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 the editor behind the post and other witnesses, that could include founder Nick Denton, at a civil trial in St. Petersburg, Florida, near Hogan’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 suffers from the humiliation of the sex tape’s posting in 2012. Hogan said he did not know the encounter was 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 tallying that it reached millions more than the 2.5 million who saw it on Gawker over six months.
Gawker questioned another expert’s presentation that it saw a boost from the post that added $5 to $15 million in value to the company.
“Where exactly is this Hulk effect?” said Heather Dietrick, president and general counsel of the company.
Testimony this week ranged from journalism ethics and website analytics to Hogan’s statements about his penis size.
Hogan, a leading wrestling figure 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 questioned 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.”
Gawker later noted that those comments were not sent to the woman.
Hogan attorney David Houston called “disgusting” how 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 favorable verdict to demonstrate “there is still privacy in the modern world.”
Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Gregorio