Judge Pamela Campbell denied a motion today by Gawker Media that called for a retrial of Bollea v. Gawker in which Gawker was ordered to pay a grand total of $140 million. Campbell also denied a motion to reduce the penalties awarded by a jury back in March after a three-week trial in Pinellas County court.
Gawker Media is still promising to fight the verdict in the case against them by former WWE wrestling star Hulk Hogan. Now that their "motions to strike" have failed, they can go ahead and take their case to the District Court of Appeals.
Hulk Hogan, who is a Pinellas County resident and whose real name is Terry Bollea, was awarded $115 million in damages, plus an additional $25 million in punitive damages, by a jury in March after suing the web media company for publishing video clips of him having sex.
Gawker Media described the damages as potentially “ruinous.”
As part of the damages, the jury also required that Gawker Media’s founder and CEO Nick Denton pay $10 million for his role in publishing the sex video clips.
The jury was told during the trial that Denton was worth over $120 million, and that Gawker itself was worth about $83 million.
During the Bollea v. Gawker case, the New York-based media company claimed it had a First Amendment right to publish the video clips because they believed Bollea had made his sex life public and of the public’s interest.
The jury decided that Gawker had violated Bollea’s right to privacy.
Bollea testified during the trial that he was not aware he was being recorded.
"Gawker has failed and continues to fail in recognzing their obligation to Bollea for their reprehensible behavrior and meother of doing what they call journalism," said Bollea's attorney David Houston to ABC Action News after the judge's decision on Wednesday. "Their refusal to accept responsibility for their conduct and denial of the obvious continues to drive their litigation strategy."
Is Someone Else Paying For Hulk Hogan's Case Against Gawker?
There are well-reported accusations that Terry Bollea’s lawsuit against Gawker Media was secretly funded by a well-known Silicon Valley billionaire with a personal grudge against the website.
Gawker Media’s CEO Nick Denton at first floated the belief earlier this year.
"My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley, but that’s nothing really more than a hunch," Denton told the New York Times. "If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases."
On Tuesday, Forbes Magazine reported that "people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity” claimed that financial backer is billionaire Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal.
In 2007, Gawker published an article about Thiel’s sexuality.
"According to these reports, a board member of Facebook and a major funder of The Committee to Protect Journalists has been secretly funding a legal campaign against our journalists,” said Gawker Media to ABC Action News on Wednesday morning. “We trust the appeals court will correct the outsized Florida jury verdict and reaffirm the law that protects a free and critical press, which is more embattled and important than ever."
Bollea’s attorney told ABC Action News on Wednesday morning as he and Bollea walked into the courtroom that he had “no idea what they’re talking about” but added that he would never “discuss my client’s finances.”
Hulk Hogan is suing Gawker Media again
Bollea is suing Gawker Media again, this time directly accusing Gawker Media of the leak.
Gawker denies that it leaked the sealed transcript to the National Enquirer. In the transcript, Hogan, who is white, makes several racist statements about his daughter's ex-boyfriend, who is black. Once the Enquirer published the story, WWE severed its longtime ties with the famous wrestler.
The suit in Pinellas County Court also accuses a talent agent, two disc jockeys, a radio company and a lawyer of conspiring to send media outlets the sex tape and causing Hogan emotional distress and economic harm.
"Mr. Bollea said from the beginning that he would seek to hold all persons and entities fully responsible for their wrongful actions," his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Traub, wrote in a statement. "This lawsuit seeks to do just that."
"This is getting ridiculous," Gawker wrote in a statement. "Hulk Hogan is a litigious celebrity abusing the court system to control his public image and media coverage. ... It's time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan."
The new lawsuit also names Tampa radio DJs Mike "Cowhead" Calta and ex-DJ Matt "Spice Boy" Loyd, among others.
Hogan says Calta and Loyd wanted to cause him "substantial economic harm" while furthering their broadcasting careers while they worked at Cox Radio, which is also named in the suit. The radio station didn't immediately return a phone message.
In 2012, when the sex tape was leaked to Gawker, TMZ and other news outlets, Calta and Loyd were in a ratings war with Clem.
Previously, Calta was part of Clem's on-air coterie, but they had a falling out.