Florida judge denies Gawker new trial in Hulk Hogan case
By Letitia Stein
TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) – Gawker will not get a new trial to defend its posting of a Hulk Hogan sex tape, and a Florida judge also declined to reduce the $140 million in damages a jury awarded the celebrity wrestler after finding the media website violated his privacy, attorneys said on Wednesday.
An attorney for Hogan, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, praised Judge Pamela Campbell’s decision to deny Gawkwer’s motion for a new trial. Campbell this year presided over the jury trial in state civil court in St. Petersburg, Florida, near the wrestler’s home.
The mustachioed former professional wrestler’s legal fight has drawn wide attention for testing a celebrity’s privacy rights and press freedoms in the digital age.
“Gawker has failed and continues to fail in recognizing their obligation to Bollea for their reprehensible behavior and method of doing what they call journalism,” his attorney, David Houston, said in a statement.
Before the decision, the New York-based media outlet had said it planned to bring its case before an appeals court.
“We look forward to the legal process continuing and expect to be vindicated,” Gawker said in a statement after Wednesday’s hearing ended.
In March, a six-person jury awarded $60 million to Hogan, 62, for emotional distress and $55 million for economic damages. The jury then slapped another $25 million in punitive damages on the company and its publisher and CEO, Nick Denton.
Hogan sued the website for posting a one-minute, 41-second edited video clip in 2012 featuring him having sex with the wife of his then-best friend, the radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. He testified that he did not know that their consensual tryst was being recorded when it occurred nearly a decade ago inside Clem’s home.
Forbes reported this week that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel helped to bankroll his legal fight. Thiel was the subject of a 2007 Gawker article calling him gay, published when he was keeping mum publicly about his sexuality.
“There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefited,” Gawker’s statement noted in reference to the report. “And this case is far from over.”
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Bill Trott and David Gregorio)