WWE News WWE NEWS: WWE hires attorney who defended McMahon in 1994 Steroid Trial; Cover Story from Torch Newsletter coverage of "Not Guilty" verdict
Sep 27, 2013 - 10:52:17 AM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
Nearly 20 years after leading WWE CEO Vince McMahon's defense in WWF/E's 1994 steroid trial, Laura Brevetti has been hired by WWE to the position of "Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary."
Brevetti will report directly to McMahon as part of WWE's "senior executive team." Brevetti comes from the K&L Gates law firm, where WWE's long-term attorney, Jerry McDevitt, is a partner.
WWE's press release issued Friday did not mention Brevetti's role in defending McMahon in the 1994 trial, where McMahon was found not guilty on steroid distribution charges.
PWTorch editor Wade Keller was in-person at the 1994 trial, covering the events in the pages of Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter, which are chronicled in the 1994 Torch Back-Issues and available for VIP members. The following is the cover story on McMahon found Not Guilty, with several references to Brevetti.
TORCH #290: COVER STORY
COVER-DATED: JULY 22, 1994
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
When the "not guilty" verdict was read, Vince McMahon looked toward the sky, smiled, and forcefully shook both fists in front of his chest signalling victory. He then got up and hugged his wife, Linda, and his attorney Laura Brevetti. His son, Shane, then joined in the celebration. A weight had been lifted off of McMahon's shoulders, a weight that had been placed there by a combination of forces, most notably by the government but also by his own actions. He told the press afterward he can't wait to get back to work on what he loves most - promoting pro wrestling.
"I would just like to say (on behalf) of my whole family we are delighted with the outcome," he said. He thanked the jurors and complimented his attorneys.
It wasn't easy sailing for McMahon as the jury deliberated for 16 hours - all day Thursday and until 4 p.m. Friday. Thursday afternoon, after the jury asked for read-back of some testimony, Brevetti walked out of the courtroom and, thinking she was alone, said aloud, "F---!" She noticed she was being observed by a reporter and told him she wasn't confident at the moment. She quickly added, "But I'm also a lousy prognosticator."
Indeed she's not, they both laughed Friday afternoon. The tension was high all day Thursday. Court room observers' emotions swayed several times as they patiently - and sometimes not so patiently - waited for a decision to be read. Prosecutor Sean O'Shea wore his poker face most of the time, but he appeared confidently relaxed. Titan Sports attorney Jerry McDevitt and Laura Brevetti were uptight, sometimes showing that with nervous laughter and other times by outright hanging their heads. Vince did all he could to remain calm, joking with his wife and son, talking with his attorneys about what could have been said or what should have been said to the jury.
Members of the press and wrestling fans who stuck around until the end ran the gamut of opinions. While some WWF fans blindly never wavered in their opinion that Vince would be found not-guilty, those whose minds were not made up believed as of late Thursday that the jury was moving toward a guilty verdict, a gut feeling based on the testimony the jury requested be read back, the emotions of the attorneys, and the speed with which the jury appeared to be reaching a decision. Thursday around dinner time the judge told the jury they could go home, but if they believed they were near a verdict, he could have dinner brought to them. They opted to have dinner brought to them, but at 9:30, with no consensus, the jury adjourned for the day.
Friday everyone believed they would come to a decision before lunch and the collective gut feeling was the decision would be not-guilty; it seemed as if there was enough time to find reasonable doubt and the jury was just trying to convince one or two to go along with the verdict. But by Friday afternoon the feeling was it could go either way since so much time was being taken by the jury.
At 3:55 p.m., the jury returned to the courtroom with a verdict. When the verdict was read, O'Shea's jaw dropped and the WWF fans in the courtroom cheered outloud as if their favorite wrestler just scored a pinfall. The judge stood and angrily instructed anyone who cheered to immediately leave the court room. None left, but all fell silent as McMahon and company celebrated.
While McMahon realizes one of the distribution counts that was dropped from this case due to lack of jurisdiction may be retried in another district later this year, he was in an understandably celebratory mood.
More than anything, McMahon tried to set the tone for how the case should be interpreted when speaking with the press. "I think that more than anything else the WWF was again found innocent of these scurrilous charges that were hurled against us," he said, with his old self-assured confidence oozing out of him once again.
He said the WWF's drug testing policies compared favorably to any of those found in the NFL or Hollywood. He told the media he was still willing to be held accountable in the future, this decision notwithstanding.
"Continue to follow this story," he exclaimed. "That's the only way that young people can be certain the WWF is everything we say it is and will be in the future."
He admitted to making some mistakes in the past and said he, as would anyone, has learned from those mistakes.
A relieved Laura Brevetti told the press she doesn't hold any ill feelings toward prosecutor Sean O'Shea despite the tension present during closing summations. "Well, that's the adversarial system, that's the constitution," she said. "I think the day of summation both sides had the fullest and fairest opportunity to put their argument to them and I think we see the result. I think the jury was persuaded by our argument because it was based purely on the evidence and not on the rhetoric."
Brevetti commented on the government going after Titan Sports when some of their witnesses admitted to committing felonies as recently as this summer. "We saw that there was stuff going on in the '90s and just last month that appeared to be a violation of the law that were ignored all for the purpose of getting some favorable - to their point of view - testimony. I questioned that to the jury and I wonder whether that had an impact on their mind. I can't help but think that it had to."
Jerry McDevitt, who appeared more worried than anyone at times during jury deliberations, talked about the length of time the jury took to reach a verdict. "It was a case that would require some deliberations, especially with the vagueness of the conspiracy charge," he said. "It took them a while to sort through the evidence and when they did they came to the obvious conclusion. It's the one we said all along."
One juror spoke briefly with the press. "Over the last two days we weighted lots of evidence and based upon the evidence presented to us, we could not convict the man." Not exactly the type of vindication McMahon is looking for, but he'll take it.
Prosecutor Sean O'Shea accepted the decisionand did not comment on further action.
Lead investigator Tony Vilente smiled earlier in the week when the judge mentioned one of the distribution counts could be retried in another district. When asked how much the government spent on the case, Brevetti said, "Too much." The government has to be embarassed by the amount of time and money spent investigating McMahon to not come away with something. If they are willing to spend more time and money, Vince McMahon's legal woes may not be over yet.
But until further notice, it's back to business for McMahon. Now it's his turn to show, as he said, he has learned lessons from past mistakes.
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