Image:Terry Bollea, known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, testifies in his case against the news website Gawker in St. Petersburg, Florida March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Boyzell Hosey/Pool
By Letitia Stein
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Reuters) – Attorneys for wrestling celebrity Hulk Hogan rested their $100 million privacy invasion case against the Gawker news outlet on Friday, wrapping up a lively week of testimony in a Florida lawsuit examining the posting of a sex tape in modern media.
Next week, Gawker will call its witnesses, which could include website founder Nick Denton and the editor behind the post, as the civil trial continues in St. Petersburg, Florida, near the wrestler’s home. It also may show the tape to the jury.
Gawker’s one-minute, 41-second edited excerpt shows Hogan having consensual sex with the wife of his then best friend, radio “shock jock” personality Bubba the Love Sponge.
The 62-year-old former professional wrestler, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, told jurors he still is suffering from the humiliation of the sex tape’s posting in 2012. Hogan said he did not know the encounter was being recorded when it took place five years earlier in Bubba’s home.
Hogan’s side on Friday highlighted the video’s viral spread, with an expert witness tallying that it reached millions more than the 2.5 million who saw it on Gawker over six months.
Testimony this week ranged from journalism ethics and website analytics to Hogan’s public statements about his sex life, including the his penis size.
Hogan, one the wrestling world’s lead figures in the 1980s and ’90s, emphasized a distinction he drew between his true personality and the bombastic persona he used professionally with “artistic liberty.”
The Hogan side presented examples this week designed to question Gawker’s approach to sexual content. In a taped video deposition, former editor A.J. Daulerio called celebrity sex tapes newsworthy unless involving a child. When pressed on an age, he drew the line at under four.
Gawker later called the age reference a “flip” response.
On Friday, attorneys for Hogan read some of Daulerio’s emails regarding a woman seeking the removal of a video showing her having sex in a public bathroom. He wrote: “Blah, blah, blah.”
Hogan attorney David Houston called it “disgusting” that Gawker claimed speech protections under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“This is a case of pandering to the very basest of human curiosity,” he told Reuters, expecting a favourable verdict to demonstrate “there is still privacy in the modern world.”
Gawker could show the video next week. Circuit Court Judge Pamela Campbell has ruled that only the jury may see it, and not others in the courtroom or watching online.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Gregorio)
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