Donaghy wants probation for helping with betting probe

NEW YORK -- Disgraced referee Tim Donaghy should be sentenced to probation because he cooperated in the probe into NBA betting and because he has "a pathological gambling condition," his lawyers said in a letter filed in court Monday.

In the letter to U.S. District Court Judge Carol B. Amon, filed in Brooklyn federal court, lawyers for Donaghy argued their client's cooperation with government investigators in the betting probe "will lead to future reforms that will change the way in which the NBA conducts itself."

One of Donaghy's lawyers, John Lauro, also suggested in the filing that NBA games had been influenced by relationships among referees, coaches and players, and that other NBA referees gambled in violation of league rules.

The league vehemently dismissed Lauro's claims.

"The letter filed today on Mr. Donaghy's behalf contains an assortment of lies, unfounded allegations and facts that have been previously acknowledged, such as the fact that certain NBA referees engaged in casino gambling in violation of NBA rules," Joel Litvin, the league's president of basketball operations, said in a statement.

"The letter is the desperate act of a convicted felon who is hoping to avoid prison time, and the only thing it proves is that Mr. Donaghy is no more trustworthy today than he was when he was breaking the law by betting on NBA games."

Lauro declined further comment when reached by The New York Times.

The 42-year-old veteran referee pleaded guilty last August to felony charges for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games he officiated. Donaghy's sentencing was pushed back to July 14 on Monday; he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

While citing Donaghy's commitment to his family, charitable activities and positive feedback for his career as a referee prior to his "tragic fall from grace," the lawyers said that their client's "aberrant conduct" can only be understood in the context of his gambling addiction, a "crippling disease, which prevented him from exercising complete rational self control."

Nevertheless, the lawyers said Donaghy is taking steps to get treatment for his condition, including therapy with a gambling counselor and attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

"Without a doubt, Tim made significant errors in judgment, but he also tried to right the wrongs of his conduct by assisting the government and seeking treatment for his disorder," the lawyers asserted.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.