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Judge denies motion for new Gawker-Hulk Hogan trial

Hulk Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, leaves the courtroom during a break in his trial against Gawker Media in St. Petersburg, Florida, in March 2016. | AP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool, File)

Updated May 25, 2016:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida judge on Wednesday denied Gawker’s motion for a new trial in the Hulk Hogan sex-video case and won’t reduce a $140 million jury verdict. In addition, it has been revealed that billionaire Peter Thiel says he bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media because he “thought it was worth fighting back” against an outlet he calls a “singularly terrible bully.”

The PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor tells The New York Times that Hogan’s lawsuit is one of several against Gawker that he has financially backed.

Thiel told the newspaper his plan has been several years in the making. He was publicly outed as gay in a 2007 post on the company’s Valleywag blog. Still, he says his motive is “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence.”

Judge Pamela Campbell did not elaborate on her decision to deny the motion, the latest development in a yearslong legal fight between Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, and the gossip website.

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a 2007 video of him having sex with Heather Clem, wife of his then-best friend Bubba The Love Sponge Clem, a local Tampa DJ who made the video. During the Gawker trial, Hogan mournfully described how Clem betrayed his trust.

The three-week trial was a lurid inside look at the business of celebrity gossip and a debate over newsworthiness versus celebrity privacy.

In March, a Pinellas County jury awarded Hogan $115 million in compensatory damages plus an added $25 million in punitive damages.

Hogan lawyer David Houston released a statement saying that the judge’s decision reflects that “Gawker has failed and continues to fail in recognizing their obligation to Bollea for their reprehensible behavior and method of doing what they call journalism.”

Gawker did not immediately respond to the decision.

Earlier this month, Hogan sued Gawker again, saying the website leaked sealed court documents containing a transcript that quoted him making racist remarks. In the transcript, Hogan, who is white, makes several racist statements about his daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who is black. Once the Enquirer published the story, WWE severed its longtime ties with the famous wrestler. Gawker denies that it leaked the transcript.

The latest suit also accuses a talent agent, two disc jockeys, a radio company and a lawyer of conspiring to send news media outlets the sex tape and causing Hogan emotional distress and economic harm.

Associated Press