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Report: Tim Donaghy Surrenders

The Associated Press has sources saying that Tim Donaghy has surrendered to authorities in Brooklyn:

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy surrendered Wednesday for his anticipated plea to gambling-related offenses, a person familiar with the probe told The Associated Press.

Donaghy surrendered early Wednesday for an appearance Brooklyn federal court, the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, told the AP on condition of anonymity.

The charge to which Donaghy would plead was not immediately known. The timing of the court appearance is uncertain.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the AP on Tuesday that the league was informed Donaghy would take a plea on Wednesday, but was given no further information.

Besides allegedly placing his own wagers, investigators examined whether Donaghy provided inside information to others, including referees' schedules. The referee had a gambling problem and was approached by low-level mob associates through an acquaintance, a law enforcement official has said.

ESPN's Chris Sheridan re-capped a lot of the particulars the other day, and he writes:

If Donaghy has worked out a deal with the government, the feds likely will bring him in quietly, arrest him and process him (Donaghy likely would have to spend 4-5 hours in a cell while he waits to be fingerprinted and photographed and have his paperwork processed). After that he would go before a federal magistrate and plead guilty to a charge previously agreed to by his attorney and prosecutors. He would then be released on bail, and his sentencing put on hold.

Michael McCann of the Sports Law Blog reads the tea leaves:

What might a guilty plea mean? There are different possibilities.

One is that investigators enjoy an overwhelming amount of evidence against Donaghy and he feels that he is better off cutting a deal early than having the investigation continue. This would probably be the best outcome for the NBA: Donaghy as an isolated bad guy, with the league being able to go back to business as usual. Early indications, based on media leaks from investigators and/or NBA officials, are that no other officials or players will be charged, so this may be the correct explanation.

Another possible explanation is that Donaghy is worried about his safety, and that of his family, from mafia threats, and the sooner he ends the litigation, the better for him and everyone around him. Certainly, the mafia have been known to intimidate witnesses and their loved ones, but I'm not sure how often that actually happens, or whether it has happened here.

The most worrisome explanation for the NBA would be that the NBA betting ring extends beyond Donaghy, and investigators want to expose it. Maybe they are offering Donaghy lighter charges in exchange for "spilling the beans," so to speak. That is pure speculation, of course, and early indications are that other officials and players will not be charged. But what investigators leak to the media early on doesn't always prove true, and if Donaghy is indeed cooperating with investigators to expose a league-wide problem, his guilty plea could prove devastating for the NBA, and particularly for top NBA officials.

I think we all suspect, for whatever reason (because it's the least sexy?), that of McCann's three interpretations the first is the most likely.

The idea is that the authorities have overwhelming evidence against Tim Donaghy -- enough to compell him to enter a guilty plea early in the process.

But, despite all the leaks in this case, I haven't yet heard anything at all about what that evidence might be, other than something was allegedly overheard on a wiretap. I have seen enough cop shows to know that alone is not overwhelming evidence. There must be more: witnesses, bank records, phone records ... something. That's what I'm most curious about at this point: what does the government have on Tim Donaghy?

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports guilty pleas to two felonies:

Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce.

Donaghy provided recommendations, called "picks," to co-conspirators about what team they should bet on, said U.S. District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon. If he was correct, they paid him.

The information was not public, the judge said. Donaghy had "unique access," including what crews would officiate at games, the interaction of different officials and players, and the physical condition of certain players.

He concealed the scheme from the NBA and other referees to avoid detection, the judge said.

Donaghy also must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said in open court that Donaghy bet on games himself; but that was not part of his plea.

The NBA is very happy with this, I'd imagine. The legal system is apparently wholeheartedly on board with the idea that David Stern expressed: that this was a case of a rogue criminal.