Gawker Media has some ammunition in their appeal of the jury’s verdict that awarded Hulk Hogan a total of $140 million ($25 million in punitive damages | $115 million in compensatory damages). CNN Money reports the jurors who awarded Hogan $115 million in damages did not get to review nearly a thousand pages of previously sealed documents.
The documents, released to the pubic hours before the jury returned a verdict on Friday, raise questions about statements Hogan and other witnesses made throughout the case. They also question Hogan’s motive for filing the lawsuit.
Below is an excerpt from CNN Money’s report:
Many of the unsealed documents pertain to the FBI's investigation into an alleged extortion attempt against Hogan by Los Angeles attorney Keith Davidson.
A federal sting operation in December 2012 that targeted Davidson led to the recovery of three DVDs showing Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, having sex with Heather Cole, then the wife of the ex-wrestler's former best friend Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem.
Gawker had posted excerpts from a 30-minute Hogan sex tape, which formed the basis of Hogan's invasion of privacy lawsuit against the online media company.
Details from a second sex tape emerged last summer when the National Enquirer reported that Hogan had been recorded making a series of racist remarks about his daughter's African-American boyfriend.
One of the documents released Friday states that Hogan's long-time attorney David Houston told the FBI that he and Hogan watched all three DVDs and fast-forwarded to the section containing the racial epithets. In sworn depositions, however, Hogan said he was unaware of the existence of other recordings.
In a lengthy conversation with CNNMoney shortly before Friday night's verdict, Houston said it was a "myth" that Hogan watched all three DVDs.
During the sting operation at the Sand Pearl Hotel in Clearwater, Florida, Houston said Hogan primarily sought confirmation that Clem had been recorded telling his wife that they could retire off the sale of the sex tape.
When Davidson cued up this portion of the recording, Houston said that an "emotionally distraught" Hogan walked across the hotel room and turned his back to the television screen showing the DVDs. Houston said he was concerned that Hogan might turn his anger toward Davidson, and only passively paid attention to what was being shown.
"At this point, Davidson is swapping DVDs. I don't know whether it's the same DVD, whether they're different DVDs, whether it's two or three or one. What I did know is, I didn't care," Houston said. "So this story about, 'Well, you guys probably knew there were three full DVDs' -- bulls**t... My concern was to make sure my client was okay because his emotional reaction was very close to what I would classify as a meltdown."
"I'm not going to sit there and gratuitously watch sex tapes of my client and laugh and joke with Davidson," Houston added. "That would be probably as crass you could get. My goal was just to pretend that I was authenticating, pretend that I was looking at it."
(Davidson declined to comment to CNNMoney.)
It’s noted in the unsealed documents that Bubba Clem told the FBI Hogan was aware he was being recorded. They also reveal Heather Cole (f/k/a Heather Clem) knew she was being recorded, which contradicts her sworn testimony.
CLICK HERE for full coverage by CNN Money. Note the article was penned before the jury awarded punitive damages.