Attorneys for Hulk Hogan rested their case Friday after telling a Florida jury that Gawker Media has made millions of dollars off the human suffering it has caused.
Hogan’s lawyers began the morning in a St. Petersburg courtroom by recounting an episode in the career of A.J. Daulerio, the former Gawker editor who posted a portion of Hogan’s sex tape in 2012.
Attorney Shane Vogt recalled a 2010 post authored by Daulerio, when he worked at Gawker Media’s sports site Deadspin. The post included a video of an intoxicated female college student having sex in a public bathroom stall.
The young woman emailed several desperate pleas to Daulerio asking him to remove the video, only to be rebuffed.
“Blah, blah, blah,” Vogt said in court, reading what he said was one of Daulerio’s responses regarding the woman.
A spokesman for Gawker, however, disputed that Daulerio ever wrote such an email to anyone, saying it was “false and did not happen.”
In an email that Hogan’s lawyer said was sent to the woman, Daulerio advised her to “not make a big deal” because the poor video quality made it difficult to identify her.
Vogt also showed a deposition where Daulerio said he did not attempt to confirm whether the sex was consensual.
“As far as I knew, it was consensual,” Daulerio said in the deposition, which was recorded in 2013.
Daulerio later removed the video, a decision he explained in a 2011 GQ profile.
“It wasn’t funny,” he said in the story. “It was possibly rape.”
The spokesperson also said that Daulerio is expected to testify on Monday.
Attorneys for Hogan also called two expert witnesses who sought to quantify the online audience for the Hogan sex tape, as well as the financial benefit netted by Gawker from posting the video.
The former pro wrestling star, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing Daulerio, Gawker founder Nick Denton and the website’s parent company for $100 million, claiming that his privacy was invaded and that he suffered emotional trauma as a result of the publication.
Shanti Shunn, a digital marketing strategist, calculated that the Hogan sex tape racked up nearly 4.5 million views “outside the YouTube sphere.” On YouTube, he said, the tape generated a little more than 99,000 views.
Shunn described a chart showing a huge spike in views for Gawker around the time it published the excerpts in October 2012. He said that the video had been viewed 2.5 million times at Gawker.
In cross-examination, Gawker attorney Mike Berry cast doubt on the veracity of those figures, pointing out that Shunn couldn’t say whether they referred to unique visitors or overall page views.
Hogan’s other expert witness on Friday asserted that Gawker enjoyed a significant boost in web traffic and value from the publication.
Jeff Anderson, a director of valuation and analytics at Consor who has been retained by Hogan’s team, said that Gawker’s value likely increased by around $15 million off the Hogan sex tape. Anderson attributed a 28.5% traffic bump at Gawker to the tape.
Throughout the testimony, Denton vigorously took notes and closely studied the charts shown on a screen in the courtroom. He shook his head in disbelief when Anderson said that Gawker.com was valued at $232 million in September 2012.
By April 2013, when Gawker removed the clip, Anderson said the site’s value had jumped by $54 million.
Berry questioned how the witness arrived at those figures, pointing out that Anderson used an article published in 1999 as a source for his methodology.
At the time of the article’s publication, Berry said, the Internet was still in its infancy, and the stock market had yet to suffer the dot com crash.
Hogan’s longtime attorney David Houston said he was pleased with the case his lawyers presented to the jury. He said the week’s testimony ranged from “very good” to “exceptional.”
Houston said was confident that they had demonstrated that Gawker’s free speech defense has no place in this case.
“Frankly, we felt it was prostituting the First Amendment to even utilize it as a defense,” Houston told CNNMoney. “I think others have said it was disgusting. I would agree with that.”
Houston said the “slam dunk” came on Wednesday when jurors were shown a deposition in which Daulerio flippantly said he’d only draw the line with a 4-year-old celebrity’s sex tape. Gawker clarified that Daulerio was being sarcastic, but Houston called that explanation “absurd.”
Houston said he is looking forward to cross examining Daulerio.
“We will enjoy exploring a number of things with Mr. Daulerio on the stand, and we believe they will certainly regret that move,” Houston said.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to make it clear that an email attributed to Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio was not sent to a woman asking that an embarrassing video be taken off the site.