The NBA betting scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy rocked the league in the summer of 2007, and its reverberations reached the Philadelphia area. Donaghy and his partners all had Delaware County roots, having attended Cardinal O'Hara High. Sean Patrick Griffin, a professor of criminal justice at Penn State Abington, has written a book, "Gaming the Game," which provides insights into the role of professional gambler James Battista, who was sentenced to 15 months for making bets on NBA games based on Donaghy's tips. Today and tomorrow, the Daily News will print excerpts to shed more light on Battista and the gambling scandal. The excerpts are reprinted with permission of Barricade Books, Fort Lee, N.J. ( The book is out as of February 17th.


EVENTS SURROUNDING the betting scandal investigation were now fast and furious, with many playing out in the public sphere. One of the more curious, and yet key, moments took place on July 30th when Pete Ruggieri's attorney, prominent Philly defense lawyer Christopher Warren, held court with the press to discuss his client's cooperation with the FBI. Ruggieri had met with agents eight days earlier in Warren's Center City office, where the pro gambler explained why and how long he and others knew to bet on games Tim Donaghy officiated, and also his understanding of why Donaghy switched from betting with Jack Concannon to Jimmy Battista. Ruggieri, of course, had known Concannon and Battista for years, and knew them extremely well. He explained that Concannon, whose last name and involvement were not publicly discussed yet, had approached him years prior seeking advice on where he could place bets, at which point Ruggieri referred him to offshore betting operations. Ruggieri tracked Concannon's bets and, as Warren explained, "Ruggieri noticed that Jack kept winning bets on NBA games," Warren said. "Ruggieri looked harder and noticed that Jack bet on games officiated by Tim Donaghy." As the Philadelphia Daily News put it, "Pete Ruggieri thought he had it all, the inside track to winning the majority of bets he would place on the NBA. The method was simple: bet games that Tim Donaghy officiated."

Ruggieri told authorities that he estimated bets on games Donaghy officiated won between sixty and seventy percent of the time, and that the same was true later when Donaghy switched from betting with Jack Concannon to Jimmy Battista. Warren's discussion of what Ruggieri told authorities was succinctly recounted in the New York Daily News on July 31st: "Donaghy first partnered with a fellow professional gambler named "Jack" . . . [and] grew dissatisfied with the money Jack funneled back to him as part of the betting scheme . . . Donaghy then turned to high school chums Jimmy Battista and Tommy Martino . . . Soon, a word or bet from Battista would send the point spread on a given NBA game flying. Eventually others realized the common denominator that Ruggieri had already discovered: ex-NBA ref Tim Donaghy."

Ruggieri's version of events regarding Donaghy's dissatisfaction with Concannon and subsequent move to Battista perfectly mirrored what Tommy Martino was telling federal authorities at the time. Ruggieri's comments regarding what he was betting and why were also important to the understanding of Donaghy's actions. Just as Martino was depicting for authorities, pro gambler Ruggieri told the FBI he was mimicking bets first placed by Concannon and then by Battista only for games Donaghy was officiating. These were the bets winning at a ridiculous clip and thus sending bookmakers and sportsbooks into a frenzy with wild line swings and producing huge earners. Somehow, this key point would wind up getting lost amid all sorts of conspiracy theories within a year's time, and it thus bears repeating: those with 'skin in the game,' namely the sportsbooks and the big-time bettors (and their hangers-on) with millions of dollars at stake, were only concerned with NBA games that Tim Donaghy was officiating.

History's take on the scandal would have to wait, however, and the other cooperating witnesses were in the midst of completing their respective proffer sessions. Tim Donaghy met with authorities for a fourth time on August 8th, and was on the verge of accepting a guilty plea. Tommy Martino, on the other hand, met with officials for the third time on the following day, and yet was nowhere close to a deal despite his newfound appreciation for the truth. By this point in the investigation, case agent Paul Harris and his colleagues knew Battista was not going to cooperate and were confident they generally understood the scheme and felt comfortable with Donaghy's story at its most basic level. The now-former NBA referee bet on his own games with Jack Concannon dating back to the end of the 2002-03 season, and on thirty to forty games he officiated during each of the '03-04, '04-05, and '05-06 seasons.

In the particular matter involving Jimmy Battista and Tommy Martino, Donaghy admitted to participating in a scheme with his co-conspirators during the 2006-07 season whereby he would be paid for winning picks (to Battista, via Martino) but not have to pay for losing wagers.

The only real matters left for debate were the possible fixing of games to advance Donaghy's betting propositions, and the nuances of the scheme (e.g., duration, bets, results). Concerning the former, Donaghy insisted he did not fix games and that his betting success was instead due exclusively to his access as an NBA referee to "inside information," including things like the officiating crews for upcoming games (which were not publicly disclosed in advance at the time) and the relationships between players, coaches, referees, etcetera. Regarding the scheme's logistics, Donaghy claimed: the scheme ended on March 18, 2007, when Battista went into rehab; he bet on thirty games total, including sixteen he officiated, and his betting success was the same regardless of whether he worked the games or not; and he received less than thirty thousand dollars total for his role.

Much of this flew in the face of what authorities heard from Pete Ruggieri and Tommy Martino, who, for example, had each independently explained to the FBI that it was only wagers on games Donaghy officiated which produced such out-of-this-world results. Ruggieri told the FBI that he copied Donaghy's bets on games Donaghy was officiating, and Martino told the FBI that Donaghy bet thirty-seven games, including "some" that Donaghy didn't officiate, implying that the vast majority of the bets were on Donaghy's games. The clear inference of Martino's and Ruggieri's claims was that Donaghy's version of events was not accurate, to say the least, regarding his betting record, and his assertions that access to "so-called" inside information alone accounted for his betting success. Martino also told authorities the scheme continued for three or four Donaghy games after Battista entered rehab, and that Donaghy pushed Martino to take one more game after hearing that Ruggieri was shutting the scheme down.

Lastly, Martino had informed the FBI that he paid Donaghy at least one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars total over three months or so.

Federal authorities, for whom a white-collar gambling probe based in Phoenixville, Pa., was a far cry from their traditional Brooklyn-grounded mob cases, concluded that trying to resolve these discrepancies was not worth their time and use of resources. This was in large part because of a lack of supporting evidence, most of which resided with Jimmy Battista and his files and which was therefore out of the FBI's reach. In addition to that significant void in the probe, there were no court-authorized wiretapped conversations of the parties during the conspiracy. The Bureau did what little it could to vet Donaghy's claim he didn't influence or manipulate games, including having a team of agents review approximately fourteen of Donaghy's 2006-07 games, and saw nothing overtly dubious in Donaghy's actions. Agents also interviewed various people in the sports betting world (some of whom no doubt who had interests to protect) regarding things like whether they had heard of anything odd involving NBA games, especially those officiated by Tim Donaghy.

These inquiries again, in the parlance of law enforcement, produced negative results.

Incredibly, federal officials never researched one wholly objective set of data which doesn't need a witness to vouch for its validity and which was available to them - betting line move analyses for NBA games, including those just for games Donaghy officiated. Unlike the statements of cooperating witnesses, which are always viewed with a critical eye, especially when the witness has interests to protect, the historical and unassailable betting line data has no motivations.

Such an analysis could have disclosed, for instance, whether the line movement in Donaghy games was constant during the years he was betting, if it changed in any particular year (i.e., 2006-07) or in any specific time period (i.e., December 12, 2006–March 26, 2007), and so on. No one set of data or analyses in a circumstantial case like the NBA betting scandal is likely sufficient to conclude or prove anything. Rather, when hard, objective data exists, it can at least form the foundation for lines of inquiry, and assist in supporting or refuting the many subjective areas of a case.

In addition to more important aspects of the case, investigators also briefly humored two claims Tim Donaghy made during his proffer sessions, including one that would become legend when it became public. During his interviews, Donaghy told authorities that the origin of the scheme was Jimmy Battista threatening Donaghy twice on December 12, 2006, to give him his NBA picks. Specifically, Donaghy claimed Battista said that unless Donaghy gave him the picks Battista would "out" Donaghy to the NBA regarding his betting on games he was officiating, and that Battista told Donaghy, "you don't want anyone from New York visiting your wife and kids."

Donaghy further explained to authorities that he assumed "New York" meant "the Mafia" because Tommy Martino had mentioned at some point that Battista knew someone who was connected to organized crime.

Donaghy's accusations were put directly to his close friend and fellow cooperating government witness, Tommy Martino, as can be gleaned by an FBI memo summarizing the exchange: "After the meeting [in the Marriott], all three got into a car. Baba acted like he was a savior who was there to help Donaghy [who had complained of Jack Concannon's delinquent payments to Martino during the meeting in a side conversation]. Martino never heard Baba threaten Donaghy in any way. Martino had the impression that Donaghy wanted to provide the picks to Baba for Donaghy's own financial gain. Martino was not aware of Baba ever threatening Donaghy that he was going to hurt Donaghy or tell the NBA about the betting." By the first week of August, authorities had vetted Donaghy's various claims and perhaps sensed where he was going with these assertions. In the ensuing weeks and months, the federal government incorporated explicit statements into court filings making it plain that Donaghy was always a willing participant - and that all three men were equally culpable actors - in the scheme.

Though the various threat allegations made by Donaghy carried little sway with the authorities as they prepared to charge the former ref and his co-conspirators, Jimmy Battista would have to deal with them later when they entered the public arena, if only in his personal life. For now, Battista was simply waiting - and hoping - for the call to let him know he was finally going to be arrested. *

Tomorrow: Part II.