Prosecution Plays Down Cooperation of Donaghy



Published: July 10, 2008

Since admitting last August to providing inside information to gamblers and helping them pick N.B.A. games, the disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy has shared considerable information with federal investigators. His cooperation means that he is more likely to receive a sentence around 33 months instead of the 25 years he could have faced.

But in a court hearing Wednesday in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors played down the value of the information Donaghy provided, while Judge Carol B. Amon denied a request from his lawyer to have a retired F.B.I. agent testify about that cooperation.

“A lot of it was unsubstantiated, and that’s important,” Jeffrey Goldberg, the assistant United States attorney leading the prosecution, said in court. “So we’ve never taken the position that Mr. Donaghy has lied to us. But there is a difference between telling the truth and believing you’re telling the truth and finding out later that a number of the allegations don’t hold any water.”

Amon also delayed Donaghy’s sentencing, until July 29, because she said she needed more time to review arguments over the amount of restitution that he will owe the N.B.A.

Donaghy’s lawyer, John Lauro, had hoped to bring the agent, Philip Scala, before the court because he said that the government had neglected “crucial information with respect to game manipulation by N.B.A. refs.”

During the N.B.A. finals in June, Lauro filed a letter explaining Donaghy’s accusations of rampant “game manipulation” by referees and the league itself. The assertions prompted vehement denials from Commissioner David Stern.

In denying Lauro’s request to present Scala to the court, Amon seemed to rebuke Lauro for claiming that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York deliberately sought to diminish the extent of Donaghy’s help. She explained that just because he provided information, it was not necessarily information that the prosecutors “felt they could proceed on.”

“It just seems to me that what we’re exploring here is a sort of fishing expedition,” she said. “I think it’s taking the case pretty far afield.”

Prosecutors had moved to quash Scala’s subpoena earlier this week, arguing that he had “nothing more to add.” Amon even raised the point that Lauro could not even be sure what Scala would tell the court, since this is not a trial and Scala would not be considered a witness for the defense.

“My concern is this may ultimately end up detrimental to your client, as opposed to being helpful to your client,” Amon told Lauro.

The two sides also argued the matter of financial restitution. The N.B.A. had originally asked that Donaghy pay them about $1.4 million for expenses ranging from the cost to investigate Donaghy’s behavior on the court to portions of his salary. But in a letter filed July 7, the United States attorney’s office determined that the restitution owed by Donaghy and two co-conspirators who also reached plea agreements should amount to $233,317. Amon said she would determine that at the sentencing hearing.