Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million in Gawker Sex Tape Trial
Hulk Hogan has won $115 million in his case brought against Gawker Media for posting a sex tape in 2012 involving him and his friend’s then-wife, Heather Cole.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, first filed the suit against the media outlet three years ago, but it wasn’t until today (March 18) that the jury ultimately ruled in favor of Hogan, awarding him more than the $100 million he initially sought, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.
The tape was reportedly recorded by Hogan’s best friend at the time, Todd Clem — a radio personality who changed his name to Bubba the Love Sponge -- who had encouraged Hogan to have sex with his then-wife, Heather Cole. Hogan initially sued Clem in 2012, saying he was unaware Clem had filmed him. Despite conflicting accounts from Clem, the two ultimately settled the lawsuit for a reported $5,000, leaving Hogan to sue Gawker Media (as well as founder Nick Denton and former editor Albert Daulerio) for posting the tape online.
The Hollywood Reporter says one of Hogan’s experts testified that Gawker earned an alleged $15 million from the sex tape, while an expert for Gawker countered, saying it earned the company a mere $11,000.
Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan argued that this was an issue related to the First Amendment: “We don’t need the First Amendment to protect what’s popular. We need a first Amendment to protect what’s controversial.”
But Hogan’s attorney, Ken Turkel, made a case for the issue of privacy: “This is not about political speech. This case is unique ... You're not going to condemn someone's right to engage in speech. You're balancing the right to make the speech versus privacy rights."
Denton released a statement following today's ruling, via Variety:
Given key evidence and the most important witness were both improperly withheld from this jury, we all knew the appeals court will need to resolve the case. I want to thank our lawyers for their outstanding work and am confident that we would have prevailed at trial if we had been allowed to present the full case to the jury. That’s why we feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately.
Gawker reportedly intends on filing an appeal.