Tim Donaghy's Secret Code

The Smoking Gun has a copy of a letter from the United States Attorney's offices to the court, asking for lenience for disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.

One of the strongest claims for leniency: The U.S. Attorneys say that Donaghy contacted officials about cooperating before he had ever been made officially aware that he was even being investigated (although he was aware that associate Thomas Martino had been in touch with the government).

The letter adheres to the going theory from the NBA that there is no evidence Donaghy affected the outcomes of games as part of his betting scheme.

Some highlights:

  • Donaghy allegedly started betting on NBA games as early as 2003, with his friend Jack Concannon. They are said to have bet about 40 games per season.

  • In late 2006, Donaghy was contacted by former high-school classmates James Battista and Thomas Martino, who were not pleased that Donaghy was sharing picks with Concannon, and allegedly talked about Donaghy's wife and children in a manner that Donaghy took to be a threat from people with alleged mob connections. Donaghy would be paid $2,000 per correct pick.

  • Donaghy made his picks by phone to Martino using the following eighth-grade style code, as described in the letter: "Martino has two brothers. If Donaghy mentioned Martin's brother Chuck (who lived in the Philadelphia area), the pick would be the home team. If, on the other hand, Donaghy mentioned Martino's brother Johnny (who did not live in the Philadelphia area), the pick would be the visiting team."

  • The letter has an example of the kind of information Donaghy is said to have shared. On December 26, 2006, the Grizzlies played the Wizards. Donaghy was calling the game, and had picked the Wizards. Before tip-off, however, a scorekeeper allegedly mentioned to Donaghy that the Grizzlies looked banged up, and so Donaghy went to the phone and switched his pick to the Wizards, who won easily.

  • The letter also has this line: "The government also debriefed Donaghy concerning improper conduct on the part of other NBA referees who had engaged in gambling that violated NBA rules." You have to wince when you read that. I know the story is that that is about some minor casino gambling, but it would sure be nice to know more specifics here, as the integrity of the game is on the line.