Gawker Can't Compel Key Witness in Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Trial

Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media March 1 - AP Images - 2016
Scott Keeler/The Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool, File

The sexual relationship between Hulk Hogan and Heather Cole — the wife of his former best friend Bubba the Love Sponge — got more play in a Florida courtroom this morning. In a deposition shown to the jury, Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) said that after a sex tape surfaced, Bubba told him that Cole was responsible for the camera in the bedroom. That was inconsistent with Cole's own testimony that she didn't know she was being taped. 

According to court documents and insiders, Gawker has been trying to establish that the taping was hardly a secret to rebut Hogan's $100 million claims of wiretapping and invasion of privacy. The media company suffered a blow by failing to get Florida circuit judge Pamela Campbell to force Bubba to testify at the trial. Before the trial began, Hogan and Bubba came to a $5,000 settlement, and Bubba planned to assert the Fifth to any questions thrown his way. This morning, the judge instructed the jury that Bubba wouldn't be testifying and that they "should draw no inference from that."

Throughout the litigation, Campbell has consistently ruled in Hogan's favor on tough procedural issues, and it's been hard for Gawker to flesh out the odd circumstances leading to the mysterious tape it posted in Oct. 2012. If Gawker loses, there will be plenty of issues to address on appeal. For now, Gawker may try to raise those loose ends in closing arguments either tomorrow or early next week.

Although Gawker has to some degree been knee-capped by the judge (and the parties continue to fight over preclusion of various evidence), it has seemingly scored more points in its efforts to show that Hogan injected his sexual life into the public sphere.

During one of the depositions shown to the jury, Hogan was questioned whether he was embarrassed at appearing nearly nude in a commercial for a web-hosting service (apparently a parody of a Miley Cyrus music video) and was also asked to address an interview he gave with Howard Stern about his sex life.

"To the best of my knowledge, I never talked about sexual encounters with Heather Clem on the radio," said Hogan, further adding, "Being the character Hulk Hogan, I thought we were doing a skit, so privacy never entered my mind at the time."

This echoed testimony that the plaintiff gave on the witness stand in the first week of trial. Hogan maintains that the celebrity known as "Hulk Hogan" can discuss things like the size of his penis without waiving the privacy rights enjoyed by Terry Bollea in the bedroom.