Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against Gawker Media has ended in Hogan’s favor, with the former wrestler receiving an award of $115 million, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune. The jury deliberated for less than six hours about the trial that took two weeks to complete. Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for releasing a video of him having sex with the wife of his former best friend, saying it was a violation of his privacy. In their closing arguments this morning, Hogan’s attorneys stated that it boiled down to the fact that “Gawker took a secretly recorded sex tape and put it on the Internet.”
Hogan’s attorneys focused on his private life vs his public, celebrity life and his right to keep his private life private. One of his attorneys, Kenneth Turkel, had this to say to the jury.
“I want you to imagine the fact that for 35 plus years he is essentially an actor, an entertainer, who has played the same role… [He] has every right, every right, to keep whatever precious private moments in his life, which for this gentlemen are very few.”
The New York Times reports that the woman in the sex tape with Hulk Hogan is Heather Cole, who is now separated from Hogan’s friend who recorded their encounter, Tampa Bay shock jock Todd A. Clem who is known to his fans as Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Ms. Cole cried as she testified in the trial. She stated that her husband encouraged her to have sex with Hulk and that he was present for part of the encounter. She also testified that neither she nor Hogan were aware that their encounter was being taped. Ms. Cole’s husband initially stated that Hogan gave his consent, but later renigged on that statement and said that Hulk did not know he was being taped. Fearful of being prosecuted for changing his testimony, Mr. Clem did not testify in the court case.
Defense attorney Michael Sullivan said of the unsavory nature of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape that uncovering distasteful facts about celebrities “is what journalists do, and at the end of the day, it’s what we want journalists to do. Prosecuting attorney Turkel countered that posting Hulk Hogan’s sex tape was not journalism, but rather was “morbid and sensational prying.
Hulk Hogan cried as the jury’s decision was read in the Florida courtroom. Two individuals from Gawker, Nick Denton (founder of Gawker) and Albert Daulerio (the website’s former editor-in-chief) were found personally liable. The award was more than Hulk had requested. His request was for $100 million. The jury decided instead to award him $115 million, $60 million for emotional distress and $55 million for economic injuries according to Wired. The jury will reconvene on Monday to determine punitive damages.
Hulk Hogan’s defense team issued this statement about the verdict.
“We’re exceptionally happy with the verdict. We think it represents a statement as to the public’s disgust with the invasion of privacy disguised as journalism… The verdict says no more.”
Hogan tweeted about the decision in the sex tape case – “Thank you God for justice, only love 4Life.”
Hulk Hogan is the ring name of 62-year-old Terry Gene Bollea. His fame was at its height in the 80s and 90s as the all-American wrestling figure Hulk Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, which is now the WWE) and as the villainous “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan in World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He has been the WWF/E World Heavyweight Champion six times and the WCW World Heavyweight Champion six times. Hogan was also the first person to win two consecutive Royal Rumbles, in 1990 and 1991.
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