The attorney for former NBA referee Tim Donaghy said in a court filing that former St. Joseph's University and Monsignor Bonner player Jack Concannon "pressured" Donaghy into providing information that would help win bets on NBA games.
Donaghy and Concannon, who grew up in the basketball-rich area of Drexel Hill, had already been gambling together at casinos and on college and pro football, baseball and hockey, according to Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro.
"When Concannon lost money at casinos, he pressured Tim to use his knowledge to help select likely basketball teams that they could bet on," Lauro wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon.
On July 14, Amon is scheduled to sentence Donaghy, who pleaded guilty to charges related to betting on games and taking cash in exchange for inside information.
Concannon, who lives in Glen Mills and has an insurance business in Norwood, could not be reached for comment. Concannon's attorney, Joseph Fiorvanti of Media, said Concannon and Donaghy were friends and "had a betting relationship."
"They started out betting other sporting events together, then switched to NBA games, then they stopped," Fiorvanti said. "My client was interviewed by the FBI and responded truthfully to their questions. He does not expect to be indicted. He has no organized crime connections. He's just a guy who bet games with Donaghy. All of those guys were about the same age and knew each other."
By "all of those guys," Fiorvanti was also referring to Thomas Martino and James Battista. Both have also pleaded guilty to charges in this case.
Donaghy's attorney wrote his letter to Amon because he said prosecutors were pushing for a tougher sentence for Donaghy than those proposed for Martino and Battista, even though Donaghy gave prosecutors information about Martino and Battista.
Martino, Battista and Donaghy attended Cardinal O'Hara together. Martino and Donaghy occasionally socialized after high school.
In his letter, Lauro said Battista called Donaghy in 1994, during Donaghy's first season as an NBA referee, to ask if Donaghy was going to "be up and up, which Tim understood to mean whether he would use his position to help Battista gamble."
Lauro wrote that Donaghy told Battista never to call again and told Martino that if Battista called again, Donaghy would report him to the authorities.
Years later, Lauro wrote, Battista learned, probably from a local bookie, that Donaghy and Concannon had been betting on events.
On Dec. 12, 2006, Donaghy came to Philadelphia to officiate a 76ers-Celtics game, Lauro wrote. He had planned to meet Martino for dinner. When Martino picked him up at the airport, Battista was in the car. Later, at dinner, Battista said that he wanted Donaghy to help with inside information and that if he didn't help, Battista would report Donaghy's gambling habits to the NBA. Lauro also wrote that Battista threatened Donaghy by saying Donaghy would not want New York mob figures visiting Donaghy's wife and children.
After that meeting, Lauro wrote, Donaghy shared information over four months, and Donaghy bet on 30 games.
Lauro declined comment yesterday.
Battista's Center City attorney, Jack McMahon, whose father was a longtime NBA coach, said he was angered by Lauro's assertions.
"I know he was just trying to help his client," McMahon said. "I want to help my client, too, but I don't do it by putting out blatant lies. Jimmy Battista may be a lot of things, but one thing he's not is organized crime."
McMahon said his client did not extort information from Donaghy.
"While I'm offended and my client is upset, the U.S. Attorney's Office should really be angry," McMahon said. "That letter says that my client got a sweetheart deal and that the reason was that the NBA wanted this hushed and the U.S. Attorney's Office went along with that. That suggests that the U.S. Attorney's Office was being used by the great NBA."
NBA commissioner David Stern dismissed Lauro's assertions. "I think that all of the facts are out and are going to come out and those assertions will prove to be baseless," he said.
Donaghy faces up to 25 years in prison.