuals on whom Donaghy informed, including NBA referees.
“It made no sense. [Battista] wasn’t just holding a bad hand; he didn’t even have a card to play!…If he had no leverage, why was he messing around? Why not end this thing and enter a [guilty] plea?” (p. 202)
In fact, Battista did have leverage. He had the legal issue of venue and he had the prospect of his defense attorney, Jack McMahon, putting Donaghy – a cooperating witness with plenty of baggage to exploit – on the stand.
“I will never know exactly how or why things with [Battista] turned out the way they did. All I know is that my cooperation with the FBI left him without any leverage or cards to play, yet he somehow got a favorable deal after his attorney floated the idea of taking the case to trial where he knew I would be a key witness” (p. 204).
‘Another Donaghy quote with multiple issues. For starters, Battista and McMahon were adamant about taking the case to trial from the start and made this clear with AUSA Tom Siegel and then with AUSA Jeff Goldberg following Siegel’s departure (which Donaghy, as with so many other matters, probably didn’t know). Thus, suggesting that McMahon’s statement to the press about this somehow influenced the Assistant U.S. Attorneys is silly since the prosecutors had known this was Battista’s stance for months and months. Beyond this, Donaghy returns to his ill-informed notion that Battista was in a weak bargaining position because of Donaghy’s cooperation with the government. He gets this backward. That is, it was precisely because Donaghy was the lead cooperator in the case that Battista, in fact, had leverage and a strong hand to play.
“Or maybe there’s a less charitable explanation” (p. 204).
This is just the latest of numerous inferences to Donaghy’s conspiracy claim, namely that the NBA somehow influenced the government to forgo trials against Battista and Martino so that “the NBA’s culture of corruption” wouldn’t be exposed on the witness stand if Donaghy testified. It is apparently lost on Donaghy that in the eyes of many a case based almost exclusively on his testimony is not a very strong case at all.
“As May  approached, Federal District Court Judge Carol Amon raised concerns about the disparity in sentencing recommendations for me, [Battista], and [Martino]” (p. 206).
Actually, it was Donaghy’s skilled defense attorney, John Lauro, who “raised concerns about the disparity in sentencing recommendations” and Judge Amon simply and properly considered Lauro’s arguments.
“In early June, Lauro met with then-retired Phil Scala at a restaurant in Manhattan. Scala told him that the investigation yielded at least five to six other individuals of interest – including other NBA referees – who could have been further investigated but that time, scarcity of resources, and statute issues had precluded it” (p. 207).
Despite explicitly saying that Scala identified largely investigative reasons for not investigating Donaghy’s claims further, Donaghy then proceeds (on pp. 207-08) to suggest it was the prosecutorial reasons emanating from the U.S. Attorney’s Office which opted not to pursue these leads – at the behest of the NBA, no less. Importantly, prosecutors don’t dictate investigations, even though they obviously lend their knowledge and expertise regarding the evidence required to pursue charges of prosecutable offenses.
As I have noted elsewhere (see here and here), Donaghy later elaborated on this claim during his media appearances. Confronted with Donaghy’s conspiracy claims in this regard, Phil Scala told one newspaper, “If there were people that should have been indicted, they would have been, including other refs.” [William Bender, “Do you believe disgraced ref Donaghy?” Philadelphia Daily News, December 10, 2009 (not available online).]
“To this day, I don’t fully know why the individuals Scala felt were worthy of investigating escaped further scrutiny. Maybe the U.S. Attorney’s Office felt that my conviction sent an appropriate message, or that while more investigation might uncover wrongdoing, they would not be prosecutable offenses. Maybe the fact that my story had broken removed the element of surprise that could have aided an extended probe. Maybe the departures of Scala and Siegel caused the investigation to lose its momentum. Maybe political strings were being pulled to make sure I was cemented in the public’s mind as the ‘lone assassin.’ Or maybe it was a combination of all of them” (p. 207, emphasis added).
I emphasized the one “possibility” because Donaghy does not inform the reader that federal authorities explicitly addressed this in court by stating: “further investigation by the government of these alleged activities did not lead to evidence of prosecutable federal offenses.” Donaghy, of course, didn’t allow for another possible reason the FBI stopped pursuing Donaghy’s myriad leads, namely that his information was bogus, however ostensibly convinced he was of his beliefs and/or however supposedly well-intentioned his intentions were.
“Lauro had had enough of the NBA’s meddling and filed public documents with the court challenging the demand for restitution and outlining, in some detail, facts underlying the extent of my cooperation with the FBI” (p. 208).
There is no evidence whatsoever that the NBA – the victim in the case – “meddled” during the proceedings. Regarding Team Donaghy’s filing of so-called “public documents”, interested parties should consult Gaming the Game, where this is examined in great detail (including and especially the issue of the government’s confidentiality requirements vis-à-vis cooperation agreements and the potentially adverse impact following certain disclosures).
“[AUSA Jeff Goldberg] began cross-examining me about whether or not I had taken a lie detector test without his knowledge…I couldn’t help but wonder why Goldberg was so concerned about my taking a polygraph test” (pp. 209-10).
I’ll take a stab at humoring Donaghy’s supposed confusion surrounding the AUSA’s alleged reaction to the lie detector test. Generally speaking, everything that a cooperating witness does prior to the conclusion of their cooperation is significant and is controlled. As a rule, prosecutors believe cooperators shouldn’t be doing things without consulting with authorities. The fact that a cooperating witness takes a lie detector test has implications, whether s/he passes it or not. It’s something that can affect one’s credibility on the witness stand (and thus can adversely affect the entire case that everyone has been working on for the past X months/years).
“…prosecutors routinely utilize polygraphs to test the veracity of witnesses’ claims and allegations” (p. 210).
How would Donaghy know this?! Granted, I have not posed this question to dozens of prosecutors nor seen survey results addressing this, but the few to which I directly posed this question state they have not done it and each was not familiar with any colleagues who do it.
“Judge Amon was sharp with her rebuke, but not unfair. I agreed with all of her words” (p. 213, emphasis added).
Really? In addition to sanctioning Donaghy for his admitted crimes, Judge Amon addressed Donaghy’s conspiracy claims of untoward NBA influence on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, stating that she found “no bad faith on the part of the government in concluding that the information provided by Mr. Donaghy was not sufficient to develop further prosecution…The speculation of [Donaghy’s] counsel in letters to this Court that the information was not pursued because of the NBA’s influence on the government is just that, completely unfounded speculation.”
Donaghy claims during his media appearances that the FBI has “concluded” that Donaghy didn’t fix games.
Donaghy has said this in various fashions in dozens of interviews. As I have noted elsewhere, the FBI certainly hasn’t “concluded” that Donaghy did not fix games. In fact, even the premise of the statement is a bit flawed, since the feds made Donaghy admit that his financial interest in the outcomes of games he officiated on which he bet may have subconsciously affected his on-court performance. Thus, the more nuanced matter is whether or not Donaghy consciously fixed games and whether the FBI concluded he didn’t consciously fix games. I spend considerable time in Gaming the Game discussing what efforts the FBI made vetting Donaghy’s officiating, and I examine the shortcomings of the investigation. Also see here for more analysis of this Donaghy claim.
I have addressed this elsewhere, also. The most comprehensive analysis of this matter to date, including interviews with other pro gamblers privy to Donaghy’s bets and objective data in the form of betting line statistics, appears in GTG.
Donaghy claims during his media appearances that the FBI “stands behind/supports” everything that is in Donaghy’s book and that he/his book has the “full support of the FBI”.
Donaghy has repeatedly said things such as: “The FBI stands behind everything that is in the book”; “[the book] certainly has the support of the FBI”; “The FBI went over every story that was in the book and felt like they could stand behind the book in a truthful manner”; “The FBI has stood behind the book 100%”; “The FBI wrote the foreword for the book”; and “the FBI fully supports the book”. Donaghy also frequently states that since former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Phil Scala wrote the foreword to his book, Donaghy and his book have “the full support of the FBI.”
Of all the Donaghy claims, this may be the easiest to address because “the FBI” doesn’t review the books of ex-cons, much less lend their support for them. What little official bureaucratic review that took place in this instance was restricted exclusively to Scala’s brief and superficial narrative, and this was conducted primarily to establish whether its contents included material that would have compromised ongoing investigations or otherwise harm the agency and its operations, etc.
Scala, the lone official who can speak on the record (because he is retired), graciously offered his time and his insights to me during my research into the NBA betting scandal. As I explain in Gaming the Game, above, and elsewhere, Scala has made it perfectly clear that even he, in fact, does not agree with certain key Donaghy claims.
I have also interviewed other active federal officials with direct knowledge of the scandal case(s) who can’t speak on the record and yet who nevertheless were kind enough to offer the following regarding Donaghy’s claims made in his book and related media appearances.
Someone with direct knowledge of the FBI’s investigation of the NBA betting scandal says this generally of Donaghy’s book, “It’s juiced up to sell books and uses a lot of hyperbolic language.” This official also took note of Donaghy’s repeated use of facts from which he connects all sorts of dots that, in fact, are either not connected whatsoever or not connected in the fashion in which Donaghy assumes. As the official says, “An unsophisticated reader will not notice these gaps, and they appear throughout the book.”
Perhaps the most fitting – and damning – way to end this critique is to quote another law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation. When asked about Donaghy’s book and his related appearances, the federal official had this to say, “Other than watching him on 60 Minutes, I have stayed away from listening to his interviews. I haven’t bought a copy of his book, and I won’t. I only read non-fiction.”