CLEARWATER — Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media should seek mediation instead of a trial, the Pinellas County circuit judge overseeing their case said in a Wednesday hearing.
Judge Pamela Campbell made her suggestion during a discussion about attorneys' upcoming review of DVDs made during an FBI sting operation.
"After the attorneys have an opportunity to look at those DVDs, I'm going to suggest that the attorneys or that you go back to mediation," Campbell said, according to the transcript, obtained and posted late Wednesday by POLITICO Media. "I'm not going to require it, but I think you'll see why."
The former professional wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker for $100 million in 2012. He accused the company of violating his right to privacy by publishing part of a sex tape of him and Heather Cole, ex-wife of radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
The tape's reported contents — including racial and homophobic slurs — have caused major damage to Bollea's reputation.
Attorneys will now get to review five unredacted DVDs produced by the FBI while the agency investigated a supposed extortion attempt against Bollea.
Gawker sued the FBI to get the records after a federal judge ruled they were available under the Freedom of Information Act. They include two audio recordings and three videos, each of which the FBI says reflects Bollea having sex with Cole.
According to the transcript, the judge recently reviewed the DVDs. She told attorneys to listen to the audio from the agency's sting operation before they watch the videos.
"I'm not saying that they are admissible. In fact, I'm sure some of them definitely are not admissible, but I'll let you all review them, and then we can discuss what each side wants to do with them, which for the majority of those DVDs, it's slim to none."
The trial was set to begin with jury selection in March.