Hulk Hogan sues Gawker for $100m in Florida sex tape trial

The video was posted in 2012 and garned 7m hits

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The Independent Online

Grapple fans roll up! 

In the corner with the bandana we have Hulk Hogan, real-name Terry Bollea, a former wrestler and the man suing an ill-mannered news website which published a sex-tape of him and the wife of a Florida radio personality named Bubba the Love Sponge.

In the other we have Gawker, a news site that has recently become interested in politics but which for several years targeted its sights on some of the seamier aspects of the world of American entertainment media.

On Monday, opening arguments began in the case in which the wrestler and actor is seeking $100m in damages and which is being watched by legal observers for what it may say about a person’s right to privacy. If Gawker loses, the site could be forced to close.

“Time for the real main event! 'I AM' going to slam another Giant! Hogan vrs Gawker!“ the wrestler posted on Twitter as jury selection began last week.

The six-member jury in Tampa will determine whether the website violated Hogan’s right to privacy when it published the video of the former professional wrestler and earned 7 million views. 

Reuters reported that Hogan believes the story was not legitimate. Gawker says it was a fair scoop because Hogan had talked openly about his sex life before, in forums such as Howard Stern's radio show. 

Hogan’s lawyer, Shane Voght, told jurors that the website was motivated by power and brand promotion at the wrestler’s expense. 

“They have essentially replaced sticks and stones with clicks and phones,” he said. Under questioning, Hogan said he was "completely humiliated" by the publication of the tape.

The website’s lawyer, Michael Berry, said the writers and editors were interested in telling the truth and that images and videos were part of the evidence.

“This case isn't about this celebrity’s penis or that celebrity”s breast,” he said, during the hearing that was streamed live by the website.

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The article posted by Gawker detailed the consensual encounter, which Gawker called “a goddamn masterpiece,” and graphically described the naked body of the longtime champion of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The website argues that its 2012 post is protected free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

“That is a high-stakes proposition, not just for Gawker, who is right now in the crosshairs, but for all of the people who exercise First Amendment rights,” said Seth Berlin, a lawyer representing Gawker.

Hogan’s lawyers have argued that the wrestler had a right to expect privacy in a private bedroom, noting that he was recorded there without knowledge in 2006.

“Our jury members appear more than willing to consider not only the First Amendment but as well the necessity of boundaries when dealing with significant invasion of privacy,” David Houston, an attorney for the wrestler, said in a statement.

The 62-year-old wrestler will go by his legal name, Terry Bollea, duiring the trial, but a judge has lett him wear his signature bandana in court.