Janel Grant’s attorney says publishing of ‘love letter’ intended to intimidate, Vince McMahon’s lawyer responds

Photo Courtesy: WWE

By: John Pollock & Brandon Thurston

In a new interview with POST Wrestling and Wrestlenomics, attorney and former judge Ann Callis said the release of a love letter written by her client, Janel Grant, to Vince McMahon is an attempt to intimidate Grant.

“It was a tactic to intimidate Janel and victim-shame her,” Callis said.

The letter was published on Monday in a report from The New York Post.

Grant, who is a former WWE employee, is suing Vince McMahon, WWE, and John Laurinaitis in Connecticut federal court in a sex trafficking lawsuit filed in January. The complaint contains graphic allegations of sexual assault. Grant claims top executives facilitated an abusive relationship between her and McMahon in which she was trafficked to Laurinaitis and a sexual encounter with her was used as a bargaining chip in the process of renewing Brock Lesnar’s talent contract.

McMahon’s attorney contends the letter shows the relationship with Grant was consensual.

The letter also mentions several people, using first names only, who spent time with her and McMahon, WWE’s former CEO and Chairman, when they were together.

“Whether it’s your assistants, a chef, Brad, Nick, Johnny or whoever see us together, I think it’s undeniable to them,” Grant wrote to McMahon in the December 2021 letter.

Laurinaitis, whose lawyer says he too is a victim of McMahon, is known to go by “Johnny” both in and out of the ring throughout his career in wrestling.

Callis said in the interview that it’s “fair to assume” that Grant is referring to current WWE President Nick Khan and Chief Operating Officer Brad Blum, who are confirmed to be the anonymized executives referred to in Grant’s lawsuit as “WWE Corporate Officer No. 1” and “WWE Corporate Officer No. 2”, respectively.

Last month, WWE denied Khan and Blum were aware of any allegations of abuse or physical harm involving Grant before her lawsuit was filed, “nor does the complaint allege that either had knowledge of such.”

Grant’s letter also refers to other people who were aware of the relationship.

“Even though so few people know about us,” she wrote, “the most freeing feeling this year came when we got to act like a couple — openly, freely — when Mickey, Paul and the Chef were around us.”

Callis told us the “Paul” whom Grant mentions is Paul Mangieri, who works as an executive assistant for WWE.

People familiar with WWE told us Mickey Mangieri also worked as an assistant to McMahon.

The mention of “Paul” in Grant’s letter led some to speculate whether Grant was referring to WWE Chief Content Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque, which isn’t the case. But we asked Callis if Levesque was aware of the relationship between Grant and McMahon before WWE’s Board of Directors was alerted in March 2022 of Grant’s claims of misconduct.

“I can’t comment on that now,” Callis said. “Just to say that we do have witnesses still coming forward [about] the knowledge of executives at the WWE.”

Callis indicated that victims are frequently pressured by their abusers to write love letters. It’s a pattern of behavior she says is supported by experts in sexual assault and coercive control whom Callis has been meeting with.

Callis noted that love letters were components of other well-known sex trafficking cases, including those against Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly, and Keith Raniere.

Grant begins the letter, writing, “Here we go again… draft 24…”

McMahon’s attorney in this case, Jessica Taub Rosenberg of the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm, told us in new comments that “Ms. Grant’s letter is multiple pages, includes details of their relationship and indicates she wrote 24 drafts. It makes no sense to coerce someone to write 24 drafts of a multiple-page love letter.”

Callis argues the number of drafts isn’t a mitigating factor.

“For Vince McMahon, it’s further proof of misconduct,” Callis said. “Redoing and editing the letter — it wasn’t love, it was fear of repercussions.”

“She [Grant] was, frankly, an emotional prisoner and was asked to [write a love letter] by Vince McMahon,” Callis added.

“This isn’t a new thing, like, ‘gotcha’,” Callis said. “It happens when people are sex trafficked.”

Rosenberg denies McMahon coerced Grant to write the letter.

“Ms. Grant wrote this love letter to Mr. McMahon,” Rosenberg told us. “Her attorney is now desperately trying to explain it away because it shows the relationship was consensual and the lawsuit’s allegations are a sham. The false explanation that it was ‘coerced’ is nonsense.”

Rosenberg says more material will emerge that will support McMahon’s case.

“Ms. Grant’s letter is just one piece of evidence demonstrating the relationship was consensual and her allegations in the lawsuit are false. There are more pieces of evidence like this to come that will prove her claims are meritless.”

Edward M. Brennan, attorney for Laurinaitis, told us in a statement: “My client and I are satisfied that when all the facts become known, Mr. Lauriniatis will be vindicated from the allegations leveled against him.”

Brennan’s response is consistent with earlier comments, saying Laurinaitis was, like Grant, under McMahon’s control.

“Judge Callis was a learned judge and is a skilled litigator,” Brennan wrote to us in an email. “I anticipate she will ultimately see that Mr. Lauriniatis is, like her client, a victim in this case, and Judge Callis will do the right thing and dismiss my client from this lawsuit. In the event she does not, my client will clear his name and reputation in Court, not in the media.”

Callis said Grant continues to suffer from the trauma of the events she alleges in the lawsuit.

“For someone who because of what happened to her, suffering from PTSD and other ailments, she’s resilient,” Callis said. “We’ve been talking on the phone and talking to her a lot recently. So she’s okay.”

The lawsuit states that as a result of the defendants’ alleged misconduct that Grant has been “crippled, both physically and mentally, including from debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. These symptoms led to her termination from her subsequent job running her building’s operations due to her inability to leave her home for weeks at a time.”

Reasserting claims in Grant’s lawsuit, Callis said Grant made herself available to be interviewed for WWE’s Board of Directors’ Special Committee investigation into alleged misconduct involving McMahon and Laurinaitis, but she was not reached out to, contrary to former WWE Board member Jeff Speed’s comment to the New York Times.

“I remain confident in our investigation which included outreach to Ms. Grant and engagement with her lawyer,” Speed told the Times on January 25 in response to Grant’s claim made in the lawsuit that the investigation committee didn’t interview her or request documents from her.

Representatives from WWE and TKO didn’t respond to a request for comment for this report.

Callis wasn’t representing Grant at the time of the Board’s investigation in 2022 but said Grant would have been open to participating in an investigation.

Callis said all three defendants — WWE, McMahon, and Laurinaitis — have now been served a summons, which sets their deadline to respond by mid-May. A waiver of service for Laurinaitis is available as a public filing and sets his due date to answer as May 14.