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March 18, 2016

Jury Finds for Hulk Hogan in Invasion of Privacy Suit Against Gawker; Awards Former Pro Wrestler $115 Million

That's gonna leave a mark.

That's one hundred fifteen Million with a capital "M" and italicized "illion."

The case pitted a claimed version of the First Amendment -- Denton's version, which he conceded was "extremist," in which you can say or do whatever you want so long as it's invested with some sort of communicative purpose, and then it should be immune from all legal consequence -- versus people's expectations to be free of violations of their privacy.

The case isn't really about free speech, per se. It's about the related question if having some arguable free speech claim then launders or white-washes what would otherwise be behavior worthy of condemnation (posting someone's sex tape without permission).

Apparently that turns on how "newsworthy" the material published is. I guess if you publish stolen, or illegally leaked, government documents, it would be newsworthy.

But the jury found that Hulk Hogan's penis was not newsworthy. (Which I suppose might be a adverse finding for Hogan, in non-legal contexts.)

And Hogan's lawyers seemed to play on the public's anti-media attitude as well.

"Do you think the media can do whatever they want?" asked Hogan's attorney Ken Turkel in closing arguments.

"We don't need the First Amendment to protect what's popular," responded Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan in his own closing. "We need a First Amendment to protect what's controversial."

"This is not about political speech," rebutted Turkel to the jury. "This case is unique ... You're not going to condemn someone's right to engage in speech. You're balancing the right to make the speech versus privacy rights."

In reaching its verdict, the jury tipped that scale towards privacy. Hogan sobbed, and after the outcome became clear, appeared relieved more than happy. A stunned-looking Nick Denton watched from the gallery and took a deep breath. Gawker has already indicated it will appeal. The focus of the coming proceedings will likely be whether the First Amendment should have precluded claims and whether Gawker got a fair trial.

Hit the link and read the article -- the judge made a lot of pro-Hogan rulings in the early-going, which Gawker will claim added up to a mistrial.

In related news, Gawker Media just filed to have its name changed to Hulk Hogan Memorabilia & Celebrity Sport-Fishing Tours, Inc.

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posted by Ace at 06:25 PM

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