Tim Donaghy wins $1.3 million civil suit

In this image taken from video and released by CBS, former NBA basketball referee Tim Donaghy is seen during a interview in Florida with Bob Simon of "60 Minutes." The interview airs Sunday, Dec. 6, 0n CBS. (AP Photo/CBS News) ** NO SALES **
In this image taken from video and released by CBS, former NBA basketball referee Tim Donaghy is seen during a interview in Florida with Bob Simon of "60 Minutes." The interview airs Sunday, Dec. 6, 0n CBS. (AP Photo/CBS News) ** NO SALES **

Former NBA referee ref sued book publisher

Posted: June 19, 2012

REMEMBER Tim Donaghy?

Delco native. Ex-referee in the NBA. Recovering gambling addict. Felon.

Yeah, that guy. A Florida jury wants to make him a millionaire.

After 5 rough years that included banishment from the NBA, gambling and wire-fraud convictions for betting on basketball games, and even 2 weeks spent in solitary confinement "like Charles Manson" while serving a 15-month prison term, Donaghy can finally put one in the win column.

According to Donaghy and his lawyer, a St. Petersburg jury on Friday awarded Donaghy $1.3 million in his civil suit against Shawna Vercher and her now-defunct company VTi Group, which published Donaghy's tell-all book about the NBA and its referees.

"The lady made my life a living hell and basically tortured me through the press by putting fictitious stories out there," Donaghy said Sunday. "I knew, at some point, my time would come. And my time was Friday."

The lawsuit stems from a nasty dispute between Donaghy and Vercher. She called the cops, saying he threatened her and book vendors. He said she ripped him off by pocketing nearly $250,000 in revenue from his book, "Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA."

Donaghy's lawyer, Nicholas Mooney, said the jury sided with Donaghy on all counts, including breach of contract, theft, and infliction of emotional distress. Under Florida law, the total award will likely be increased to about $1.65 million, Mooney said. Vercher is also responsible for paying Donaghy's attorney's fees.

"When Tim signed up as a client, the cash started coming in, and they found a cash cow, and they started using the money to run the business," Mooney said of VTi.

"To this day, she still hasn't paid me a dime," said Donaghy, 45, a Cardinal O'Hara and Villanova grad.

Vercher, who now hosts her own talk show, said she plans to appeal.

"My goal is the same now as it has always been — that Mr. Donaghy and his ilk stay away from me and my family," she said.

Donaghy said the threat allegations were fabricated and designed to deflect attention from the missing money.

"There are 1.65 million reasons why she wants to file an appeal," he said. "The only thing she needs to do is look in the mirror and take responsibility for what she did."

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, it is unclear whether Vercher has the money to pay. Donaghy could use it. He said he still owes the NBA more than $100,000 in restitution, although some of that will be paid by his co-conspirators and fellow O'Hara grads, James Battista and Thomas Martino.

Meanwhile, Donaghy, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., is earning a living doing basically the same thing that got him trouble as an NBA referee: Making picks on basketball games. The father of four blogs for sportsconnectionwins.com and advises its handicapper, Danny Berrelli. He said the feds are OK with it.

"I watch a lot of these games and advise him," Donaghy said. "If the lines are way out of whack, I'll have a conversation with him."

Contact William Bender at benderw@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @wbender99. Read his blog, "Daily Delco" at philly.com/dailydelco

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