Vince McMahon & WWE Officially Under DOJ Investigation; Rape & Sex Trafficking Case Paused, For Now

UPDATED with McMahon lawyer statement: The horrific rape and sex trafficking allegations against former WWE boss Vince McMahon won’t have their day in court yet, thanks to the Department of Justice.

In a sealed filing today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York presented material to the federal court of a probe they have opened into the disgraced McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment and the WWE’s ex-head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis.

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This has now put a stay on the explosive case from former WWE staffer Janel Grant on the years of assault and abuse she was allegedly subject to by McMahon and others at the organization. That pause could last several months, I hear. A separate filing Thursday from U.S. Attorney Damien Williams’ office made it pretty clear the government is not just dipping its toe in these potentially toxic waters.

“In addition to counsel already of record, please enter my appearance as counsel for the United States of America, Sarah Mortazavi, Assistant United States Attorney,” Williams wrote today to Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in a document also placed in the docket.

The U.S. Attorney’s office of the Empire State’s Southern District declined to comment or offer guidance when contacted by Deadline today. If and when that changes, this post will be updated.

However, five months after Jamel Grant filed her terrifying allegations against McMahon, WWE and others, her attorney confirms the DOJ’s long anticipated move is significant – significant enough to stop the initial case in its tracks for the time being

“Ms. Grant has consented to a request by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to stay her case against Mr. McMahon, WWE and Mr. Laurinaitis, pursuant to a pending non-public investigation,” said Grant’s lawyer Ann Callis in a statement to Deadline. We will cooperate with all appropriate next steps.”

McMahon’s lawyer sidestepped the footprint in the case by the DOJ.

“We remain confident the evidence will prove Ms. Grant’s allegations are false and her complaint is nothing more than a fabricated, vindictive narrative from a disgruntled former girlfriend,” asserted Jessica Rosenberg, a partner of Kasowitz, Benson Torres.

Filed on January 25 and almost immediately attacked by McMahon’s team, Grant’s graphic lawsuit says she was violently raped repeatedly and abused in other ways by McMahon from 2019 to 2022. Additionally, Grant claims says she was trafficked across state lines to other WWE executives and even to an unnamed “WWE Superstar” for sexual purposes.

Grant and McMahon agreed to a $3 million payout in 2022 to keep her allegations about McMahon from becoming public. That included an NDA. The plaintiff held up her end of the deal, Grant’s suits says, but McMahon has only paid her $1 million so far. For that, and as a consequence of going public, Grant is seeking to have the NDA invalidated, among other measures.

Just a couple of days after issuing vehement denials of Grant’s accusations, McMahon cut his last leadership ties with WWE-parent company TKO Group on January 27. A steep fall from McMahon’s pivotal role overseeing the September 2023 merger of the wrestling organization with the UFC in a $21.4 billion combination that created TKO – where McMahon became Executive Chairman.

Following some sales of McMahon’s own beforehand, Endeavor and TKO agreed in April to buy a combined $311.2 million of the cacophonous exec’s stock. Even with those sales, McMahon is understood to hold a hefty stake in TKO still – at least for now.

Even before Grant’s lawsuit, McMahon was already under the microscope in a settled internal investigation two years ago by the then Endeavor-owned WWE for millions in hush money payments to various women, now including Grant. That probe was shuttered, but in the summer of 2023 WWE admitted that things weren’t over. Noting “related government investigations remain ongoing,” the company revealed in a SEC filing last year a search warrant had been executed against McMahon and the company, and a federal grand jury subpoena had been served on McMahon.

Now we have a slightly-clearer idea where how harsh that spotlight is shining on McMahon — despite his denials of any misconduct.

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