Jury awards Hulk Hogan $25M in punitive damages from Gawker

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Pool photo by Boyzell Hosey / Tampa Bay Times

Hulk Hogan is in line to receive a massive payout of more than $140 million after a jury Monday awarded him an additional $25 million in punitive damages, as the sex tape trail against Gawker Media wrapped up.

The verdict came down after the jury deliberated for several hours. The same jurors awarded Hogan $115 million Friday for the economic and emotional distress they felt he suffered after Gawker, a gossip website, posted a tape of Hogan having sex with the wife of his then-best friend Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, a radio shock-jock in Tampa.

As he left the Pinellas County Courthouse in St. Petersburg, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, said he was thrilled with the verdict.

"I feel great. I'm really happy about everything that has happened," he said. "I think we made history today because I think we protected a lot of people from maybe going through, so we're very excited and very happy."

As part of the punitive damages awarded Monday, Hogan would receive $10 million from Gawker founder Nick Benton. Gawker, meanwhile, would have to pay the former professional wrestler $15 million.

The jury also assessed $100,000 against A.J. Daulerio, the Gawker editor who decided to post the edited sex video and wrote the post that accompanied it.

"They did everything we asked. They vindicated Mr. Bollea," said David Houston, Hogan's attorney. "They've followed the judge's instructions and they awarded the maximum amount they could."

Hogan's lawyer had asked jurors Monday to add punitive damages to the $115 million judgment. Gawker's lawyer pleaded that the existing verdict was already "debilitating" for the company.

During brief closing arguments Monday, Hogan's lawyer Kenneth Turkel said Gawker Media's gross revenues in 2015 were $48.7 million and that founder Nick Benton has a total of $121 million, including a $3.6 million Manhattan condo. Gawker Media is worth $83 million, the lawyers said.

Daulerio, the editor, has no assets, the lawyers said. They said Daulerio has $27,000 in student loan debt.

Hogan thanked his fans for supporting him through the trial.

"They've been very supportive of me and at the end of the day it's just nice to get back to normal with all my family and friends in the area and it's just been unbelievable," he said. "Everywhere I go, everywhere I show up, people treat me like I'm still the champ and they've been very supportive, so it's really cool to be in this community and feel the love from everybody."

Benton, meanwhile, promised to appeal the jury's decisions.

"We have heard the jury's decision and we look forward to going to the Appeals Court where the law will be
followed and all the facts known," he said as he left court.

In a statement, Heather Dietrick, Gawker's President, said the company believes an Appeals Court judge will overturn the verdicts.

"Soon after Hulk Hogan brought his original lawsuits in 2012, three state appeals court judges and a federal judge repeatedly ruled that Gawker's post was newsworthy under the First Amendment," she wrote. "We expect that to happen again -- particularly because the jury was prohibited from knowing about these court rulings in favor of Gawker, prohibited from seeing critical evidence gathered by the FBI and prohibited from hearing from the most important witness, Bubba Clem."