1. News

Appellate court orders release of sealed records in Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit

Hulk Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, testifies in court last week in his $100 million lawsuit against Gawker Media. Hogan says that his privacy was violated and he suffered emotional distress after Gawker posted a sex tape taken of Hogan and his then-best friend's wife. Last year the trial judge sealed certain court records in the case from public view, but on Wednesday the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned that order. Hogan's lawyers quickly appealed, however. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]
Published Mar. 17, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Overturning a Pinellas County judge's order that sealed a large number of records in the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media lawsuit, a Florida appellate court ordered Wednesday that the records be released.

But what exactly will become available to the public — or when — is a bit of a mystery.

The decision from the 2nd District Court of Appeal comes in the middle of the trial of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan's invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker. Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing the website for invasion of privacy for publishing an excerpt of a sex tape showing him having sex with the wife of a friend.

LIVE BLOG: Keep up with the latest developments from the case of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker

In October and November of last year, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell entered several orders making many of the records in the case confidential. The Tampa Bay Times and other news organizations intervened, arguing that the order was too broad and limited the public's right to information about the case.

On Wednesday, the appellate court sided with the newspaper.

"The trial court's cramped view of what qualifies for public access was wrong," wrote Times attorney Alison Steele in the November motion challenging the judge's decision to seal the records.

Sealed records in the case could include details of an FBI investigation into an alleged extortion attempt against Bollea. They could also include video of Bollea's racist rant, a transcript of which was leaked to The National Enquirer last summer, prompting his attorneys to blame the information's release on Gawker.

There is one subject, according to the Times' motion, that the sealed records do not deal with: "None of the sealed records contains DVDs depicting Bollea having sex."

The sealed records are "approximately two dozen judicial records, including hearing transcripts, motions, and materials" that Campbell has been using to rule on motions filed by lawyers representing Bollea and Gawker "related to both procedural and substantive issues."

The newspaper's motion said those sealed records, in turn, have led to the creation of a secret paper trail of court filings and litigation taking place behind the scenes of the Gawker trial — out of public view.

"As a result, a significant portion of this litigation is being conducted in secret with no public oversight, in contravention to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Florida law," read the Times motion.

The newspaper's motion noted that in the past the judge herself has said "much of what the media has reported is flat not right ..." regarding the Gawker trial.

"Although the court did not mention any specific reports," the Times motion said, "it is ironic that the trial court criticized the press for reporting things incorrectly while at the same time keeping many of the records in the case hidden from public view and making it far more difficult to report accurately" on the Bollea vs. Gawker court case.

It's unknown when those documents will be released, however. Hogan's lawyers filed a quick appeal late Wednesday to keep them sealed.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.


  1. Pasco County community news TMCCARTY80  |  Tara McCarty
    Pasco County news briefs
  2. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, left, looks on while school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa, Florida on Friday, October 18, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Joanne Glenn, Pasco eSchool principal, addresses the eSchool faculty on opening day of teacher preplanning week in 2018. Pasco eSchool is launching its first online dual-enrollment courses in conjunction with Pasco-Hernando State College in the second semester.  GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
    Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.
  4. Challenger K-8 School students, from left, Jeremy Gonzalez, 13, Jackson Hoyt, 12, Benjamin Harper, 12, and Gianni Labdar, 12, finish meals consisting of fresh salads, quesadillas and nachos during a lunch service on Oct. 15 at the school in Spring Hill during the county's Fresh from Florida Plate Day event. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Starting a farm-to-school initiative has been more complicated than district officials expected.
  5. Tampa Bay homeowners are now able to sell their homes to Zillow. Zillow
    It joins Opendoor and Offerpad in making "instant'' offers.
  6. The microbrewery Double Branch Artisanal Ales is the first tenant signed at The Grove after the acquisition of the Wesley Chapel shopping center last month by Mishorim-Gold Properties for nearly $63 million. Double Branch Artisanal Ales.
    Mark Gold wants The Grove at Wesley Chapel to become the community’s downtown
  7. Jorge Zambrana and Fabiola Montealegre listen to the music at the Town 'N Country Senior Center. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    It all started at the exercise bike, after he approached her. He had a feeling.
  8. District 3 City Council candidates Orlando Acosta, left, and Ed Montanari. Scott Keeler, Chris Urso
    The St. Petersburg City Council races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Partisan politics are leaking into the campaign anyway.
  9. Disco Freak will perform music from the 1970s in a free concert Oct. 27 at the South Holiday Library. Pasco County Libraries
    Things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  10. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The driver of a Ford F250 truck took evasive action but collided with the pedestrian, officials say.