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New Threats From WWE Lawyer Jerry McDevitt

Published December 17th, 2010, Uncategorized

Yesterday I received a package from Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, attorney for World Wrestling Entertainment. Below is the text of my response. At the bottom of this post are links to McDevitt’s letter and exhibits.

Dear Mr. McDevitt:

I have read your December 16 emails (13-page cover letter attachment and the 110 pages of exhibits). Thank you for sharing this material. After transmitting this response to you, I will post this text along with links to the text of your own letter plus attachments.

The pertinence of much of your package is not immediately obvious to this layman. Nonetheless, as a believer in the value of transparency, I think it is good to have as much as possible in the public record. In that spirit, I am publishing your material in full. Various cited third parties, such as Benoit estate attorney Cary Ichter and West Virginia Brain Injury Research Institute attorney Robert Fitzsimmons, are invited to share their sides of some of your stories.

Let’s move on to your demands for retractions and related points.

***

On page 2 you complain that I am factually wrong when I disparage the World Wrestling Entertainment Wellness Program by stating the opinion that WWE and Vince McMahon ultimately control the work of their contractor David Black and Aegis Labs. (Please note that page references here correspond to the pagination of the hard-copy version of your letter, not to the posted PDF file of its text.)

My opinion is based, first, on the inherent difficulties any contractor faces in processing controversial information on behalf of, or delivering complex advice to, the client footing the bills.

In addition, many specific concerns in connection with this opinion were the focus of interviews conducted in 2007 by staff investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Dr. Tracy Ray, the physician who at the time was contracted to assist WWE with claims of therapeutic use exemptions, said that “there was shadiness in almost every case that I’ve reviewed.”

David Black said to the committee staff, “Oh, sure, I would agree that that’s not good,” when asked why Randy Orton appeared to be excused from sanctions after a particular apparent violation of terms of the Wellness Policy. In general, portions of the Ray and Black testimony support the notion that the WWE medical and drug-testing contractors were in the business of forwarding recommendations for ultimate disposition by others, rather than acting as independent agents.

***

On page 3 you complain about my Randy Orton reporting. I am not privy to the communications between the Albany district attorney’s office and WWE, and therefore do not claim to know the veracity of or to contradict your statement that “no action was taken against Randy Orton because he was not on any customer list for Signature Pharmacy ever provided to us by District Attorney Soares.” I do know, however, that Orton was in many published media reports of lists of Signature customers, and some of those reports included detailed shipment dates and names of drugs. And as noted above, your own David Black, in response to direct questions about what happened with Mr. Orton, agreed with Congressional investigators that the handling of that matter by WWE was “not good.”

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On page 4 you begin a long and rather unfocused complaint about the evolution of my views on Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy and on CTE’s perceived centrality to the Benoit murder-suicide. Like many others who have followed the mounting evidence on CTE, both anecdotal and scientific, I have indeed moved considerably closer to the views of Michael Benoit since the publication of my book (though, I must say, not close enough to satisfy Mr. Benoit). While every individual case has its own unique factors and emphases, I believe we are finding that CTE is a key ingredient of what I term the “cocktail of death.”

I welcome the opportunity you have given me here to advocate again for more aggressive research on and investigation of the interplay of abuse of steroids and other drugs (primarily prescription pharmaceuticals), occupational brain trauma, and other factors. I helped put Mr. Benoit in touch with the Richard Blumenthal campaign because I did and do believe that Linda McMahon’s campaign for a United States Senate seat was an appropriate and useful platform for public education on this issue. Others reading our exchange can make their own judgments as to the wisdom of my activism in this area.

As you note, I have written in CHRIS & NANCY and elsewhere that I believe Cary Ichter had a conflict of interest in his work on the Georgia State Athletic Commission. If anything, my disagreements over the years with (among others) Mr. Ichter, Mr. Benoit, and Dr. Bennet Omalu only reinforce the independence of my journalism and do not support your statements that I am motivated by partisanship.

***

On page 6 you note that the Sports Legacy Institute’s early media outreach was undertaken without the benefit of published peer-reviewed scientific literature. I have never reported or suggested otherwise, so I am not sure what point you are making here.

***

On page 7 you begin your explanation of what I have called WWE’s lie to ESPN, and your medical director Dr. Joseph Maroon’s unfortunate enabling of that lie. In a nutshell, the explanation is that you question the chain of custody of what Dr. Omalu and others have represented as Chris Benoit brain specimens; in turn, this would mean that the statement, “WWE has been asking to see the research and test results in the case of Mr. Benoit for years and has not been supplied with them,” is accurate. I disagree. If WWE told ESPN reporter Greg Garber that Dr. Maroon attended the October 2008 meeting in West Virginia with Dr. Omalu and Dr. Julian Bailes – months after Dr. Maroon was named WWE medical director – and ESPN chose not to include that crucial fact in its story, then please so inform me and I will report as much.

***

Your background on Dr. Omalu, starting on page 8, is of no immediate relevance to any grievance you might have with my reporting. Your take on Dr. Omalu’s role in the Dr. Cyril Wecht trial, in which you guided your client’s exoneration, is very interesting, but this is not anything on which I have reported in detail or depth. Nor have I have reported on the turf battles and professional differences of the various leading players in CTE research.

(With respect to Dr. Wecht, you assert in passing that I have “systematically defamed” him but do not say how. I believe my only mentions of Dr. Wecht have been quotes from Michael Benoit about Dr. Wecht’s contact with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, during the murder-suicide investigation.)

Again, thank you for reading my blog and adding your voice to this important public discussion.

Sincerely,

Irvin Muchnick

P.S. Technical note: Due to limitations on my end, the second-generation versions of your exhibits, which are being posted, have poor resolution. I will be fixing that problem. If having clearer online images of these documents is a priority for you, please have your office email back to me each individual exhibit as its own PDF file.

JERRY McDEVITT’S LETTER

http://muchnick.net/mcdevitt121610.pdf

***

EXHIBIT 1

“Sports Legacy Institute Announces Findings on Wrestler Chris Benoit’s Brain, September 5, 2007”

http://muchnick.net/sli_transcript_090507.pdf

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EXHIBIT 2

Sports Legacy Institute news release, September 9, 2007

http://muchnick.net/sli_news_release_090507.pdf

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EXHIBIT 3

Cary Ichter to Jerry McDevitt, September 11, 2007

http://muchnick.net/ichter091107.pdf

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EXHIBIT 4

“Fifth Estate, Chris Benoit – Fight to the Death, Aired February 6 on the CBC Network across Canada”

http://muchnick.net/fifth_estate_transcript.pdf

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EXHIBIT 5

“Muchnick Flashback – EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008”

http://muchnick.net/muchnick_blog_on_espn_story.pdf

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EXHIBIT 6

Bennet Omalu to Cyril Wecht, April 17, 2006

http://muchnick.net/omalu_email_041706.pdf

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EXHIBIT 7

GQ article, “Game Brain”

http://muchnick.net/gq.pdf

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EXHIBIT 8

Transcript of Bennet Omalu testimony at Cyril Wecht trial

http://muchnick.net/wecht_trial_transcript.pdf

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EXHIBIT 9

“CHRIS NOWINSKI INTERVIEW, DENNIS AND CALLAHAN RADIO TALK SHOW, WEEK OF OCTOBER 14, 2010”

http://muchnick.net/nowinski_interview_101410.pdf

***

EXHIBIT 10

Bennet Omalu journal article, “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a professional American wrestler”

http://muchnick.net/omalu_journal_article.pdf

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EXHIBIT 11

“BENNET OMALU ON HIS INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN FOOTBALL”

http://muchnick.net/omalu_pittmed_article.pdf

***

EXHIBIT 12

“Dr. Bennet Omalu, Brain Injury Research Institute: B/R Exclusive Interview”

http://muchnick.net/omalu_interview_102210.pdf

20 Responses to “New Threats From WWE Lawyer Jerry McDevitt”

  1. Scott D. says:

    Thank you for putting the letter and exhibit materials you received from WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt in your blog.I haven’t had the time to completely go through everything, although I certainly intend to in due time. Your blogs have contained what I consider to be a fair portrayal of subject matter that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored of which I have downloaded along with personal research that is ongoing and will hopefully lead to a true,and factual account who’s outcome will provide the men and women who entertain their fans with a safer working environment along with benefits they rightfully deserve!

  2. Danny says:

    “As you know, WWE question from the onset anny (sic) purported professional finding that Chris Benoit…”

    How can you take this WWE lawyer seriously? He doesn’t even proofread.

  3. draftking says:

    CTE is a very real threat, not just for the world of pro wrestling but also for sports like American football. Thank you for having the courage of your convictions on this issue, Irv.

  4. Cary Ichter says:

    Irv: I applaud your continuing efforts to educate the public on the important issue of head trauma and CTE and to stand up to any efforts to silense this important dialogue. If left to those who have a financial stake in the athletic and entertainment events that produce head trauma, we would never hear anything about the issue.

    I do, however, take issue with your opinion that I had a conflict of interest in working with the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, more commonly referred to as the Boxing Commission. While it is true that the Boxing Commission regulates professional wrestling in Georgia, the record will show that every time a pro wrestling issues came before the Commission, I would disclose work I had performed for pro wrestlers, and I would recuse myself from any decision-making or any vote related to any wrestling entity with which I had any professional involvement.

    I did express my opinions about the need to protect professional wrestlers, and I did use my position on the Boxing Commission as a platform to do so. But if your point is to suggest that such commissions should consist only of people who have no first hand connection with orknowledge of the industry, then I disagree vigorously. First hand contact with the industry should not disqualify anyone from becoming invovled in a regulatory agency. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that these agencies need to be run people unfamiliar with the subject matter of their jobs. I submit that we need to have as many people as possible familair with the industry invovled in its regulation. If there is any basis for suggesting such a person might have a conflict, that basis should be disclosed, as mine always was, and the person should step back from any decision-making in such a situation, as I always did.

    Keep up the good work. Cary Ichter

  5. Terri says:

    Great job. It is amazing how thanks to McDevitt’s hissy fits, it sounds like WWE still has it’s heads in the ground concerning concussions and such. I also could have sworn Orton’s name was on the Signature Pharmacy lists. Glad I was right.

    Terri

  6. [...] New Threats From WWE Lawyer Jerry McDevitt Yesterday I received a package from Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, attorney for World Wrestling Entertainment. Below is [...] [...]

  7. robin says:

    thank you for standing up to the so called all powerful wwe. They have been pushing the drugs on wrestlers and watching them die. How many wrestlers have o.d, on drugs? Did that lawyer ask his client if he would feel the same if it was his son who died and not criss or eddie?

  8. robin says:

    the wwe sent eddie and criss to a early grave they can rot

    • CAJ4 says:

      Eddie was actually fired in 2000 for drugs and didn’t come back until 02 and was actually clean, but his past drug use killed him.

      Benoit though screwed himself over by doing diving head butts, along with drugs.

      I’m surprised no one is going after TNA wrestling for not having a drug policy and keep having Jeff Hardy perform when he is not acting normal.

      • By wrestling standards, Eddie Guerrero was clean at the time of his death — but by no means was he clean. He was abusing steroids, and perhaps other substances as well, at the very end.

        As for TNA, yes, it is worse than WWE. The entire pro wrestling industry, of which WWE is the bellwether, needs to be investigated and cleaned up.

    • Nick Devenney says:

      How is WWE responsible for all the drugs Eddie took when he was in Japan,Mexico ECW, and WCW??? Eddie sent himself to an early grave with all the drugs he took when he was younger(God Rest His Soul)

      I do agree with you Mr. Muchnick that the Wellness Policy is a joke I mean WWE is willing to suspend the likes of Chris Masters and Chavo Guerrero for violations yet they expect us to believe that HHH is clean??? lol.

  9. dmae says:

    lol are you stupid wwe has super lawyers i hope they sue u for everything

    • S. says:

      Yeah, let’s sue him for doing what he has the right to do. Maybe I should have gathered it from your sadly poor style of writing and your use of ‘lol’, but you Sir, are an idiot.

  10. Lisa says:

    I personally think the CTE had something to do with Benoit.In the end only he and God know if it did or not. I simply dont understand why WWE is fighting the CTE possibility. They certainly got upset when the reason of steroids was thrown around. They certainly get the blame in the court of public opinion whenever the word steroids is mentioned. I certainly think they condoned and encouraged its use back in the day. I think it is very telling that Vince McMahon said in testimony that he offers drug treatment for “public relations only”. But in the end I think it is the wrestlers decision. I am not saying they have no reason to take drugs or steriods but you cannot blame wwe for a personal decision.That being said you would think that wwe would encourage the CTE theory. It takes the heat off them.If people can “blame” it on CTE it would take most of the heat off them.It could create doubt if anything goes to court.They can say he was not in his right mind which I think people would accept easier than their ridiculous claim that they are utterly clueless about steroid use, implied encouragement and health effects.If they encouraged the CTE idea, yes people could blame wwe about allowing chair shots etc but they could point out they have banned chairs to the head etc which on film is more ‘provable’ to me that they acted prudently than the drug testing that allows doubt in terms of honesty and enforcement. They could yell loudly that they acted to end part of the ‘problem’. Instead they are so busy trying to deny any and all responsiblity for anything and anyone they do not see it as a possible positive in trying to create (haha) an image innocence or reasonable doubt. I think Mr McDevitt has gotten them out of many things or tried to..In my opinion some justified and some shameful (Owen Hart). I wonder if he or Vince McMahon sees how bad he makes them look and contributes to the problem of public opinion. I know owning up would be suicide in some cases in the court of law but I think the public and the press would be less likely to bury them if they did not try to force the ridiculous idea that they are innocent and pure and white snow.

  11. Lefty says:

    WWE — a typical corporation paid for by politicians, trying to threaten anyone who disagrees with it with legal garbage.

  12. Lisa says:

    I really want to read the documents you posted but the quality makes it hard/impossible for me to read..A couple of them anyway…Is there any way you can repost it clearer? I am mostly interested in the autopsy report…I am not sure how many books have been written about the tragedy..My local library only has your book but I got it through an interlibrary loan..I think yours was by far much better than the other one..The other one seemed to have just been thrown together to get it out fast or get something published first..Yours shows research.