Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy has won his breach-of-contract lawsuit against the publisher of his book Personal Foul: A First Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA.
Donaghy’s lawyer, Nicholas Mooney, confirmed late last night that Donaghy has been awarded $1.62 million by a six-person jury in St. Petersburg, Fla., who agreed with Donaghy’s contention that he was never paid some $500,000 due to him in royalties from the now-defunct Florida-based VTI-Media and its president, Shawna Vercher. Donaghy’s suit also claimed emotional distress and civil theft. The total award includes trebled damages, plus lawyer fees.
The VTI Group is no longer in business and Vercher is now a talk show host and political blogger in Florida. Covers was unable to reach Vercher last night or this morning.
“This was the verdict I expected,” Donaghy told Covers late last night in a phone interview. “I put my trust and faith in my attorney, Nicholas Mooney, and the truth. I am looking forward to spending a great Father’s Day with my four daughters.”
During the five-day trial Donaghy claimed that Vercher refused to pay him any royalty money from sales of the 2009 book, which detailed how he was banned from the NBA and sent to prison for 11 months after he wagered on games, including some that he officiated.
(Donaghy claims he used inside information about players and other referees to successfully bet on games, but vehemently denies that he fixed games. He points out that he was not charged with fixing games, and neither the NBA nor the FBI has accused him of doing so.)
Donaghy had difficulty finding a publisher for his book before Vercher’s VTI-Media, based in Largo, Fla., took on the job. But Donaghy, who still owes $250,000 in restitution to the NBA, says that Vercher and VTI instead kept the profits from the book and claims that she embarked on a media campaign to discredit him when he demanded payment.
“Basically,” said Donaghy last night, “she tried to claim that I threatened her because she wanted me back in jail, where it would be impossible for me to sue her and get the money she stole.”
In an earlier interview with Covers, Vercher alleged that Donaghy told her he would use “mafia connections” to pressure her, forcing her to increase security at her office. At the time, she declined to say whether Donaghy had been paid money he was owed. Between that time and the court case, Vercher said that a former employee stole money from the company. Shortly after that, VTI-Media went out of business.
“I was always professional and courteous in my dealings with her and everyone else at VTI,” Donaghy said. “In return she tried to discredit me, including setting up a blog to try to turn the public against me. That stuff about the mafia was bullshit.”
It’s not certain how soon or even if Donaghy will receive payment. Both Donaghy and Mooney concede that they don’t know if Vercher has enough money to write a $1.62-million check, and there is the possibility of an appeal.
For now, Donaghy has a somewhat significant victory in his battle to rehabilitate his reputation.