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Ex-NBA ref pleads guilty in betting scandal

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Tim Donaghy, two alleged co-conspirators released on bail
  • Referee accused of providing information on games he officiated
  • Charges could result in 25 years in prison
  • Donaghy cooperating with prosecutors
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was released on $250,000 bail after pleading guilty Wednesday to two felonies related to wagering on games he officiated and supplying inside information on games to others.


Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee for 13 years. He worked more than 700 games in his career.

"Today's guilty plea and charges serve as a warning that easy money often comes at a high price," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf.

Two of Donaghy's alleged co-conspirators -- James Battista, also known as "Baba" and "Sheep," and Thomas Martino -- were also arraigned Wednesday for involvement in the gambling ring.

Neither of them entered a plea, and both also have been released on an unsecured $250,000 bond.

Earlier, Donaghy, a 13-year veteran referee, stood before Judge Carol Bagley Amon in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, and admitted taking antidepressants to cope with a severe gambling addiction that has cost him his reputation and career. Video Watch Donaghy's attorney talk about his client expressing remorse »

Donaghy received payments for providing co-conspirators with winning picks based on classified information he obtained as an official with the league, prosecutors said in an affidavit.

He tipped his co-conspirators through the use of encoded language based on information about players' physical condition and information about the relationship between referees and players in the league.

The two felony counts -- conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information to other individuals -- carry a combined maximum sentence of 25 years.

Prosecutors said Donaghy's guilty plea was made in exchange for cooperating in other investigations surrounding organized crime members and gambling on professional sports.

According to the affidavit, Battista and Martino met in Philadelphia in December 2006 and arranged to pay Donaghy $2,000 for each winning pick. Weeks into the scheme, Battista and Martino increased the pay to $5,000 per winning pick because of the accuracy of Donaghy's tips.

The three-man operation used Martino as the middleman between Battista, who placed the bets, and Donaghy, who gave his picks to Martino by using the coded language.

While Donaghy told the court Wednesday he did bet on NBA games, no charges on that issue were included in the plea deal.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has termed Donaghy's actions a betrayal, and he said they were an isolated incident that did not involve other NBA officials.

"We think we have here a rogue isolated criminal," Stern said in a July news conference.

"We will continue with our ongoing and thorough review of the league's officiating program to ensure that the best possible policies and procedures are in place to protect the integrity of our game," Stern said in a statement Wednesday.


Lamell McMorris, spokesman for the National Basketball Referees Association, called the situation "a truly unfortunate case of wrongdoing by one of our own."

"We recognize that a cloud has descended upon all referees, but we are committed to showing the public that this was an isolated event and that NBA officiating is conducted at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and fairness," McMorris said in a statement. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Allan Chernoff and David Miller contributed to this report.

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