Tuesday, July 29, 2008
League won't immediately release probe's findings
By Marc Stein
The NBA has maintained for months that it would wait until after the sentencing of disgraced referee Tim Donaghy to disclose the findings of an independent review of the league's officiating program.
The wait for the so-called Pedowitz Report, however, will continue indefinitely even though Donaghy's fate is now known.
Former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz -- hired by the NBA in the wake of the scandal to commission a complete investigation of its refereeing structure and search for potential gambling issues related to or separate from the Donaghy case -- confirmed Tuesday after Donaghy's sentencing that he will need more time to gather information before publicly releasing any of his findings or recommendations.
"I am conducting additional interviews and hope to obtain additional information from the government," Pedowitz said in a statement after Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for pleading guilty to taking payoffs from a professional gambler in exchange for providing inside tips on games and gambling on NBA games.
"My review is well-advanced but not complete," Pedowitz said. "I have no final date at this time for the issuance of my report."
Details of his review are still expected to be made public before the start of the new season in October, but NBA officials have repeatedly said that determining precisely when or how those details will be released won't happen until Pedowitz receives assurances from the federal government that its investigation on the matter is closed.
League sources also told ESPN.com that Pedowitz -- who has completed interviews with every referee in the league, according to NBA commissioner David Stern -- wants to exhaust every opportunity to speak to anyone involved in the federal investigation. Such information could prove useful to Pedowitz in proposing reforms since it was the FBI, not the NBA, which uncovered the betting schemes. Donaghy's gambling began in 2003 but went undetected by the league's standard probes.
That wait, sources said, is likely to include further attempts by Pedowitz and league officials to speak with Donaghy. Multiple requests to interview Donaghy as part of the Pedowitz investigation have been refused.
But it is not yet known whether the delay is in any way tied to media reports in June of the FBI investigating veteran referee Dick Bavetta or the more recent allegations implying a connection between referee Scott Foster -- who this season was promoted to two NBA Finals games for the first time in his career -- and Donaghy.
" ... [Pedowitz's] investigation, with respect to all our officials, has been completed," Stern said during the NBA Finals. "[But] the report itself is not ready to be issued because it was always contemplated that it would be done after Mr. Donaghy was sentenced and against the hope that the request made several months ago from Mr. Donaghy's lawyer that he meet with Mr. Pedowitz would be responded to in a positive way."
Stern later suggested during the Finals that Pedowitz and the league were prepared to "go back and prospectively ask the questions of officials ... with respect [to] specific acts." The commissioner was responding to allegations by Donaghy, which emerged publicly after court filings in early June, that the highly controversial Game 6 of the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings playoff series was impacted by the actions of two of the three referees who worked the game.
In the June 10 court filing, Donaghy also alleged that "top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees to boost ticket sales and television ratings" and that many referees carry on "relationships" with team executives, coaches and players that violate their NBA contracts.
Stern has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as "baseless," insisting that Donaghy was merely a "singing, cooperating witness who's trying to get as light a sentence as he can" and who has "turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he was not the only one who engaged in criminal activity."
"The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI have fully investigated it," Stern said on June 10, "and Mr. Donaghy is the only one that's guilty of a crime."
The league responded in a similarly dismissive fashion earlier this month when a foxnews.com report implied that a second referee -- Foster -- might have been involved. On July 14, according to phone records and court documents obtained by the network, Fox reported that Donaghy called Foster at least 134 times between October 2006 and April 2007 during the same time frame that Donaghy was sharing non-public information about fellow referees with professional gamblers.
The report said that most of the calls lasted no more than two minutes and were made before and after games which Donaghy has admitted to gambling on. But NBA officials were quick to point out that the federal government has been investigating Donaghy since early in 2007, resulting in interviews with anyone whose name appeared in Donaghy's phone records.
Before or since that report, Foster has not surfaced as a potential target for federal investigators.
The NBA addressed Foster's potential involvement in a recent statement, saying: "The government had complete access to Tim Donaghy's phone records and thoroughly investigated this matter, including conducting an interview of referee Scott Foster. The government has said that they have found no evidence of criminal conduct aside from that of Mr. Donaghy."
But such statements and the wait for the full Pedowitz Report haven't stopped the league from acting on some of Pedowitz's preliminary recommendations and acknowledging that its previous referee management structure was flawed.
That has resulted in multiple changes to its officiating program in recent weeks. The most notable was the hiring of Ronald Johnson, a retired two-star general with no previous NBA connections, as the league's new senior vice president for referee operations, duties that were stripped from longtime NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.