“I don’t know how it all got started – I don’t know what they do with their lives.” Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up In Blue.”
From 2007 through just a few weeks ago, the Village Voice has run a series of articles blaring in outraged tones that one Bruce McMahan, a highly-successful hedge fund manager, had married his own daughter and carried on an incestuous relationship with her for years right under the nose of his wife Elena. Wonderful copy, that. The only things missing are white slavery and ritual murder – and any hint of truth.
And what a cast of characters:
Elena McMahan, Ukranian émigré who married McMahan in 2002, and bore two children by him. Mrs. McMahan’s devotion to these children is documented in a deposition where she states “Those kids are the most important thing in the world to me.”
Linda McMahan Schutt, McMahan’s long-lost daughter, who appeared out of nowhere to advise McMahan that she was his child. He immediately welcomed her into the family, gave her free run of his household, gave her a job with his company, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on medical treatment for her.
Sargent Schutt, Linda’s husband, a curious mystery who never held a job until McMahan got him one. He couldn’t keep it.
David Bruce McMahan – as noted, a wealthy financier who ran a multi-billion dollar family of hedge funds and one of the nation’s largest broker/dealers in convertible bonds – who on one day was a Wall Street legend, a respected philanthropist, and beloved father, and woke up the next to find himself vilified in the most abhorrent and loathsome terms by a semi-newspaper run by a proven mountebank yearning to break free of his richly-deserved oblivion. This would be:
Tony Ortega, now editor of the Village Voice, that fast-disappearing former icon of the American alternative press, which just fired its leading byline to save a few dollars. Ortega is the sixth in a line of editors appointed by the paper’s owners since they acquired it six years ago, and possibly the only one who is responsible for at least one suicide. Ortega’s lack of any journalistic skill or talent is exceeded only by his dearth of scruples; even the McMahan story did not originate with him, but was originally written by one of his reporters at the Broward New Times, a Voice property which he edited prior to his appointment at the Voice.
Briefly, the Voice’s series of stories alleges that:
- McMahan seduced his daughter in his Westchester home one evening by reading several hundred pages of financial commentary to her followed by a screening of that popular romantic classic “Braveheart.”
- McMahan later married this same daughter in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London. It was not disclosed whether the Archbishop of Canterbury was the celebrant.
- Elena McMahan “discovered” this by finding emails and photographs on McMahan’s personal computer at the same home.
- Sargent Schutt provided conclusive proof of this affair when he found a rabbit-shaped sex toy in his wife’s luggage when she returned from a visit to McMahan’s Florida home, and submitted it for DNA testing, which showed that the item bore Linda’s DNA and McMahan’s semen.
But our argument rests with the absurdity of the story, the flimsiness of the “evidence,” the lack of any real smoking gun despite the opportunities McMahan’s assailants have had to obtain at least one firm proof, and finally, the demonstrated dishonesty of the two key witnesses for the persecution — Linda McMahan Schutt and Elena McMahan.
If only we could put on hands on something that could evidence the real motive behind Elena’s actions, and prove that she was complicit in a scheme to extort as much money as she possibly could from the husband she had already robbed.
Oops. We could. And we”re going to show it to you.
First of all, let’s look at the evidence that the New Times and the Voice claim supports their stories. Other than the testimony or statements given by Elena and Linda, only three material items are offered as evidence:
1. Copies of emails from Bruce and Linda to each other.
2. Photos of Bruce and Linda outside a building, purporting to be Westminster Abbey, and a photo of two clasped hands wearing what appear to be wedding rings.
3. A DNA test of a “rabbit-shaped vibrator” that states DNA samples found on the vibrator match Linda’s, and that a second DNA sample has a 99%+ probability of coming from her “biological father.”
We find it surpassing strange that, given the length of time these events covered – several years, at the very least – and the access Elena and Linda had to him, his homes, and his computers — there isn’t – well – more. Especially considering this section from Elena’s deposition:
Q: You had access to his computer?
A: He let me do that. Why not?
Q: How did he give you permission?
A: He just gave me permission to do my stuff, to do shopping, to answer my – to go on AOL, just use the computer.
Q: Was his computer password-protected?
Q: These rings that you saw in these photographs, did they say wedding rings on them?
A: No, that fact I read on an email.
Q: How did you have access to his email?
A: He gave me his password.
Q: What was his password?
Q: This was the password for what?
A: I believe for his emails.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Elena McMahan could log onto Bruce McMahan’s email account and write whatever she wanted and send it to whomever she wanted. She could read all his emails. But one of the Voice’s key pieces of evidence are emails between Bruce and Linda.
Who wrote them?
Now onto the wedding at Westminster Abbey, and the photographs pertaining thereto. We will not try to dispute the location, nor the idea that the photos show two happy people. But it’s a long reach to claim a photo of a father and daughter smiling at the camera is proof that they had just emerged from a wedding ceremony, and at Westminster Abbey, at that.
But – what about the picture of the rings?
Well, the picture is in fact genuine, As we noted in a previous article, the rings are traditional Russian Orthodox wedding rings, and this photo is actually a picture of Bruce’s hand above Elena’s. Enough about the rings.
Frankly, this Westminster Abbey poppycock is so far removed in so many ways from the possible that we salute its inventors; our own imagination, which we had thought to be considerable, is impoverished by the grandeur of this concoction.
Okay – emails, forged. Wedding? Get real. But what about the DNA test?
Now this was a poser. Ortega’s initial Voice article “Memo to Bruce McMahan, Daughter-Seducer,” did not provide a copy of the test, but merely a photo of a line of type. Sometime in the last two months, however, possibly because someone heard the beat-beat-beat of cannibal tom-toms, a photocopy of the test was added as a link to the online version.
We contacted the lab, which, unsurprisingly, declined to comment in any way on the test, citing confidentiality. But there is something very, very interesting – other than the buzzing bunny detail, whose outlandishness complements the Westminster Abbey concept — about this story.
According to the Voice, Sargent Schutt discovered the vibrating rabbit in his wife’s luggage when she returned from a trip to Florida to their home in Mississippi. This interests us for two reasons:
Linda did not go to Mississippi from Florida in 2005. In fact, her last trip to Fisher Island ended in September 2005, when she was served with a termination notice on September 7, 2005 by an employee of McMahan’s firm. After staying in a Miami Beach hotel for three days after her ouster from the company apartment on Fisher Island in Miami, she departed for the home she shared with Schutt in San Diego – via Las Vegas – on September 11th, 2005.
Why was Linda terminated?
It was no secret to anyone at McMahan’s firm – or to many residents of Fisher Island, that Linda was somewhat aggressive in her sexual conduct. In fact, one of her stepsisters described an encounter with Linda that even we will not expand upon – let it suffice to say that it seemed to us excessive even by the standards of Caligula. After a number of warnings from the Human Resources department of McMahan’s company regarding her inappropriate behavior with senior employees of the firm, McMahan spoke with his daughter on several occasions, and finally, with no realistic promise of any improvement of her increasingly awkward behavior, he reluctantly agreed she had to go, and so advised her.
Even so, she then attempted to avoid any formal notice of termination, barricading herself in the corporate apartment on Fisher Island, where security guards were called to allow entry by a McMahan corporate officer. (At this time, she called 911 and told police she was being assaulted by armed burglars.)
And the second reason?
The DNA test is dated April 21, 2006. That’s seven months after she left Florida.
This seems like a long time for Linda to unpack. Did her suitcase sit in a corner of the bedroom from September until April of the next year? Why the long delay between her return – when Schutt allegedly found the vibrator – until the test?
And how did Bruce McMahan’s semen wind up on this embarrassing animal automaton?
One simple fact makes all this clear.
Between these two dates, Elena McMahan reached a divorce settlement with Bruce McMahan, even as multiple lawsuits were flying between Bruce McMahan and the Schutts. The divorce ended a long period of fencing between the two over Elena’s eventual settlement, and was prompted by Elena’s theft of over $300,000 from McMahan.
And that’s what all this was about all the time. All three — Elena, Linda and Sarge — wanted millions from McMahan, and, with both Linda and Elena now estranged from McMahan, they chose the only course left. From Elena’s deposition:
Q: On or about January 3, 2005, you handed Dr. McMahan a list of items that you yourself referred to as requests to amicably dissolve your marriage? Do you recall doing this?
A: No, I do not recall.
Q: I’m going to show the witness what’s been marked as Exhibit 2. Mrs. McMahan, does that refresh your recollection…?
A: It was never handed by me.
And what a document it is. It is easy to see why Mrs. McMahan spends the next two pages of testimony squirming, and doing everything in her power to disassociate herself from it. But ultimately she admits that her lawyer delivered this letter to McMahan.
Among Elena’s demands:
- Full possession of McMahan’s estate in Westminster, New York, and his condominium in Fisher Island, Florida, as well as full payment of all future expenses attached to these properties.
- $1,000,000 a year for “educational expenses” for the two children, to be placed in a fund under her control.
- $7,000,000 in cash, to be invested and with investment profits guaranteed by McMahan.
- An additional $1,200,000 a year in annual payments directly to Elena.
- And she didn’t forget Mom — $50,000 a month to be paid to her mother.
- Full control of McMahan’s hedge fund business.
Conservatively, this amounts to a lump sum of about $100 million, depending on the length of time McMahan made the annual payments of $2.6 million in cash — and that’s without putting any value on the “control” of McMahan’s fund, which could pay her any amount she designated.
But a simple list of demands doesn’t comprise extortion. That Mrs. McMahan saves for the end:
“The evidence I have against you demonstrating adultery and incest are kept strictly confidential in several safe places with my note explaining the whole story. Once again, if you try to eliminate me, the whole world will know of your behavior….”
The threat is couched in terms of Elena’s repeated assertion that she feared for her life — that McMahan was likely to kill her to “keep her quiet.” How does this make any sense? Eliminating Elena does not get rid of Linda, or Schutt, whom Elena knows have their own copies of all this.
But Elena’s meaning is clear:
“Pay me or I’ll go public with this insane nonsense about you and Linda. And if you don’t pay, then I am going to make your life a torment out of Dostoevsky, and our children will be disgraced for the rest of their lives.”
This is the woman whose children mean everything to her.
You see, Elena knew that just the accusations would damage McMahan so severely that he would have no choice but to capitulate. But she was wrong. He told her to go to hell, as he did the Schutts. As noted, he did eventually settle with all of them — for peanuts — if they agreed to refrain from any further slanders. But, as we know, they could not even be trusted to do this. Someone talked to the press.
But the only publication that would give them any credence was — Tony Ortega’s Broward New Times, and later, his Village Voice. Ortega wanted this story so badly that he was blind to its obvious gaps, inconsistencies and hilarious improbability. Unwittingly, he made himself and the Voice unwitting accomplices in the plot to smear McMahan.
Okay, still, what about the DNA test?
How did McMahan’s semen get onto a vibrator that wound up in Sargent Schutt’s possession after Elena McMahan finally reached a property settlement with Bruce McMahan? Gee, that’s a stretch.
First of all, Elena admits that she was in contact with Schutt during this period — after Linda’s termination and prior to her settlement. Why? And when did B’rer Rabbit rabbit arrive at the Schutt household? Not in December 2005, which is the last time Bruce McMahan saw Linda McMahan, but well after that. Unless we are to believe that Schutt found the bunny in December 2005 and suddenly, in April 2006, sat up bolt upright in bed said “”Wait a minute.”
No. We now know where the dildo came from, or at least the fluid on it. And why it suddenly appeared — after an alleged seven-month hibernation — in a DNA lab after Elena McMahan reached a final settlement with her husband.
We think by now we have pretty much settled all this.
Emails? Elena McMahan had free and unfettered access to Bruce McMahan’s computers, including his password for his email account. Figure it out.
Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey?
The DNA test? If the test was indeed ever conducted, which is still in some doubt given the uniform character of falsehood that surrounds every detail of this affair, it is easily dismissed. We contacted a technician at a lab that performs such tests, who acknowledged that it would be relatively easy to construct this kind of evidence, particularly if McMahan had no suspicions.
And finally, the credibility of the accusers:
Sargent Schutt. We’re not even going there.
Elena McMahan. After an article (“Daddy’s Dog”) ran in the Palm Beach New Times, a Village Voice property, quoting her at length, featuring pictures of her and detailed descriptions of her home and automobile, she still denied under oath that she ever spoke to the New Times, or any other reporter or news journal, insisting that the photographs were “fakes” and that the New Times invented the whole thing because “they will do whatever it takes to get whatever they want and to make money.”
Linda McMahan. Her own lawyer, when, after he began to have grave reservations about her story, dropped her like a cold sore when Linda failed a lie detector test she took at his request. As to her morals, we have already touched on – if not groped obscenely – this topic long enough to induce a degree of nausea unexperienced by anyone save cholera victims but we will note in closing the subject that, while suing McMahan and still married to Schutt, she became pregnant by another man, which promises us another child that will bear a cross not of its own construction. Poor Bruce McMahan. No man save Lear had more to regret from a daughter.
And finally, Tony Ortega. Ortega had been caught twice publishing fictitious stories under fictitious names, in one bizarre incidence even writing his own retraction, and most recently, printing another fraud in the Village Voice. We note that the original reporter, Kelly Cramer, has vanished from the pages of the Village Voice or its sisters, and was last known to be the editor of a south Florida blog that publishes regional tide tables. Was she ultimately disgusted with this fable, and Ortega’s repeated reprints of it, as he sought to revive his flagging readership?
Ortega has whined in print about McMahan subpoenas – which he has repeatedly ducked — to compel him to testify regarding this topic, asserting that he is the victim of a grave injustice. This puzzles us; we cannot see how Ortega can serially spew unsupported slanders at McMahan, but McMahan is somehow villainous should he attempt to raise any voice in protest.
If McMahan hopes for any financial award from the courts, however, he may ultimately be frustrated. As the Voice continues to bleed cash and staff, and faces the prospect of finally paying up in a $20 million lawsuit for price-fixing, it is questionable whether McMahan can get a judgment before the Voice is shut down. But we doubt at this point that he has a pecuniary motive; we suspect that he is out for the same thing that interests the Cannibal: blood.
Still, the story ends on a positive note. Elena never got the big payoff she sold her soul for. The Schutts, in spite of numerous suits, had to settle for a farthing of what they had hoped. McMahan, with a business and its employees to consider, did what any good businessman would do, and paid them to go away, but didn’t pay them much. Ortega’s Village Voice is nearing the nadir of its death spiral, shedding key personnel and facing imminent bankruptcy.
And McMahan? Well, his fund business is thriving, and he’s happily married (again!) with a beautiful baby boy to dote on.
As an end note: from the original articles by Kelly Cramer in the Broward New Times:
“[McMahan's eldest daughter] Alison says she never trusted Linda.
” ‘All I can tell you is that nothing Linda will tell you can be believed,” she tells New Times in an e-mail. ‘She is an unreal person who does not even know herself.’ “
“[Ex-wife] Melinda, no fan of McMahan after their nasty divorce in 1984, can’t quite believe the man slept with his own daughter:
” ‘How much of this is reality, I don’t know….There is a far greater chance that this is in her head…. From what I have observed, money appears to be the motivator.’ “