Below is a 1995 article from the newsletter Pro Wrestling Torch. Thanks to James Caldwell of the Torch for digging it up. Information on VIP subscriptions to the Torch, which include online access to back issues, go to http://pwtorch.com.
TORCH #362: COVER STORY Feds looking into McMahon trial
Allegations of improprieties lead to more damaging publicity
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
The Wednesday morning New York Post reports Federal investigators are looking into improprieties related to the 1994 steroid trial of Vince McMahon and Titan Sports. Federal investigators are focusing on Martin Bergman, freelance TV producer and husband of Titan’s attorney in the case, Laura Brevetti. The Post also reports that Emily Fineberg, McMahon’s former top assistant who government prosecutors built much of their case around, has told investigators Bergman offered her between $250,000 and $400,000.
The headline of the page 8 story of the Post reads: “Tampering cloud over wrestling’s big trial.” A subheadline reads: “Feds want to know if the TV producer paid witnesses to alter their testimony.” A photo of Brevetti and Bergman shared space with photos of Vince McMahon, Fineberg, and federal investigator Anthony Valenti on the story that filled the entire page.
Besides the Post story, two other major New York daily papers were expected to run articles on the investigation on Wednesday. WOR-TV news broke the story first on their 10 p.m. report Tuesday night.
These reports will surely lead to more reports focusing on the most sellable, sexy aspect of the investigation, that being the WWF’s involvement. The WWF has been nearly crippled in the past five years by millions of dollars spent in legal fees and even more in lost revenue with advertisers, lost goodwill with fans, and opportunity costs related to the Dr. Zahorian steroid trial and Vince McMahon’s 1994 high-profile trial. Zahorian was convicted and served time in jail for distribution of steroids without just medical cause at WWF events. McMahon was found not guilty of charges of conspiring to distribute and illegal possession of steroids.
Says the Post story, written by Jack Newman and Phil Mushnick: “Two FBI agents, working with assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Sack, have been interviewing witnesses about Bergman’s conduct leading up to the trial, sources said. Investigators are trying to determine if Bergman pursued witnesses and potential witnesses against McMahon in an effort to change, taint, or discredit their testimoy by inducing them to accept ‘TV consultant’ money, sources said. Bergman contacted witnesses, their lawyers, and journalists seeking information and access to McMahon’s accusors, ostensibly to produce a TV piece on the trial, sources said.”
The Post also reports that Bergman was responsible for three articles smearing both members of the McMahon trial prosecution team, articles that appeared in the New York Observer and the Post.
Reports the Post, “Federal probers are trying to establish whether there were financial connections among Bergman, McMahon, and the lawyers who filed the baseless misconduct complaints, the sources said.”
Brevetti responded in a written statement to the Post: “I have been advised of no investigation and have never been contacted by anyone in the government about the existence of one. In any event, there is absolutely no basis for any claim of wrongdoing by me. It is clear to me that this story is being waved by certain individuals within the government who have a personal vendetta against me.”
A sidebar story chronicled Brevetti’s storied career as an attorney, which began as a government prosecutor. As prosecutor she was named the first female member of the Organized Crime Strike Force in 1983. In 1986 she led the prosecution that crippled the hierarchy of the Bonanno crime family and Teamsters Local 814. She was once named the New York magazine “Prosecutor of the Year.” She received much publicity in 1992 as a defense attorney for winning a surprsing acquittal of Westchester nanny Olivia Riner who was accused of murdering the 3-month-old she was hired to care for.
The jist of the Post’s sidebar story was that friends of Brevetti were surprised when she married Bergman, who was referred to as someone who “always operated in the shadows” by “A Current Affair” producer John Johnson. “He always talked tough like he was going to deliver the goods on the WWF bad guys, but he never delivered,” Johnson told the Post. “He was tight with [WWF czar Vince] McMahon and his [longtime] attorney Jerry McDevitt. He was always leaking conspiracy theories that seemed to be coming directly out of McDevitt’s office.”
The Post reported that sources said Bergman got Geraldo Rivera’s now-defunct “Now It Can Be Told” to dedicate an entire program to attacking the motivations and integrity of police and prosecutors in the Westchester nanny murder case. Newfeld, co-writer of the Post article, reports that he met with Bergman in 1991 regarding a story on Sen. Alfonse D’Amato. Bergman reportedly asked for $5,000 to provide research. Newfeld and his collegaue turned Bergman down.
As of deadline late Tuesday night, no comment was available from Titan Sports or Vince McMahon. The media publicity alone will set the WWF back in their ongoing attempts to shed the image of being a corrupt, sleazy organization, an image that was amplified during the steroid and sex scandals and now may reach new heights.