ST. PETERSBURG — Court records unsealed Friday in former wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker contradict his sworn deposition in the case and that of several other key witnesses.
The documents, which were made available to the public following an order from a Florida appellate court, describe statements that Hogan, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and Clem's ex-wife Heather Cole made to the FBI under oath. In several instances, their comments are starkly different from what they later told Gawker's attorneys in sworn depositions.
The FBI became involved in the case, which revolves around a video of Hogan having sex with then Heather Clem, because of an extortion attempt against Hogan. Excerpts of that sex tape were later published online by Gawker, prompting the former wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, to file suit against the gossip website for $100 million in damages.
According to the documents, in a meeting with the FBI, Bollea and his attorney David Houston watched three separate DVDs, including one in which Bollea made racist remarks about his daughter's African-American boyfriend.
But when Bollea was questioned as part of his lawsuit, he swore he didn't know if any other recordings existed, other than the video obtained by Gawker.
"We have a situation … where the key participant, the plaintiff, is telling us one thing under oath and telling the FBI something else," Gawker attorney Seth Berlin said to the judge last July.
The discrepancy led attorneys for Gawker to conclude that Bollea's "primary concern" and reason for suing them had been to hide the existence of the DVD containing the derogatory comments.
In one document, Gawker attorney Gregg Thomas wrote that Bollea wanted "to send a message to Gawker and anyone else who might receive that footage (it was not part of what Gawker received) not to publish it."
But Bollea's racist language didn't stay hidden. Last summer, The National Enquirer published excerpts of a recorded conversation in which Hogan repeatedly uses the term "n-----." World Wrestling Entertainment fired him immediately and scrubbed mentions of him from its website.
The newly unsealed records also contain documents that indicate Bubba the Love Sponge Clem told the FBI that Bollea knew he was being filmed, then turned around and said in a deposition that he was entirely unaware. The camera was "not concealed," Clem told the FBI, according to the documents. "Hulk knew," he said.
Under oath, Clem's ex-wife said that she had no idea her husband had trained a camera on her and Bollea. But a partial transcript of the video encounter suggests otherwise.
At the end of it, Clem tells his wife that if they ever want to retire, all they need do is to use the sex tape featuring Bollea.
Acknowledging that she knows she was on camera, she responds: "I tried to get past the pain and enjoy it. You'll probably see my face squirming."
Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.