Hulk Hogan’s $100 million civil trial against Gawker Media for the release of his sex tape kicked off on Monday, with the pro wrestler’s lawyers arguing that the website intended to do “harm” to him with the leak.
The gossip site released a portion of Hogan’s sex tape in 2012. During opening statements, Hogan’s attorney Shane Vogt slammed Gawker, saying its guided by “power and profit,” according to CNN.
Former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio is the defendant in the case, having released the excerpts years ago. Gawker founder Nick Denton is also a defendant. Company attorney Mike Berry defended the site’s editorial philosophy on Monday, calling its brand of reporting “important.”
“Gawker believes this kind of reporting is important,” Berry said, according to Reuters. “It is important for writers to be able to address uncomfortable subjects — whether the subject is mental health, whether the subject is drugs, whether the subject is celebrity sex tapes.”
Vogt, however, argued that Gawker’s intent was not to inform, but rather to hurt Hogan.
“What we’re going to prove to you is that they intended to harm him,” Vogt told jurors.
During the first day of the trial, Vogt showed the jury internal memos to highlight Gawker’s focus on traffic, as well as internal Gawker staff chats at the time showing the workers mocking Hogan. “This is what qualifies as news at Gawker,” he added.
The tape showed Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, then the wife of radio host Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem. When the short excerpt was released, Hogan’s lawyers sent Gawker a cease and desist order, and the site initially refused to take down the video. The video was removed six months later under a court order, which was later reversed by an appellate court, though the video remains off Gawker’s site.
Hogan will testify in the trial later on Monday.