New trial date in Hulk Hogan sex tape case could come at upcoming hearing

[caption id="attachment_361375" align="alignright" width="760"]Hulk Hogan. (AP Image) Hulk Hogan. (AP Image)[/caption]

After a last-minute ruling that put off a trial days before it was slated to begin, representatives for Gawker Media and Hulk Hogan will appear together in court earlier than expected.

This week, lawyers for the Manhattan-based news organization will attend a hearing with attorneys for former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in St. Petersburg, Florida. The hearing, which will take place in Florida's Sixth Judicial Court on Thursday at 10 a.m., could result in a new trial date for the case, according to spokespersons for the court and Gawker Media.

This week's hearing was convened in response to a motion from attorneys representing Hulk Hogan — real name Terry Bollea — who earlier this month submitted a request to Judge Pamela Campbell of the Sixth Judicial Court. The motion sought to ensure that records unearthed in a separate but related case between Gawker Media and the FBI remain confidential for the duration of the Hogan trial.

Thursday's court date is the latest wrinkle in a byzantine legal battle that has been raging between Gawker Media and Hogan for several years. The lawsuit centers on whether Gawker Media was legally justified in posting an edited video showing Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, the ex-wife of shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Gawker Media has repeatedly claimed that publication of the video is journalistically defensible because the former wrestler is a public figure who talked about his sex life publicly. Hogan's team contends that the video's publication constitutes an invasion of privacy and is demanding $100 million in damages — a sum that could gut Gawker Media's finances.

The lawsuit appeared as if it was about to conclude in a highly anticipated trial earlier this month before a higher court ordered the proceeding postponed due to a legal technicality. A case management hearing was scheduled for October, but this week's hearing proceeds that date by multiple months. Meanwhile, Gawker Media has been fighting a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government to obtain records that could figure into the invasion-of-privacy case.

If the evidence from the FOIA lawsuit is kept under seal in the lawsuit against Hogan, it would inhibit journalists at Gawker Media and elsewhere from reporting on the central pieces of evidence in the open-records lawsuit: three DVDs that reportedly contain footage of Hogan having sex with Heather Clem and show Hogan using racial slurs.

A ruling making the evidence confidential would be a victory for Hogan's side, which has been fighting to preserve the former wrestler's privacy during what will undoubtably be a very public trial. In July, Hogan's attorneys won the right to exclude the media and members of the public from viewing the sex video posted by Gawker as it's played for the jury. Campbell also granted multiple requests from Hogan's team to keep evidence in the case confidential for the duration of the proceeding.

Here's the motion filed by Hogan's attorney:

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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