Dick Jerardi: Biggest Donaghy question remains: Which games?

Disgraced ref Tim Donaghy hasn't revealed which games he officiated and also bet.
Disgraced ref Tim Donaghy hasn't revealed which games he officiated and also bet.
Posted: December 11, 2009

AS HIS LIFE has spiraled out of control, Tim Donaghy has fiercely held on to one precious piece of dignity. He has repeatedly insisted he never made any calls that would have influenced the result of an NBA game or impacted whether he won or lost a bet on any game he officiated. That is also the one thing that kept his father, Gerry, a now retired college official, from being even angrier at what his son did.

Sean Griffin, an associate professor in criminal justice at Penn State Abington and a former Philadelphia police officer, is less than sure Tim Donaghy has been telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Griffin, who has written two books, including one on Philadelphia's Black Mafia, has been researching the Donaghy betting scandal for 2 years. He is finishing a book on the case. Its working title is "Not Sharp Enough."

Griffin bought the life rights to Donaghy co-conspirator James Battista. He has been piecing together the details through interviews with Battista, police, FBI and others associated with the case. He has pored through all the court filings.

"I have this crazy idea you don't write something that you can't back up," Griffin said.

When he told Battista about the title, Battista thought it was "hysterical."

"He said, if you're writing a book about me and I'm sitting in the joint, I'm not sharp enough."

There is so much misinformation out there now, Griffin said, that it is becoming very difficult to separate fact from fiction. The recent spate of Donaghy interviews, he said, are not really helping.

Griffin doesn't think the right questions are being asked.

You would think from some of the interviews that Donaghy was right 80 percent of the time on his bets. Well, Griffin wants to know, which bets?

Battista told Griffin that Donaghy was right 80 percent of the time on the games he officiated, but was so bad on the games he did not officiate that Battista stopped betting on them.

Donaghy has said he made picks based on inside information, such as the fact that Dick Bavetta liked to keep games close and Steve Javie disliked Allen Iverson.

So, the inference was clear. Donaghy would recommend taking the points in games Bavetta officiated when there was a big favorite. He would also recommend betting against the Sixers when Javie was one of the officials.

Well, ESPN.com did the research on those specific kinds of games and found out there was no correlation at all. In fact, it would have been a losing proposition.

When confronted with those facts, Donaghy referenced ESPN's close relationship with the NBA. He did not, however, dispute the findings.

"It never occurred to me that people would actually believe the 80 percent figure," Griffin said.

Again, it's 80 percent of what? That is an answer Donaghy has never given.

The FBI happened upon Donaghy, Battista and Tommy Martino quite by accident. And the FBI, Griffin said, was never all that interested in potential game-fixing.

"This was not a big issue to the FBI," Griffin said.

So, it really has never been pursued seriously.

When asked about it, Donaghy notes that the FBI and NBA cleared him of game-fixing. The question is: How seriously did they actually look at it?

And this is the same NBA that Donaghy finds not credible in so many instances, saying it looked the other way when its officials had close relationships with players or coaches. But it is credible when its investigation clears him of manipulating games.

"Then they are very credible," Griffin said. "They've done their homework."

According to Griffin's research, Donaghy told the FBI he bet on between 122 and 153 NBA games from 2003 to 2007. Battista only got involved toward the tail end of that.

When Griffin first started looking at the case in March 2008, he "did not know what Tim Donaghy was going to say. I didn't know what his story was."

That is when Battista told him that they went 37-10 on games Donaghy officiated. Battista also told him he stopped betting on those other "opinions" when Donaghy was wrong on six of the first seven games.

Donaghy, of course, insists that he never fixed any games, that he made predictions based on inside knowledge.

When a writer with ESPN.com confronted Donaghy with the actual numbers from those Bavetta and Javie games, Donaghy kept saying, "They're throwing out numbers. They don't know what games I bet," he said.

Donaghy, of course, could potentially solve the credibility issue if he would let everybody know which games he officiated and also bet.

"No one has ever asked him if the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office would have treated this differently if they did have evidence of actual game-fixing and could the NBA then have sued you for defrauding the NBA," Griffin said.

Fraud, Griffin said, is charged based on the dollar figure that the victim incurs.

"So how would you calculate it?" Griffin said.

Interesting question.

Lots of interesting questions. Still not a lot of answers.

Griffin expects that his book will be able to provide answers to many of the questions still out there.

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com

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