The article below is republished from the September 7 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which is online, behind a subscription paywall, at http://www.f4wonline.com/component/content/article/44362-september-7-2015-wrestling-observer-newsletter-snuka-indicted-shooting-at-wwe-performance-center-and-tons-more.
Snuka Murder Indictment Asks Some of the Right Questions — Also Begs a Few Big Ones
by Irvin Muchnick
The indictment of Jimmy Snuka in the Nancy Argentino death finally — as in after 32 years, finally– brings the criminal justice system of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, into some alignment with reality.
Whether Snuka is guilty of third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter is for a trial to determine. But no one in charge of law enforcement should ever have been making the preposterous argument that there wasn’t a triable case here. Now, to the relief of everyone not stubbornly planted in an alternate universe, no one is.
Though the case against Snuka was circumstantial, the defendant incriminated himself by heaping lies about this mysterious incident atop a disturbing and substantial record of violence against women. Nancy’s injuries were anything but incidental and accidental. And there was no semblance of a third-party assailant or a claim of one — only Jimmy and her in Room 427 of the Whitehall’s George Washington Motor Lodge prior to May 1983 syndicated TV tapings in Allentown for the then-WWF.
One of the byproducts of three-plus decades of justice denied is that we wind up with a grotesque spectacle at the back end: in this instance, deciding the fate of a 72-year man with cancer who banks on sympathy wherever he can find it, as well as on the selective memories of those easily mesmerized by celebrity, wealth, and power. I could find myself persuaded by either side of the argument as to whether a prison term for such a broken figure, with such a broken legacy, meaningfully meets the definition of Justice with a capital J.
As a journalist, I am content to declare victory with the process that was the county’s Seventh Investigating Grand Jury. District Attorney James Martin tackled the Snuka-Argentino scenario — pro wrestling’s answer to Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick Bridge — way too late, but at least he got it right.
Where I would like to turn the public’s attention next is to remaining questions that the grand jury artfully dodged: What is the accountability of local public officials, including some of the very ones participating in Tuesday’s press conference to explain the presentment of the charges?
DA Martin’s predecessor in 1983, William Platt, is now a senior judge. Snuka’s autobiography goes to the trouble of highlighting that Vince McMahon carried a briefcase into a climactic meeting with Platt and others. They decided not to prosecute. Yet they never officially closed the case, either — which meant that the records of their “open police investigation” could remain sealed from the prying eyes of, first, me in 1992 and, then, the Allentown Morning Call’s Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman on the 30th anniversary in 2013.
An even more malodorous specimen of the smell test is Gerald Procanyn, who is still working as an investigator in the DA’s office.
In 1983 he was a Whitehall police detective. In 1992, as chief of detectives, he told me one untruth after another in Snuka’s favor. The core lie — demolished by my reporting and later the Morning Call’s, and ultimately exposed in devastating detail in the indictment attachments — was that Snuka was consistent in maintaining that Nancy had slipped, fallen, and hit her head during an impromptu roadside urination. Procanyn’s serial lies, which in turn covered those of his eternal “person of interest,” were as gratuitous as they were outrageous.
But the 2015 prosecution proceeds by pretending that only the defendant’s lies happened.
From wrestling fans, the most frequently asked questions of me are “Did McMahon actively cover this up?” and “Will evidence along these lines be introduced? The continued presence of Procanyn as a face for the prosecution suggests that the answer to the latter is “No.”
On June 16, 2008, in the course of a long email complaining about my reporting on the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt wrote, “[Y]our insinuation that Mr. McMahon in some unspecified way kept the authorities from charging Jimmy Snuka for murder in 1983 is an odious lie.”
What I wrote was that McMahon sped back to Allentown and, in the observation of an investigator at the time (whom I named, by the way), served as Snuka’s “mouthpiece” during the wrestler’s interrogation — while Snuka, essentially, worked his naive jungle-boy gimmick.
I also quoted Richard Cushing, the Argentino family’s first attorney, saying this: “The D.A. seemed like a nice enough person who wanted to do nothing. There was fear, I think, on two counts: fear of the amount of money the World Wrestling Federation had, and fear of the size of these people.”
The 2013 ebook, JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Hotel Room, annotates our original article and benefits a women’s shelter in Nancy’s memory. You can order the ebook for $2.99 on Amazon Kindle (http://amzn.com/B00CPTP6VM) or a PDF copy by email (send $2.99 via PayPal to [email protected]). One hundred percent of the proceeds are donated by the Argentino family, in Nancy’s memory, to the women’s shelter in development at the Salerno, Italy, church Centro Evangelical dei Fratelli.