Donaghy, publisher feud over proceeds of tell-all book

Posted: May 14, 2010

As one fan of Tim Donaghy's Facebook page wrote yesterday, "Your life is never dull."

Ain't that the truth.

The behind-the-scenes squabble between the ex-referee and his book publisher spilled out into the public yesterday when Florida-based VTi-Media announced that it had severed ties with Donaghy "due to safety concerns."

They say they're afraid that Donaghy will hurt somebody if he doesn't get paid. And they're trying to get a restraining order.

"We've had to lock our office doors and get escorted to our cars," said Shawna Vercher, chief executive of VTi, which in December published Donaghy's blockbuster book, "Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA."

Vercher said that Donaghy has been contacting company employees and book vendors with "increasingly irate and threatening calls," demanding money for his book.

"One thing he said in particular is that, 'You know I have associates in the Gambino crime family and they are active in this part of the state,' " Vercher said. "This stuff has gotten really ugly, really quickly."

Donaghy, a Cardinal O'Hara and Villanova product who served about 13 months in prison on wire-fraud and gambling charges for betting on NBA games, strongly denied that he had threatened anyone. He called Vercher "vindictive,'' and said he simply wants to know how many books were sold and where the money is.

"Absolutely not, there's nothing to that at all," he said of Vercher's allegations. "It came down to the fact that I asked for the accounting, which I'm allowed to do per my contract with them, and they didn't provide me with the accounting . . . It just went downhill quick, and all I wanted to know was how much money was in the bank and to see the statements."

Donaghy said he's concerned that Vercher might have spent the money. She says that it's in a holding account, and that the company will tally the profits by July, after the conclusion of the 180-day period during which vendors have the option to return unsold copies.

Then, Vercher said, "We have to send [the profits] to the U.S. Attorney's Office and not him directly."

"Her career has been based on spinning stories, but it's not flying this time,'' Donaghy said of Vercher. "I don't know what she did with the money, but she's backed into a corner, and she's trying to turn it back on me. I can only hope that I'm paid at some point."

The dispute is getting nastier by the minute.

Sgt. Mark Young, of the Largo (Fla.) Police Department, said law enforcement received a complaint from Vercher last month stating that Donaghy had threatened Lightning Source, a Tennessee-based book distributor, but an investigation was not launched because it was out of the department's jurisdiction. Officials at Lightning Source could not be reached yesterday. Donaghy said no threat was made.

Vercher says she has audio recordings of some of the alleged threats. She said VTi is gathering other evidence to support its request for a restraining order next week.

"We have some of his outbursts on tape,'' she said. "He's not aware of this."

Vercher said some vendors that Donaghy allegedly has contacted "have alerted their security teams if he's on the property he has to be removed."

"It's not as if we're the only incident," she said.

Donaghy's attorney, Nicholas Mooney, said the claims of harassment are "ridiculous." As a former prosecutor in Florida, Mooney said Vercher's refusal to disclose the profits is "concerning."

"We're doing everything we can to get her to comply with the contract,'' he said. "Show us the money."

As for the Gambino-related claims, Mooney said: "It's absurd to suggest that the Gambino family somehow has some interest in threatening Ms. Vercher. It makes no sense whatsoever.''

Vercher, however, said she will be able to disclose some of the evidence of Donaghy's behavior after a restraining-order hearing tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

"Our hope is that, by going public, there are more eyes on him and less likely that an incident would occur," she said.

Meanwhile, Donaghy said yesterday he's relaunching his book in paperback form through a new publisher to "give more people access to the truth behind the NBA's officiating and their desire to spin the playoff results into a profitable finale."

Oh, yeah, and he's writing a second book.

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