Last week, WTAE aired a story on Allegheny County Judge Dwayne Woodruff and his involvement in a North Carolina Minor League basketball team. Promos prior to the sweeps week story said Judge Woodruff was guilty of owing taxpayers money.
However, Woodruff, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, said the story that aired on Feb. 13 couldn’t be farther from the truth.
|JUDGE DWAYNE WOODRUFF
“There is no validity to the WTAE story on me,” Woodruff said. “WTAE has practiced the worst kind of journalism in totally creating a story where there was none, misleading and lying to their viewers and attempting to discredit my good name.”
In the story, WTAE’s Jim Parsons explained that Judge Woodruff had been part owner of a company called TD Hoops, which owned the since dissolved Carolina Thunder ABA basketball team. The story went on to say that TD Hoops owed $18,000 to the county-owned Cabarrus Arena in North Carolina for games their team played in the facility.
“The truth is that I did not skip out on a debt. As one of the owners of TD Sports LLC, I invested in a semi-pro basketball team in the ABA league,” Woodruff said. “Several teams eventually folded, including ours, and I incurred a much greater loss than what the arena incurred. I was not and am not responsible for their loss, just as I cannot hold them or the other team owners responsible for my loss.”
The WTAE story featured an interview with Mike Downs, Cabarrus County manager, who said the basketball team played five games in the arena before they were denied access for non-payment. Downs said he contacted Woodruff several times via email to reach a payment agreement.
“Actually, I have not seen the story as I was out of town when it aired and I have no desire to see it. I was told that WTAE showed an exchange of email messages, which they insinuated, were between me and the arena officials. I have never sent or received any such email messages as I was mainly an investor and did not participate in the business dealings. Leading viewers to think that the email messages were from me, speaks to a lack of journalistic integrity by WTAE.”
The WTAE story also alleged misconduct by Woodruff in his failure to disclose his involvement with TD Hoops on the financial interest statement required for Allegheny County judges. Woodruff says he believed the company was dissolved in 2005, after the Carolina Thunder folded.
“To answer another allegation that WTAE made, this business and my judicial career never existed simultaneously, so there was never a need or requirement for me to report it on a judicial financial statement. WTAE has since reported this accurately, but they knew that at the time they ran the story on me,” Woodruff said. “WTAE’s assertion that I did anything wrong is preposterous and reeks of poor journalism, which is precisely their normal mode of operation. My inclination is to not dignify WTAE’s ignorant behavior with any more attention, but I may have a greater responsibility to the citizens of Allegheny County, to legally confront this type of unwarranted slander (total disregard for truth) by a television station to increase their ratings. I will do as the Lord leads.”
According to a report by News Channel 36 in Charlotte, N.C., Woodruff’s partner Tony Priscaro, said the team never signed a lease with the county, so they don’t owe anything. Downs said the county will not pursue litigation against TD Hoops.
“I am not upset because I know that God will use the bad things that people intend to hurt us with and turn it around for good. In fact, I have received so much community support since the story ran; calls expressing sorry and regret for the story and asking what can they do to help me,” Woodruff said. “So as I contemplate my candidacy for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, it is good to know that people are discerning and recognize the truth.”
Beyond Woodruff’s notoriety as a former Steeler, the judge is known throughout the Pittsburgh region for his charitable involvement. He and his wife Joy Maxberry Woodruff are chairpersons of “Do the Write Thing,” an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence and hosts of the annual Urban Pathways mentoring breakfast that recruits mentors for African-American students.
“I was dismayed by the four days of promos the station did as an obvious attempt to attract viewers and boost their failing ratings,” said Joy Woodruff, “My husband is a wonderful citizen whom they have never taken the time or effort to report any of his hundreds of positive and history making accomplishments or community contributions. They have investigated him for over 10 years and when they were unable to find any dirt, they resorted to fabricating dirt. What a shame.”