Hulk Hogan’s $100 million sex tape suit has mostly female jury
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A mostly female jury was seated Friday for Hulk Hogan’s $100 million civil trial against Gawker Media for publishing part of the ex-wrestler’s sex tape.
Six jurors, plus three alternates, were chosen to decide the trial, which is expected to run about three-and-a-half weeks.
Four of the six jurors, and two out of the three alternates, are women.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing Gawker for publishing a portion of the salacious footage in 2012. Nick Denton, the founder of the New York-based news and gossip site, and former editor A.J. Daulerio are also named as defendants.
The threat to Gawker’s solvency prompted the owners to sell a minority stake in the company to an outside investor as a protective measure against the lawsuit.
The video showed Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, then the wife of Tampa-area radio host Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem.
Bubba Clem permitted Hogan, once a close friend, to have sex with his wife. The tape was recorded by a surveillance camera in Clem’s bedroom in 2006.
Clem said that he burned the footage onto a DVD and labeled it as “Hogan.” He said nobody was ever supposed to see it.
The jury selection resumed on Friday morning at the Pinellas County Judicial Building in St. Petersburg, Florida, with Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan asking the remaining 55 potential jurors about their impressions of the First Amendment, their feelings about freedom of expression, and the role of the press.
Gawker contends that showing the footage is protected by the Constitution because Hogan has made his sex life a matter of public interest
“What is your general impression of the news media these days?” Sullivan asked the jurors at one point.
Juror #3, one of only two men on the six-person jury, told Sullivan that some outlets are “more trustworthy” than others.
“I think people in general have to take the media with a grain of salt,” the man said.
When Sullivan asked if material the jurors find personally “distasteful” could still be protected by the Constitution, juror #16, a woman, said that certain material, like child pornography, is not protected.
Sullivan, a soft-spoken attorney from Washington, D.C. who has represented a number of media outlets, stressed the importance of listening to both arguments before rendering a judgment.
He reminded the jurors that the trial will be long.
“In a three-week trial, it’s going to be the plaintiff’s case for quite a while,” Sullivan said. “So I really want you think seriously about that: Can I withhold judgment until I’ve heard both sides?”
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday.