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Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Trial (Day 8): Will unsealed documents spell the difference?

Hogan's side are fighting to keep sealed information secret after an appeals court quashed the judge's order to do so, whilst Heather Cole was Gawker's best witness yet, as she was the first that had managed to make Hogan look somewhat unsympathetic.

The Hulkster praying that his secrets won't be revealed
The Hulkster praying that his secrets won't be revealed
Pool/Getty Images

Here is an overview of day 8 of the trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media:

  • The day started with a video tape deposition from sometime in 2015 of Elizabeth Traub, Hulk Hogan's publicist. She was responsible for promoting Hogan's sex tape lawsuit against to the mainstream media in October 2012, a decision made because she wanted the press, especially entertainment/gossip writers, to know that Hogan was fighting back.
  • Gawker then called to the stand Peter Horan, an investor in digital media companies, as an expert witness to dispute the testimony of Hogan's own expert witness Jeff Anderson who had claimed that the publication of excerpts from one of the Hogan sex tapes had likely increased the value of by $15.4 million. Horan claimed that made at most $11,000 from their Hogan article, because that page didn't contain any advertising due to its NSFW nature and only a small fraction of the people who visited the site to read that post clicked on other links while they were there that did contain ads.
  • Hogan's lawyer Shane Vogt used the cross-examination to introduce as evidence an email where Nick Denton asked A.J. Daulerio for articles that defined and that Daulerio cited his Hogan sex tape article as one. Horan responded that the email was "casual", not "scientific" and no conclusions could be probably drawn from it.
  • In a shocking twist to the trial, which left Hogan's side looking deflated and Gawker quietly optimistic, word came out that Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals had quashed Judge Pamela Campbell's order to seal a few dozen documents related to the trial. There is rampant speculation that these documents might include evidence that Hogan knew he was being filmed whilst having sex with Heather Cole which would damage his claim of "invasion of privacy". If that isn't the case, it would likely include other material that would hurt Hogan's chances of winning a big damages award, otherwise why would his lawyers have fought so hard to keep them sealed? In my opinion, it's not a good sign for Hogan's prospects of being the ultimate winner that his local judge's favourable rulings keep getting overturned on appeal.
  • After lunch, there was a short videotaped deposition with Brett Goldenberg, Director of Product Management at MindGeek, who was questioned about the Kim Kardashian sex tape, in particular if there were any closeups of the participants private parts.
  • Gawker then aired the complete videotaped deposition of Heather Cole that Hogan's side had only shown a short excerpt from on day one. Cole claimed that she had sex with Hogan because her husband at the time, Bubba The Love Sponge, told her to, and that she had no idea that they were being filmed (which clearly contradicts her interview with the Tampa police department that she had positioned Hogan for the camera because that's what Bubba wanted and that he could be very controlling). Cole was very upset when Bubba showed her the video back and asked him to stop. She later asked for the sex tape to be destroyed, which it obviously wasn't. Cole refuted Hogan's testimony that she repeatedly came on to him, later confirming that Bubba chose who she had sex with while they were married. Regarding Hogan talking about the sex tape to the media, Cole said it made her feel "more embarrassed" and that she "wanted it to go away." Cole didn't know who was behind the sex tape leak, but gave evidence that possibly pointed in Bubba's direction. Without getting into all the minutiae, the most obvious red flag was Bubba's philosophy being "There's no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right." Cole also claimed that Hogan liked publicity too.
  • Many onlookers felt Cole was Gawker's best witness yet, as she was the first that had managed to paint Hogan as a somewhat an unsympathetic figure.
  • After the jury was released for the day, Gawker's attorneys put forward the questions they would like Bubba The Love Sponge to answer "for the record". Bubba, who had his subpoena quashed on Monday, is refusing to cooperate saying that he won't answer anything. Judge Campbell even stated that "the jury should draw no inference from the absence" of key witness Bubba from being questioned in front of them.
  • So much for the sealed documents being unsealed. The appeals court had technical difficulties releasing the information and Hogan's lawyers filed an emergency motion for "clarification" on the matter in the meantime.

Finally, David Houston, Hogan's top lawyer, criticised Gawker for airing Cole's deposition in full afterwards to the media:

Hogan's attorney David Houston blasted Gawker for pushing this argument, calling it a form of "victim blaming."

Houston said outside of court on Wednesday evening that Cole's credibility is questionable, and that the most salient part of her deposition was that "Terry Bollea did not know [he was being recorded], and there is no reason to believe he did."

The rest, Houston said, was "just white noise."

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