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Battista sentenced to 15 months in prison; Martino gets one year

NEW YORK -- Two former classmates of disgraced referee Tim Donaghy will spend more than a year in federal prison for their roles in the betting scandal that rocked the NBA.

James Battista, a professional gambler, was sentenced to 15 months for making bets on NBA games based on Donaghy's inside tips. Thomas Martino, the go-between who spoke to Donaghy before games and delivered thousands of dollars when Donaghy's tips paid off, will serve a year in prison.

Both men broke down and struggled to control their emotions inside a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on Thursday, as they apologized to their families and the judge who controlled their fates.

"I made bad choices and I take full responsibility for what I did," Battista said.

Martino, who was sentenced later in the morning, added: "I apologize to all those I let down. I promise I will do everything in my power to restore my reputation."

Martino, Battista and Donaghy all attended high school together in Springfield, Pa. Donaghy, who lives in Bradenton, Fla., will be sentenced Tuesday. He pleaded guilty last year to charges he conspired to engage in wire fraud and transmitted betting information through interstate commerce.

If the sentences of Donaghy's co-conspirators are any indication, he will very likely serve close to the maximum 33 months called for under the sentencing guidelines spelled out in his plea agreement.

Battista's guidelines called for a sentence between 10 and 16 months, with the range for Martino at 8 to 14 months. Their attorneys both argued for sentences made up of a mixture of house arrest and probation and pointed to the fact the two men have attempted to rehabilitate their lives -- Battista by dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, Martino by treating a previously undiagnosed personality disorder.

United States District Court Judge Carol B. Amon commended both men for their efforts to turn around their lives, but, in the end, handed them prison terms close to the maximum amounts agreed upon with federal prosecutors.

"This is a very serious wagering offense," Amon said. "The NBA, fans and players depend on the integrity of the game and no single person is more important to the integrity of the game than the referee."

Battista and Martino both engaged in a conspiracy to corrupt Donaghy, Amon said.

Outside the courtroom, Battista's attorney, Jack McMahon, attempted to place the bulk of the blame for the betting scandal back on Donaghy.

"There's no question, in my mind, that Mr. Donaghy is the worst offender," McMahon said. "This whole thing couldn't happen without Mr. Donaghy."

When pressed about his own client's role in the betting conspiracy, McMahon acknowledged Battista's responsibility.

"Did he hurt the NBA? Sure," McMahon said. "This whole thing has hurt the NBA."

Neither Battista nor Martino made comments to reporters outside the courthouse. Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro, attended the sentencing hearings but declined to comment.

The day began with a last-minute legal surprise when McMahon filed a motion to withdraw Battista's guilty plea. The key sticking point, according to McMahon, was his belief that Battista, by pleading guilty, would relinquish his right to appeal court-ordered restitution. Battista has been ordered to pay more than $150,000 to the NBA as part of his sentence, McMahon said.

When McMahon moved to withdraw Battista's guilty plea, it resurrected the possibility of a criminal trial and the prospect of having Donaghy on a witness stand answering questions in open court. But that possibility proved short-lived; McMahon eventually concluded he could appeal restitution, which cleared the way for his client's sentencing hearing.

John Barr is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.