Archive for December 23rd, 2009

Linda McMahon’s Husband Vince Fought the Law, and the Law Lost (Part 3 — 1994 Drug Trial)

Monday – Part 1, Dr. George Zahorian

Tuesday – Part 2, 1992 Drug and Sex Scandals

TODAY – Part 3, 1994 Drug Trial

Thursday – Part 4, The Defense Lawyer, the “Fixer,” and the Playboy Model

Friday – Part 5, Aftermath

Saturday – Part 6, Waxman Committee Interview

Sunday – Part 7, Conclusion

Following the conviction of ringside doctor George Zahorian in 1991, and the serial drug and sex scandals which roiled the then-World Wrestling Federation in 1992, a federal grand jury investigated. In 1993 Vince McMahon was indicted on steroid trafficking and conspiracy charges. The trial was held on Long Island the following July.

Two pieces of wrestling-style theatrics marked the proceedings. Just before the trial, McMahon had surgery to repair a neck injury. He came into the courtroom wearing a neck brace, and some observers speculated that he had timed the procedure in order to give himself a prop that would make him look more sympathetic before the jury.

Also, at one point during the trial, the bailiff told Judge Jacob Mishler that someone in the spectators’ gallery was talking to the jurors and seemingly trying to intimidate or influence them. That spectator was Afa Anoa’i, a 300-plus-pound retired Samoan wrestler who now trained WWF wannabes and rookies in Pennsylvania. Anoa’i had been seen sitting near the jury box, staring at jurors and softly mouthing the words “not guilty … not guilty.” Judge Mishler told Anoa’i to stop it.

(Anoa’i happens to be an uncle of Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, the WWE wrestler who died recently at age 36. Fatu had been fired by WWE in June for refusing to go into drug rehabilitation, but he was set to return to the company when he suffered his fatal heart attack.)

In the trial itself, the prosecution never succeeded in directly attaching McMahon to a coordinated effort around illegal steroid distribution. In the absence of such evidence, the conspiracy allegations fell apart. He was acquitted of all charges.

The testimony of a former WWF front-office employee, Anita Scales, suggested that McMahon’s defense was aided by a tip that had led the company to drop Zahorian just as the doctor was about to be busted.

Before the passage of 1987 deregulatory legislation in Pennsylvania, pro wrestling ringside physicians were appointed by the state athletic commission; thereafter they were hired by the promoters. Scales, who handled these logistics for WWF, testified at McMahon’s trial that she had wanted to cut off Zahorian, but was overruled by McMahon aide Pat Patterson. “The boys need their candy,” Patterson explained to Scales.

However, Vince and Linda McMahon then learned through social contacts that Zahorian was drawing heat from the feds, and the company stopped using him. Some think that decision made the difference in Vince’s own later acquittal. Others cite the holes in a weak government case, regardless of the resolution of Zahorian’s relationship with the WWF.

Irvin Muchnick

NEXT: Part 4, The Defense Lawyer, the “Fixer,” and the Playboy Model

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December 2009