On Thursday, lawyers representing Gawker Media and Terry Bollea (the real name of Hulk Hogan) gathered in the Sixth Circuit court in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In a motion, the counsel representing Hulk Hogan accused Gawker of reportedly leaking tapes to the National Enquirer, which published an article reporting that racist slurs were part of the conversations on the tape.
“The Enquirer article is very close to the transcripts,” said Hogan’s lawyers.
“If National Enquirer quotes court documents that they could have obtained only from three sources, how did they get them?” questioned Hogan’s lawyers. They requested an electronic forensic investigation to explore if Gawker communicated with National Enquirer.
As reported earlier, 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’s stand has been that the video is newsworthy. Hogan’s team contends that the video’s publication constitutes an invasion of privacy and is demanding $100 million in damages — a sum that would gravely effect Gawker Media’s finances.
Hogan’s lawyers are requesting Gawker hand in all copies of the tapes and transcripts to prevent further public dissemination. At present, the material exists in three forms – five DVDs, audio versions of the tape and their transcripts. Of the five DVDs that were submitted, three were handed in at first, out of which two had issues. The FBI then sent over two additional DVDs after two from the original set were recognized for irregularities.
Gawker defended by stating that they had no involvement with the Enquirer article and have had the transcripts kept under “lock and key.”
“There are, your honor, a long list of people who knew about Mr. Bollea’s use of racist language long before Gawker learned about it,” said the counsel for Gawker. In a statement to Poynter, Heather Dietrick, President and General Counsel of Gawker said, “Hulk Hogan has only one person to blame for what he said and no one from Gawker had any role in leaking that information.”
Hogan’s lawyers also used the recent upheaval at the organization as argument of their case. He referred to it as a “public civil war that was happening at the organization internally,” in addition to a “public shift in philosophy.”
The racist language development in the case has cost Hogan is his career. The WWE ended their contract with him after National Enquirer published the story. “My client has no where else to go. You are literally his only hope for justice,” said Hogan’s lawyers.
On setting a date for the trial, the judge denied the expedite request, stating that the court’s calendar was currently full. The trial is now set to take place on March 7th, 2016. Pre-trial for the case will take place on February 16th.