Tim Donaghy is back in the spotlight in the Netflix documentary, but something is missing

LAS VEGAS — In January 2007, Jimmy Battista’s NBA betting drew the attention of the world’s heavyweight players, who connected referee Tim Donaghy with the action.

“Only a fool,” Dr. Sean Patrick Griffin wrote, “would have ignored Battista’s ridiculously obvious betting success.”

Griffin’s three-year descent into offshore gambling was sparked by his curiosity about the mob’s involvement in sports betting, stemming from an FBI wiretap of the Gambino crime family.

Donaghy was mentioned on those tapes. The betting scandal headlines that followed rocked the NBA. One of his officials is dirty, film at 11. That, however, represented only one knot of the tangled networks.

Griffin, a criminal justice professor at The Citadel and a former Philadelphia police officer, unraveled much of that mess in his 2011 bestselling book, “Gaming the Game.”

He details the genesis of the scheme involving Donaghy, Battista and Tommy Martino, former classmates at Cardinal O’Hara High in Springfield, Pennsylvania, and how Battista manipulated the global betting markets.

After it all went wrong and the legal process dragged on, Battista hoped to expose Donaghy’s mountain of lies by testifying. However, Griffin details why Battista, the professor’s main “Games” helm, opted for a guilty plea.

Griffin’s impressive work becomes relevant again because on August 30, Netflix is ​​scheduled to air “Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul,” about the scandal. Promote interviews with Donaghy, Battista and Martino, not Griffin.

He told me on Monday that those producers called him, they talked for about 90 minutes, and Griffin provided relevant notes and possible lines of investigation.

But the person who knows more about the case than anyone else is not on the show and will not see it.

“I have incredibly low expectations for whatever they produce,” Griffin said by phone from Charleston, South Carolina. “People know that I have documents and files, and they constantly ask me questions that they don’t like the answers to.

“And it drives them crazy. They just march, say what they want, anyway. They produce what they will produce, regardless of the evidence. Netflix, to me, is the next iteration of that.”


Donaghy published a book in June 2010, nine months before “Gaming”.

Guess which one contains footnotes, source notes, cross-referenced facts from many officials and resources, and extensive due diligence by a forensic expert with a Ph.D. in Penn State Administration of Justice?

Griffin became so acutely and repeatedly aware that the former referee was full of lies and lies that he would relegate Donaghy to the false shadows of his own imagination.

“Don’t forget that I got involved in this without realizing that the Donaghy story is [b.s.]” said Griffin, 52. “I was just investigating. I’m one of the idiots who bought Donaghy’s book.

“Once I realized that I would be dealing with these guys overseas who might as well be your next door neighbors, I was overwhelmed with all that sociology.”

Griffin is amazed at how the media, especially sports radio, has provided Donaghy with a platform for his sensational fodder.

“It’s stupid. He gives the media a press kit and they read the questions to him, like it’s a PR campaign,” Griffin said. “No one realizes that it is a scam. I will never understand that.

Battista, who called Donaghy “a pathological liar” with boundless greed, told Griffin, “I knew Timmy’s demand for money far exceeded his ability to get it. He was [expletive] cunning and believed that everyone owed him the world.”

But Battista refused to denounce Donaghy.

“The feds wanted to talk to me and go against him, but I didn’t want to,” Battista told Griffin. “That could have helped me and it absolutely would have hurt Timmy, [but] I was not a rat.


Had Battista gone to trial, Donaghy’s character would have been under immense scrutiny.

In high school, during a trip to the Jersey shore, Donaghy got drunk and ransacked neighbors’ houses, stealing items. Battista called him “a strange, petty guy.”

Battista said that Donaghy and Martino were close in high school because they both liked to smoke marijuana. When Donaghy became an NBA referee, that continued, sometimes with prostitutes.

Griffin documented how Donaghy admitted to getting into Villanova, in part, because someone took his SAT for him. Martino said Donaghy also cheated on tests at Villanova.

There were also fights with neighbors (one who called Donaghy “a maniac on fire”), an assault on a mail carrier, and the mayor of West Chester, Pennsylvania, who noted Donaghy’s “very aggressive personality.”

Donaghy once slipped a dead, worm-infested bird into the bag of fellow golfer John Minutella. “Nobody wanted to play golf with him,” Minutella said. “I can’t say anything good about him. I think this guy was almost soulless.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern prevented Donaghy from working the second round of the 2005 playoffs due to the “sheer volume” (Stern’s words) of such reports. One more incident and Stern would fire Donaghy.

Battista heard Donaghy make racist comments about the NBA. The architect of the scandal, Battista, was addicted to various pills and cocaine, but he was outspoken, as reams of evidence and others corroborated the most minute details of him.

He documented Donaghy’s win rate of 78% and paid him $201,000 for his “tips,” just one cog in Battista’s tentacles, which reached Asia, Europe and Las Vegas.

“Only money, only business.” Battista told Griffin. “It’s not like I’m laughing at their calls if they helped us, or mad at their calls if they hurt us.

“The ‘Timmy Elvis Donaghy affair’ was just a small part of what was going on, and I didn’t want anyone to know about it. So I didn’t really have time to focus on it, let alone enjoy it.”

Griffin peeled the onion.

“I don’t want to say that the NBA scandal was easy,” he said, “but once I had access to staff from the US Attorney’s offices and FBI agents, they were not only confirming what Battista said, they were elaborating”.


Battista and Martino were close, heading to the Marriott at Philadelphia International Airport for an exploratory meeting with Donaghy on December 12, 2006.

Donaghy didn’t like betting through St. Joseph basketball player Jack Concannon, but he couldn’t have known that Battista had been tracking his NBA bets with Concannon since 2003, when Battista was in Curaçao.

That’s when Battista started calling Donaghy “Elvis,” the king of NBA game predictions, including his own, Battista told Griffin. Donaghy was horrible at betting on any other sport.

Donaghy had Martino set up the date at the Marriott. It was Donaghy’s 13th NBA season. He had an unhappy marriage, four daughters, and a salary of $260,000.

“I knew what it would mean,” Battista told Griffin, “if I had an NBA referee on my side.”

For passing him winning football picks, Donaghy had sent Battista a Lakers jersey signed by Kobe Bryant. At the Marriott, Battista thanked Donaghy for the gift.

As they left, Battista asked Donaghy who he liked the next night, when the 76ers were hosting the Celtics in a game that Donaghy would officiate. Donaghy said Boston is “going to kill” the Sixers.

The Celtics were favored by 1.5 points. Just before kickoff, Battista bet $60,000 on Boston, raising the line to 3.5 points. The Celtics won 101-81.

The following night, the trio met at Martino’s house to settle terms. Battista rolled $7,000 in a rubber band (two for the Celtics’ tip, five as a signing bonus) on the edge of Martino’s couch for Donaghy.

“For our new association.” Battista told Donaghy.

In his book, Donaghy wrote: “I knew I was screwed and in a bind. . . but my gaming instincts were getting the better of me and I was wickedly turned on.”

Sometimes, Battista told Griffin, Donaghy would call Martino from an NBA locker room to find out the extension of a game that was about to start.

Battista envisioned the arrangement lasting 20 years. Twenty months later, all three had avoided trial and were awaiting sentencing by US District Judge Carol Bagley Amon in Brooklyn.

Donaghy faced 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

“Tim Donaghy was inadvertently putting himself in harm’s way,” Griffin wrote. “Tim probably didn’t know how influential Jimmy had become, or how Battista’s words and deeds now affected punters and bookmakers around the world.”


Griffin had already released a bestseller in 2005 with “Black Brothers, Inc.” about the violent rise and fall of Philadelphia’s black mob.

So when “Gaming” appeared at No. 2 on a Nielsen chart in mid-September 2011, he knew something was up when his royalty checks were pitiful. Barricade Books, his publisher, was in trouble.

“Shameful,” Griffin said. “Ridiculous.”

Griffin had a hard time producing that book. A few years ago, he bought the rights and original digital files from him. He had the artwork. He is publishing it independently.

Griffin has a stubborn determination. He works seven days a week. He has been working on “something big” for 10 years, as Tom Petty used to sing, and his next publication will be a hit.

“Gaming the Game” is definitive, vital to understanding the NBA scandal and how sports betting money skyrockets around the world.

Martino also wrote a book in 2019. Griffin said, “Although it’s also missing, nothing can compare to Donaghy’s book” as comic relief.

The FBI investigated the disgraced referee’s claims about the involvement of other NBA officials, with negative results. “It would have been great for me, great for sales, just for selfish reasons,” Griffin said. “[But] there is nothing.”

Griffin has never spoken to Donaghy. Twice, Griffin said, he appeared at a television studio to participate in documentaries in which Donaghy was supposed to appear.

On both occasions, however, Donaghy did not appear.

“I’m not naive,” Griffin said. “I imagine the television producers were looking for a mix-up on the air. I accepted because I am an academic; We argue for a living. But it’s not really a debate. That’s what bothers me.

“This is not a story of he said, he said.”

Donaghy, Griffin said, distracts and distracts.

“I just focus on the evidence, his betting records, any number of things that I can quantify, the ridiculous things he says in his book, like, ‘I agree with everything Judge Amon said.’

“Really? She said there was no extortion, no conspiracy and your They were more guilty than the others. Do you agree with all that? that is not him [b.s.] story you’ve been telling for the past 10 years.”

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