A Pinellas County judge barred the press and public from viewing the sex tape at the center of the lawsuit between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media.
Television monitors will be angled away from the courtroom's gallery so that only the jury can see the tape, a decision that Gawker's legal team strongly disagreed with.
"At the center of this dispute is a minute and 41-second excerpted video," Heather Dietrick, president and general counsel of Gawker Media, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. "When the jury decides which side it credits, the public has a right to see the core piece of evidence to judge for themselves what they believe."
In 2012, Gawker posted a sex tape between Hogan and Heather Clem, the wife of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, a friend of the wrestler. Hogan filed a violation of privacy lawsuit against the media company and asked for $100 million in damages. The trial is set to begin July 6.
“The courts do belong to the people, we agree with that,” Hogan’s lawyer, Charles Harder, said in court, according to the Tampa Bay Times. But, he noted, the video is hardcore pornography, and "my client's naked body does not belong to the people. My client’s image of having sexual intercourse does not belong to the people.”
Harder said showing the video in court would violate Hogan’s privacy all over again because it took months for Gawker to remove the video – upon judicial order – and years for its online traces to be cleared.
Dietrick said the video only shows a few seconds of sexual intercourse and the rest of the video is conversation between Hogan and Clem in the bedroom.
"Hogan claims it was pornographic and a violation of his privacy," she said. "We believe that the snippet shows a few seconds of very grainy sex and some discussion, all part of a newsworthy story."
Gawker’s lawyer, Rachel Fugate, said barring the public from watching the video images sends "a very clear and unmistakable message to the jury that they are not fit for public disclosure," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Attorneys for Gawker – as well as other media outlets, including BuzzFeed – filed a motion earlier this week opposing to Hogan’s counsel’s attempts to bar the press and public from seeing the tape, arguing that “Hogan’s belief that the tape, excerpts and testimony about them is private, intrusive and potentially offensive is a wholly insufficient basis to override the public’s right to access the court proceedings and records.”
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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