It took years of jostling, but Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit with Gawker is going to a Florida court.
The latest news update on the former WWE wrestler shows that Hogan, who sued the media company for leaking an unauthorized private erotic video of him, is demanding $100 million for an alleged invasion of privacy. Short of a settlement or last-minute motion in court, civil proceedings are moving ahead.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Hulk Hogan’s Gawker lawsuit is heading to trial next Monday, and jury selection is set to begin this week. Hogan, real name, Terry Bollea, 62, sued the online news and gossip site when footage of him having sex with a pal’s ex-wife was posted online by Gawker.com editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio. Gawker denied it leaked the tape, as there are reportedly many copies circulating, according to the Chicago Tribune.
— Adweek (@Adweek) March 1, 2016
The salacious footage was named “Even for a Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex in a Canopy Bed Is Not Safe for Work but Watch It Anyway.” The Hulkster said he didn’t give his consent for a release.
Hogan was depicted in a short clip engaging in an “unsexy” romp with the ex-wife (Heather Cole) of Tampa radio DJ Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the WWE star’s best friend at the time. According to court documents, Hogan and Cole had sex at Clem’s home in 2006. Both were unwed.
Reportedly, Clem obtained the sex tape from surveillance cameras at his home. He marked it with “Hogan” and placed it in a drawer for safekeeping. He insisted that no one was ever to find the videotape. Allegedly, that didn’t go according to plan; someone got his or her hands on said sex tape.
In 2012, the Hulk Hogan sex tape was delivered anonymously to Gawker’s New York office. Initially, Clem said Hogan was aware of the video. However, the two settled out of court, and Clem made a retraction statement later, saying that he doesn’t believe Hulk was aware he was being filmed in the act.
A jury in St. Petersburg, should one be sat, will decide if Gawker violated Hulk Hogan’s right to privacy or if releasing the sex tape without his consent was fair game. At the center of the trial is the First Amendment and its application — or lack thereof — to free speech.
— Scott Keeler (@SKeelerTimes) March 1, 2016
On the one hand, the media company said it was within its constitutional right to publish the material due to the inherent status quo of celebs and ongoing gossip about their lives. Moreover, reps for the company say Hogan openly talked about his sex life, which made the sex tape fair game and newsworthy.
On the other hand, Hogan says not only did the release of the footage violate his privacy, but words he spoke privately (use of N-word) caused him to be unfairly labeled a racist. He attributed the language to his South Tampa upbringing, and said it was a term of endearment.
Hogan insists he is not a bigot. Consequently, the leaked audio caused Hogan to lose some business deals, not to mention it ruined his standing with the WWE.
Stetson University media law professor, Catherine Cameron, said Bollea has a case, but as a celebrity, he has a significant burden of proof in his case against Gawker.
“There’s generally nothing as private as your personal sex life and the courts tend to sympathize with that information being put out there.
“But if you are a public figure, and especially if you’ve made this part of your private life a topic of conversation, it makes it even more difficult to argue that it wasn’t newsworthy. That seems like the hardest hurdle for Hulk Hogan to get over.”
This story is developing.
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]