JULY 22, 1994:
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.
>>> NOT GUILTY <<<
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.
A few minutes past 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, Vince McMahon met with the press and reacted to the verdict just minutes after it was read. The following is a transcript of media questions and his answers…
McMahon’s opening statement
Vince: I would just like to say (on behalf) of my whole family we are delighted with the outcome. I must say coming into this, having been investigated for over two-and-a-half years, it has been quite an ordeal. Certainly there is no one in America who is above being investigated for any reason. I felt that from time to time the investigation was a bit unfair. I thought the charges that were hurled against me and my company were wrong.
And I must say that coming into this I didn’t have a great deal of faith in the judicial system as such nor necessarily in the way and manner in which someone is prosecuted. The one thing I’ve always had is faith in humanity and today that was reaffirmed.
Q: Do you want to respond to the label “corporate drug pusher”?
Vince: I think the jury responded very nicely to all of the insults, notwithstanding the charges, hurled by Mr. O’Shea. I must say that I not only felt in great hands in terms of humanity deciding my fate, a jury of my peers, but also no one has ever been any better represented than I was and my company was in this case with Jerry McDevitt and Laura Brevetti. Many of you would assume the greatest legal talent as we speak is out on the other coast. That is not the case, folks, it’s right here. And I’m very appreciative for everyone who helped us through this entire ordeal.
Most importantly, other than the jury and the legal staff, I’m very appreciative for all of the many fans not just here in the United States but all over the world, who had faith in the WWF and everything we believe in – bringing quality entertainment to everyone we possibly can. That’s what we’re all about. We’re about fun. We’re not about this (points to courthouse). We’re not about courtrooms and things of that nature. We’re about fun. That’s what we sell is fun and that’s exactly what we’re gonna do right after we leave this press conference is go back to work and start delivering more fun to everybody.
Q: Many kids have gotten a bad impression of the wrestling league, wrestlers, muscles, because of the steroids and everything that came out in this trial. What’s your message to them after the trial?
Vince: I’ll disagree with that statement. I think that more than anything else the WWF was again found innocent of these scurrilous charges that were hurled against us. Just as I said at a previous press conference – and I don’t see any of the same faces from the last one I had back in 1991 – at that press conference I stated from that day forward we were going to institute the greatest drug testing in any sport or any entertainment as it relates to steroids and drug abuse. And we did it.
Q: And you continue to do it?
Vince: We continue to do it. I would invite you to compare and contrast any drug abuse program compared to the WWF. Please, I’ll charge you, just as I charged people at that press conference back in 1991, compare us to the NFL even though we’re not a sport as such. Compare us to anything Hollywood has in terms of drug abuse or steroids. Compare us and contrast us. Continue to follow this story! 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. The only way they’re gonna know that, guys, is through you, the media.
Q: Why were you singled out?
Vince: I don’t have (that answer). That’s a question I have asked myself many, many times as to why the WWF or Vince McMahon was singled out. I really don’t have that answer. I guess maybe that answer only lies with the prosecution and I’m sure they’d be happy to deliver a statement.
Q: With the close attention you normally pay to your work, every aspect of it, has it been difficult to sit here not only these weeks, but all of the preceding months?
Vince: I don’t know of any corporation in America that can withstand the kind of scrutiny we have undergone for the last two-and-a-half years and the kind of disruptions in normal business day-to-day activities, the kind of disruption in my family. This has turned everything inside out. But in spite of it all, we’re here very happily to stand here before you innocent of all charges.
Q: How are you going to celebrate tonight?
Vince: I’m not sure about that but I may celebrate by going back to work.
Q: The acquittal notwithstanding can you tell us what the investigation and the trial has done to your company as a business?
Vince: As far as the effects of the company, I think if there were any doubts as to what the WWF was and is all about, I think this just cleared up all of them. As far as I’m concerned I see nothing but blue skies ahead for the WWF.
Q: Some of the people who write the wrestling newsletters say the sport isn’t nearly as popular as it was before the investigation. Is that right?
Vince: I think in every form of sport, in every form of entertainment – some years Hollywood has great years, other years not so good. It’s a talent-driven commodity and everything has to be going in a synergy fashion to really work for you. And it will be there – we always will be there in the future – and will be just as popular as it was before.
Q: Do you think the World Wrestling Federation can go on just as it always has?
Vince: I would suggest the World Wrestling Federation is going (to go) a lot better than ever. Again, I don’t know of any corporation – I don’t know of any major motion picture studio out in Hollywood, I don’t know of any sport here in America or anywhere else that can go through what we went through, as intense of an investigation as we went through, and to come before a jury of your peers – to me it reaffirms again my belief in my fellow man.
Q: As you look back now, any mistakes that you (realize you made)?
Vince: I think there’s no question we made some mistakes along the way. I don’t know of any corporation, I don’t know of any individuals – you guys with cameras and those without – that haven’t made mistakes from time to time. The important thing about making mistakes is to get it together and make sure you don’t make those same mistakes again and be better off as a result of it. That’s what I’d say about mistakes.
Q: What would you tell children about steroids?
Vince: I would say personally as Laura was saying, if you truly believe that you are right about something and you understand the consequences, stand up, stand up for your rights. That’s exactly what we did. We stood up for our rights. We knew the government was incorrect. We stood up for our rights and as a result of that we were found innocent of all charges. The other aspect of steroids or any other illegal drugs, as far as kids are concerned, JUST DON’T DO IT, period.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about Hulk Hogan’s testimony blowing up in the prosecution’s face. Do you want to give us your assessment on his testimony?
Vince: No, I don’t think I’d care to comment about Hulk Hogan’s testimony. I think it spoke for itself. We all live with our own demons, I suppose, and his are (pause) whatever they are.
Q: (How did you and your family get through this)?
Vince: The same way we’ve gotten through everything. We just stayed together. I’m the most fortunate, luckiest man in the world to have a family like I have. I don’t want to talk about that too much or I’ll break up. Nonetheless, guys thank you very, very much for being out during what is obviously another hot summer day. I want to thank all the fans that stayed with the WWF, certainly my legal staff, especially the jury, and you guys in the media as well. You’ve been very respectful and we greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much.