WARNING: The following story contains descriptions of sexual assault.
New York Magazine has a major story covering allegations against Vince McMahon by former company referee Rita Chatterton with another ex-wrestler speaking on the record.
The reporting for New York Magazine was conducted by author Abraham Reisman, who has written the upcoming Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America which is set to be released next March.
Chatterton, who was born Rita Filicoski, got involved in professional wrestling after her brother Christopher died in a car accident in May 1979 – he had dreams of pursuing a career, which motivated Chatterton to attempt them herself.
Chatterton trained under Tony Altomare, a former WWWF tag champion with Captain Lou Albano, and who worked for both Vince McMahon Sr. & Jr.
Chatterton gave up hopes of becoming a pro wrestler after a collapsed lung and pursued her interest in becoming a referee. She began working matches in 1984 for the World Wrestling Federation under the name ‘Rita Marie’.
Chatterton told the publication that after working several shows, she was contacted by Vince McMahon to work at Madison Square Garden in early 1985 and allegedly made promises of paying Chatterton $500,000 per year and plenty of media exposure while warning the then 28-year-old not to get involved with any of the wrestlers. Chatterton would leave her existing job at Frito Lay, one she states offered a 401 (k) plan, for her potential earnings with the expanding World Wrestling Federation.
The center of the allegations by Chatterton comes in July 1986 when Chatterton worked an event at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York (there was a show there on July 15, 1986), although Chatterton states she doesn’t remember the specific date of the alleged actions but has used July 15th in the past.
Chatterton went to a diner to speak about her career with McMahon, who opted to speak privately with Chatterton and were on their way to a different establishment inside McMahon’s limousine. The driver, Jim Stuart, is believed to have left the vehicle when the alleged incident occurred.
In the New York Magazine article, Chatterton declined to describe the specifics with the publication relying on her retelling of the event from a pair of 1992 interviews she conducted on Now It Can Be Told and the Geraldo Rivera Show. In the 1992 recounting, Chatterton said McMahon unzipped his pants and told Chatterton that she needed to satisfy him for her half-a-million-dollar contract. She went on to describe McMahon forcing her to touch him and bruising her wrist in the process. Chatterton said in 1992 that she was forced to perform oral sex on McMahon which ended with him getting upset, ripping off her jeans, and pulling Chatterton on top of him, she says he threatened to blackball her and mentioned her contract again. Chatterton said it ended with McMahon bringing up his previous warning about getting involved with any of the wrestlers, stating, ‘Well, you just did.’
Chatterton taped the interview, for Now It Can Be Told that aired in syndication on April 6, 1992. The interview was conducted by Geraldo’s brother, Craig, who worked as a reporter for the show.
Chatterton states she left and cried in the ladies’ room of the diner and went home where she took a five-hour shower. She says she contacted a lawyer the following day but was warned it would be her word against his since she went home and had a long shower and didn’t go to the hospital.
The New York Magazine feature that came out Monday features comments from former wrestler Leonard Inzitari, who wrestled as enhancement talent Mario Mancini (and wrestled against Don Muraco on the July 15th show in Poughkeepsie). In the piece, Inzitari recalls Chatterton coming to him and discussing the alleged incident with McMahon inside of the limo in July 1986.
From the New York Magazine feature:
Inzitari doesn’t use the word rape while talking about what happened. But he describes something that sounds like the conventional definition of that term.
“Was she taken advantage of? Absolutely,” Inzitari says. “Was she scared to death? Absolutely. Did she wanna do that? Probably not.”
Inzitari said nothing to anyone about what Chatterton told him. “You just keep your mouth shut, because it’s Vince McMahon,” Inzitari says. “What are you gonna do, stooge on Vince McMahon? You’re gonna be blackballed from the wrestling business!”
Chatterton came forward with the claims in 1992 during the time of the ring boy scandal, stating she waited to speak about the allegations because she didn’t want to put her ailing parents through that. Her mother died in 1991 and her father passed in 1992 and she came forward a month after her father’s death.
A lawsuit was filed by Vince & Linda McMahon against Chatterton, Geraldo Rivera, producer Brooke Skulski, two production partners, and former wrestler David Shults for civil conspiracy where the McMahon believed that the defendants “performed numerous tortious acts with the intent of inflicting severe emotional distress upon Plaintiffs, including the fabrication of a false accusation of rape against Plaintiff Vincent McMahon which was aired on the nation’s airwaves.” The McMahons defended why they stopped using Chatterton due to performance-related issues and alleged that Shults contacted Chatterton to fabricate a story that McMahon raped her and Chatterton conspired with Shults with the two making a recording. The suit also claimed that Chatterton’s representatives demanded $5 million and in turn, would waive her right to speak out on the allegations.
The McMahons were seeking $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages along with their legal fees being reimbursed.
The lawsuit didn’t go anywhere and didn’t have a resolution as McMahon was embroiled in his steroid distribution case that went to trial in the summer of 1994. McDevitt gave the following statement in 2010 to the Talking Points Memo outlet:
We had to marshal our resources to defend the company’s reputation in the criminal case … we had no choice but to abandon the case in order to defend ourselves.
Talking Points Memo attempted to cover the Chatterton story during Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign and received a stern warning from lawyer Jerry McDevitt, counsel for the McMahons:
When you asked me that question yesterday, I told you I would not answer a hypothetical question.
I have thought about your question overnight. We did quite a bit of discovery in that case and would have loved to have tried that case but could not for the reasons I explained. But make no mistake-if those false allegations are repeated now and again, Mr. McMahon will pursue all available remedies against those associated with this smear job.
Talking Points Memo informed McDevitt in 2010 that they would be detailing the lawsuit for their story and were told by McDevitt:
You do so at your peril. Preserve all your notes, I’m going to send a litigation hold notice. We will treat any republication of those allegations as libel and defamation. … I say this on behalf of Mr. McMahon.
McDevitt also told Talking Points Memo at the time that the accusations made by Chatterton against McMahon were “false and defamatory”.
The New York Magazine article ended with the following statement from Chatterton that relates to the recent allegations that McMahon made a quiet settlement with a former WWE paralegal and that other NDAs exists involving claims of misconduct against McMahon and John Laurinaitis:
He’s not gonna pay for what he did to me. Now this girl’s come forward and I’m sure others will come forward. Because we’re not the only two. There’s not a doubt in my mind about that.
New York Magazine reached out to WWE and Jerry McDevitt prior to the release of Monday’s story and did not receive a response.