There were six Florida jury members who felt Hulk Hogan was right in his lawsuit against Gawker Media over the online publication of a sex tape say they believe the ex-pro wrestler was emotionally distressed over the incident.
The jurors said that despite Hogan’s celebrity status, he’s still a human being. They awarded him $140 million.
Paula Eastman, Robin Young, Shane O’Neil, Salina Stevens, Kevin Kennedy and Shelby Adkins — said they all believed Gawker broke the law.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that the decision we made was absolutely correct,” O’Neil said.
“As human beings, we collectively said, you know … if we were all in the same circumstances, how would we feel about it, and, emotionally, we would have all been really devastated,” Eastman said of the racy video’s release.
Asked whether Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, deserved less privacy because he is a celebrity, Adkins said: “No, he’s still a human being just like everyone else, no matter how many people know his name and his face.”
Asked whether any of them thought Hogan may have been responsible for setting up the recording, Kennedy said, “Even if he knew he was being recorded, there’s still no right to put that out there if he doesn’t want it put out.”
As for Gawker’s legal argument that the website’s post with the video was newsworthy under the First Amendment, which protects journalists, Eastman said she believes the argument “wasn’t applicable.”
“They did something illegal,” Young claimed, referring to Gawker.
Added O’Neil: “Gawker made it clear to everyone … that they were all about crossing the line.”
The jurors had strong words for Gawker founder Nick Denton. Stevens said she was looking at Denton in court while the verdict was being read because she wanted to see whether he would show any signs of remorse. She didn’t believe he displayed any remorse during his testimony.
Asked what they would say to Denton if they had five minutes with him, Young laughed and said she would tell him: “’Don’t demean yourself by going for the vulgar and the lewd and the trashy. Stick to the newsworthy journalism — you understand what that is.’”
Kennedy said he would tell Denton: “’Put yourself in their shoes, if you have the ability to do that,’” before saying, “I don’t even know if they even have the heart to be able to do that. It’s just amazing, everything I listened to, that they have no heart. No soul. It’s all about the almighty dollar, and it’s sick.”
Jurors said they believed an individual’s right to privacy lies at the heart of the case, regardless of celebrity.
In a statement after this week’s verdict, Gawker’s General Counsel, Heather Dietrick, said, “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.”
Asked how they would feel if their decision was overturned on appeal, Young replied: “We drew a line, and we hope others will draw a line.”
Eastman said, “I hope [Hogan] fights it all the way for all of us.”
Added O’Neil: “I think he’ll win.”
The breakdown of Hogan’s award is $55 million for economic damages, $60 million for emotional distress and $25.1 million in punitive damages.
Salina Stevens said she looked for signs of remorse from Gawker Media founder Nick Denton but didn’t see any.
Hogan sued Gawker for invasion of privacy after it published the video in which he has sex with his best friend’s wife. Hogan said he didn’t know he was being recorded. Gawker said the footage was newsworthy information about a public figure, and protected by the First Amendment.