Late last week, the Village Voice, that once-proud flagship of the alternative media now fallen on hard times, ran an article by its editor, Tony Ortega, titled “Memo to Bruce McMahan.” The article is addressed to a wealthy hedge fund manager accused of bigamy and incest in a series of articles published in the Broward New Times, a regional supermarket giveaway ad sheet owned by Village Voice Media.
But there are some glaring problems with the Voice’s story. For starters, their source, one Elena McMahan, Mr. McMahan’s recently-divorced wife, has denied under oath that she ever spoke to the reporter who wrote the story, or to any representative of the Voice, or to any member of the media. We have many words for this kind of journalism, but the one that jumps to the top of the list is fraud.
Even the most superficial scrutiny of the Voice’s stories regarding McMahan reveal obvious flaws and glaring impossibilities, making us stand in slack-jawed wonder at how anyone – even a debt-ridden scandal sheet desperate to revive its flagging fortunes — could ever fall for such a stinky pastiche of sleazy allegations, manufactured “evidence,” improbable assertions and outright lies. Our astonishment is not diminished by the clearly dubious credibility of the story’s two chief sources, the aforementioned Elena McMahan and Mr. McMahan’s daughter Linda.
Briefly, the Voice’s stories run like this, with some commentary added where appropriate:
VV: In 1991, McMahan is contacted by Linda, who informs him that she is the fruit of a long-ago romance between Bruce and her mother, who has just informed her of her patrimony. Bruce welcomes her into the family (after a DNA test confirms his paternity), and in 2004, he gives her a job at his financial firm in Connecticut.
Cannibal: Good so far. McMahan employs or has employed a few of his children in his business and foundations. After sending Linda to the Mayo Clinic to recover from a long illness, McMahan offered her a job that paid her well for relatively light duties.
VV: Some time later, Bruce seduces her at his Pelham home under the noses of his wife and housekeeper after reading aloud to her for several hours a couple of hundred pages of financial commentary he has written over the past 30 years, and then watching the first 30 minutes of Braveheart.
Cannibal: Well, don’t look at us that way – we’re not making this up. She is.
VV: Then they go to London and get married in a lavish ceremony in Westminster Abbey. A photograph of the two of them outside the Abbey proves it.
Cannibal: Sure. This happens all the time. In fact, no one gets married in Westminster Abbey; even Charles and Di had to make do with St. Paul’s. You’d think the Voice would have checked this. “Well, maybe they snuck in….” Right. There’s no security at England’s most famous religious edifice. People sneak in there all the time with a priest and witnesses and flower girls. Seriously, Mr. Ortega, how could you swallow this preposterous proposition? If someone told us this farcical fable, our eyeballs would be bulging to the point of bursting by now. This is where we start thinking that you knew this was bullshit of the purest ray serene, but you didn’t care; you were like a junkie in a poppy field at the prospect of publishing something this sensational. Judgment, common sense and any notion of decency were trampled. And this is where we started thinking “FRAUD!” Oh – by the way – neither McMahan nor Linda were in London at the time Linda claims the “wedding” took place.
VV: As irrefutable evidence of this remarkable union, the Voice produces a photograph of two hands, one holding the other, both sporting wedding rings that McMahan purchased to signify their sacred vows.
Cannibal: At last, truth. The rings were purchased by McMahan, and that is his hand on top, wearing a classic Russian Orthodox wedding ring. But the hand he is holding, also wearing an Orthodox ring, belongs to his wife Elena, a professed devout Russian Orthodox Christian.
VV: At some point in this interval, Linda visits her husband, Sargent Schutt, in California, where he is enjoying one of his few periods of gainful employment in a “show up” job obtained for him by – Bruce McMahan. Schutt, suspicious that his wife is fooling around, discovers a sex toy in his wife’s luggage and has it tested for DNA. A “laboratory,” thus far unidentified, confirms the presence of Linda’s DNA, and of Bruce’s. Again the Voice backs this up with proof that cannot be challenged; they display a smeared image of a scrap of paper:
Cannibal: Hard to argue with that. If we’ve ever seen a smoking gun, that shred is it. Come on, boys…is this what convinced you? Where is this “test?” No one, other than Schutt and his wife, seem to have seen it. Did they misplace it? Lose it? Did their dog eat it?
Schutt’s sang froid is to be admired, however. When he discovers the evidence, does he confront his wife? (“Hey, Linda – what’s this?”) No. He goes to the local DNA lab and has it tested. Sure. More likely he beats the crap out of her, which he did once in California, when the police were summoned to protect her after he assaulted her. (There’s a record of it. She called 911.)
VV: At some still later point, Linda sees the error of her ways, and advises McMahan that she wishes to return to her husband and bear children. McMahan flies into a rage, declaring that “this is not part of the program.” When Linda insists on leaving, McMahan fires his daughter, who, despoiled, degraded and now deserted, leaps into her husband’s waiting arms. Schutt, taking advantage of his residency in the sole remaining state that allows damages for “alienation of affection,” sues McMahan in Mississippi, leading to the court papers that sparked the whole story to begin with.
Cannibal: Not exactly. Here we must unfortunately wallow in a gutter or two ourselves. McMahan fired his daughter, sadly and reluctantly, after repeated incidents of her sleeping with several senior and junior employees of his firm. And this is the crux of this whole story – that Linda McMahan turned out to be more than McMahan could handle, but not the way the Voice would have you think. Linda’s excursions were not a secret at the firm, and her dismissal was only a matter of time.
As for her return to her husband to begin breeding, the proposed progeny do not emerge, although Linda’s fecundity is not in question: she did bear one child, albeit by another man, while she was married to Schutt. Aside to Mr. Ortega: Danny boy – you sure can pick ‘em.
Okay. So far we have a clearly disturbed daughter, who, with Schutt as a willing accomplice, then lunges from lewd and outlandish behavior into blackmail. She advises McMahan that unless he forks over a very large sum of cash indeed, she will find some gullible imbecile in the media and tell this outlandish tale of incestuous bigamy.
McMahan, barely able to contain his astonishment or his incredulity, tells her to publish and be damned – he can’t believe for one second that even a complete horse’s ass would ever buy such an obvious wagonload of manure. But McMahan was unacquainted with the new Village Voice or Village Voice Media.
But before we leave Ms. McMahan, one important footnote to this whole affair: her California lawyer, who began to get nervous as fissures in Linda’s story began to widen into canyons, finally requested that Linda take a lie detector test. She did. She failed. The lawyer dropped her like a hot potato.
But let’s continue now, with Elena McMahan’s equally improbable allegations:
VV: McMahan’s wife, Elena, discovers emails on his computer between McMahan and his daughter where they refer to themselves as husband and wife, signing the emails “H” and “W” respectively.
Cannibal: The emails are obvious forgeries, most them alterations of existing but innocuous emails between McMahan and Linda, and some of them made up. Interestingly, no actual evidence of emails was ever produced – only Xeroxed copies of them. Of course, any court in the land would accept a copy of an email as ironclad evidence. Elena, of course, had access to McMahan’s computers at home, and an investigation later turned up the fact that she had met with and hired a hacker to create the forgeries. She also had his bedroom bugged. Nice.
VV: Elena also then finds the incriminating photo of the hands. She finds salacious language, and earthy language. She quickly tumbles to the game, and confronts her husband. He denies all; she demands a divorce, and then, according to Kelly Cramer, the reporter who wrote the original story, spills the beans to the Broward New Times, a free “newspaper” owned by Village Voice Media.
Cannibal: Oops. That’s Elena in a deposition under oath, by the way.
Now this must be getting pretty embarrassing for Mr. Ortega. Either his reporter down Miami way made this whole thing up with young Linda, or Mrs. McMahan is a perjurer. We can’t say one way or another, but we do know that she’s a thief.
What’s that? A thief?
Well, yes, among other things. Why did Bruce McMahan divorce his wife Elena?
Because, among other things – like bugging his bedroom, hacking his computer, and fleecing him royally in various and sundry ways, he discovered that she had conspired with her mother to rob him of several hundred thousand dollars. Huh?
McMahan, who had been very supportive of his wife’s religious activities (he donated $200,000 to the Russian Orthodox parish in Garfield, New Jersey at her request), and has a long history of substantial philanthropic activity, sent a total of $360,000 to Elena’s mother in the Ukraine intended to rebuild a church in their family village. Neither Elena nor her mom could imagine that McMahan would ever actually go there – but, at a certain point, McMahan decided to see how the rebuilding was coming along – and went to the village, where he discovered a puzzled priest who was completely ignorant of any such effort. Words ensued, as you may imagine. Lawyers. Divorce.
But as a condition of the divorce, Elena demanded in writing the sum of $50,000,000. That’s right. Fifty million – or she would “ruin him” by going to the press with this sordid construction of bigamy and incest. McMahan refused. Many lawsuits followed, and all were finally settled, with the agreement that both Elena and Linda would agree to refrain from slandering McMahan. So who talked to the New Times? Clearly someone did.
Kelly Cramer, the reporter who wrote the New Times story, cites Elena. She claims to have met with Elena several times, including a meeting at McMahan’s Pelham, NY home, and certainly has a wealth of detail to lend credibility to her claim. But if Elena did indeed meet with Cramer, she then lied under oath. Either way, it doesn’t look too good. If Cramer’s source is a perjurer, what value shall we assign her credibility? And Linda? Do we need to make further disclosure – and we could – to dismiss any possible doubts as to her probity?
To sum it up:
The Broward New Times, and later, the Village Voice, publish articles alleging the most scurrilous and disgusting behavior imaginable, based on the testimony of two demonstrated extortionists and three pieces of evidence:
– Some Xeroxed emails – forged or altered.
– A photograph of a pair of hands.
– A DNA test no one ever saw.
Gee – when you put it that way, it sounds a little – well – flimsy, doesn’t it?
Why did the Voice elect to wallow in this astounding depravity? Cui bono? Could it be they’re working the same angle is the same as Linda and Elena? Could they have done this just for the money? Here we once again defer to Mrs. McMahan:
And that’s the topic of our next post:
Who are these people at Village Voice Media?
Why is Mr. Ortega so upset that he has been subpoenaed as a witness in Elena’s perjury trial?
Why is he dodging every effort to compel him to disclose in court the actual events and details surrounding the publication of these stories?
The Daily Cannibal thinks it needs to take a closer look at the thuggish cowards who destroyed the Village Voice.
Oh, yes –McMahan will have his day in court; hence Ortega’s recent embarrassingly sophomoric exfluence of venom and vitriol in his direction. Mr. Ortega in particular is highly exercised that McMahan would have the effrontery to defend himself, and complains bitterly in the opening of his article:
Listen, I know you have a lot of money. Like, piles of cash that you don’t know what to do with.
But surely, there’s got to be a better way to throw your money away than to keep trying to haul me into court.
I suppose you might be thinking, now that you’ve managed to have your attorneys wipe your Wikipedia page of the disturbing record of your sexual behavior, that your story has faded into the background and you can plague me with this deposition nonsense without consequences.
Think again, Braveheart Boy.”
That’s some snappy prose style, isn’t it? “Braveheart boy?” Ouch. But note that Mr. Ortega states openly that he will use his publication as a tool to protect himself from the lawful inquiries of the injured. That will work with those who have no recourse, and Mr. Ortega is used to getting his way. But Mr. McMahan – well, as the young people say, he has skills. And yes, he has money. Mr. Ortega’s fear is tangible; we confess we get some pleasure from watching him unwittingly squirm in public.
But for now, we’ll wish Mr. McMahan the best of luck in getting his pound of flesh from these gangsters, because we’re definitely getting ours. And into the stewpot it goes.