In court on Monday, a jury ruled that in addition to the $115 million Hulk Hogan (real name, Terry Bollea) was awarded last week for the 2012 publication of his sex tape on Gawker.com, the ex-professional wrestler was entitled to more than $25 million in punitive damages.
The jury ordered Gawker Media to pay $15 million in punitive damages. Founder and CEO Nick Denton must pay $10 million, and former editor A.J. Daulerio, who published the blog post with the sex tape excerpt, has to pay $100,000. Last Friday, the jury ruled that Gawker, Denton and Daulerio violated Hogan’s right to privacy when they released the tape of the ex-wrestler having sex with the then-wife of his best friend, Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.
This final ruling from the jury effectively marks the conclusion of stage one in the legal fight between the former professional wrestler and Gawker. Next, the company’s legal team will have to persuade Judge Pamela Campbell* to either release them from or greatly reduce the bond that Gawker would have to post before proceeding with its appeal. The bond is where things could start to get tricky for Gawker.
The bond amount could be up to $50 million, depending on what the judge rules. In court, Gawker’s lawyers said that the company is worth $83 million. Denton (who owns a controlling stake in Gawker Media) is worth $121 million, and Daulerio "has no assets but owes $27,000 in student loans."
Denton told the New York Times last summer that Gawker doesn’t keep that kind of cash sitting around, but that doesn’t mean Gawker is totally screwed. If Judge Campbell forces the company to pay $50 million (or a similarly high amount) up front, then the company plans to take its case to the Second District Court of Appeals, which has already reversed some of Campbell’s decisions.
Another development worth paying attention to is what comes of the sealed FBI documents that Hogan’s lawyers successfully kept out of the trial. Shortly before the jury delivered its verdict on Friday, previously sealed records were released, indicating that what Hogan told FBI investigators appeared to contradict what he said during testimony in the trial.
In any event, Gawker’s leadership has appeared zen about the outcome of the trial, which they were certain didn’t look good for them before it got under way earlier this month.
"The Hulk Hogan issue, other than comic value to me, is nothing more than a time and money question," Gawker board member Jason Epstein told Re/code’s Peter Kafka in January. "To any even casual observer of First Amendment rights, the outcome is perfectly clear."
Gawker President and General Counsel Heather Dietrick issued the following statement Monday:
Soon after Hulk Hogan brought his original lawsuits in 2012, three state appeals court judges and a federal judge repeatedly ruled that Gawker’s post was newsworthy under the First Amendment. We expect that to happen again — particularly because the jury was prohibited from knowing about these court rulings in favor of Gawker, prohibited from seeing critical evidence gathered by the FBI and prohibited from hearing from the most important witness, Bubba Clem.
Didn’t the jury deserve to know that Bubba told his radio listeners and then the FBI, in a meeting where lying is a criminal offense, that Hulk Hogan knew he was making a sex tape? Didn’t the jury deserve to know the FBI uncovered multiple tapes of Hulk Hogan having sex with Bubba’s wife? Didn’t the jury deserve to know about the text messages Hulk Hogan sent to Bubba that undermine this case?
There is so much this jury deserved to know and, fortunately, that the appeals court does indeed know. So we are confident we will win this case ultimately based not only on the law but also on the truth.
* Fun fact: Campbell was the lawyer for Terri Schiavo’s parents in their national, politically charged and ultimately unsuccessful fight against Schiavo’s husband to prevent him from ending the life of the woman, who was in an irreversible persistent vegetative state, in 2005. Then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Campbell as a judge the following year.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.