Pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan suffered a sneak attack worse than any he faced in the ring when Gawker posted secretly recorded video of him having sex with a friend’s wife, his lawyer told a Florida jury Monday morning.
Lawyer Shane Vogt said the news and gossip site “wanted to inflict harm, and they wanted to make money” by exploiting the moment of weakness when Hogan “gave in to temptation” and bedded the wife of radio host “Bubba the Love Sponge,” who was, at the time, a pal of the wrestler and reality TV personality.
Vogt noted that Gawker marketed the Hogan video as “the heavyweight champ of sex tapes” and alleged that the gossip site’s staffers had joked about whether “his penis was wearing a doo-rag.”
Hogan is famous for wearing a bandanna over his head, and he wore one to court on Monday.
“He was engaged in one of the most intimate acts in that bedroom, and they make a conscious decision to expose him to the entire world,” Vogt said during opening statements in Hogan’s $100 million invasion-of-privacy case, which could bankrupt Gawker if it loses.
“It wasn’t a story about political corruption. It wasn’t a story about a mayor smoking crack. It was a porn video that was secretly recorded without someone’s consent.”
During the defense opening, Gawker lawyer Michael Berry attacked Hogan’s suit as a naked grab for “lots and lots of money,” and contended that company founder Nick Denton had acted with the purest of motives.
Berry noted that Denton’s mom was a Hungarian Jew “who survived the Nazis” before escaping the Soviet occupation and fleeing to England at age 18.
“Mr. Denton grew up with parents who’ve seen first-hand what happens when speech is suppressed,” Berry said.
“He wants the public to have the simple, unvarnished truth … the unvarnished truth about public figures.”
During introductory remarks to the four-woman, two-man jury, Judge Pamela Campbell said the case would involve deciding whether the sex tape was a matter of “legitimate public concern” or if posting it represented a “morbid and sensational prying” into Hogan’s private life “for its own sake.”
Hogan, wearing an all-black outfit that included one of his signature bandannas and a large silver cross hanging from his neck, rocked slightly back and forth in his seat and took notes on a yellow legal pad during the proceedings.
The former wrestler is expected to be the first witness at the trial, where he’s identified by his real name, Terry Bollea.