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Jury Awards Hulk Hogan $115 Million In Suit Against Gawker Over Sex Tape

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A jury on Friday awarded former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan $115 million in his lawsuit against Gawker over a video showing him having sex with his then-best friend's wife.

The jury reached the verdict in a St. Petersburg, Florida court. Hogan had filed a privacy lawsuit requesting $100 million against Gawker, and had testified that he was "completely humiliated" by the publication of the video.

The civil trial pitted the rowdy wrestling star against a maverick news-gossip website known for pulling no punches with celebrities and other famous figures.

Both sides agreed that in 2006, following a messy divorce, Hogan had sex with Heather Clem. Hogan's lawyers said there were three sexual encounters; at least one of them was captured on video.

Hogan testified at trial that he didn't authorize the tape to be made or authorize Gawker to publish it. Hogan said when he realized that his best friend, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, was involved in making the tape, he began shaking uncontrollably.

He added in testimony that he felt "badgered" by the Clems into having sex with Heather Clem.

It's unclear who leaked the video to Gawker and other media, but some police reports claim it was a disgruntled producer on Bubba Clem's radio show.

An attorney for Hogan told jurors that Gawker "crossed the line" when posting the video, portraying Gawker founder Nick Denton and his reporter as reckless and profit-hungry.

"They knew what they were doing, but they didn't care."

Denton, meanwhile, has said the case involves important First Amendment questions.

Hogan had sought damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Both sides in Hogan's privacy lawsuit have portrayed him as a hero to little kids, a well-known entertainment figure and an American icon.

Hogan testified at trial that it's "part of the deal, you've lost your anonymity when you become Hulk Hogan."

Gawker said the publication was a legitimate scoop because Hogan had talked openly about his sex life before, in forums such as Howard Stern's radio show.

The lawyer for the New York-based website said Gawker has a right to address uncomfortable subjects, reject spin by celebrities and tell the truth.

Gawker attorney Michael Berry told jurors at trial that the media company doesn't know who sent the video.

He acknowledged that Gawker broadcast one minute and 41 seconds of the 30-minute video in 2012 and that around nine seconds of the edited video included sexual content. Gawker's reporter, A.J. Daulerio, posted the video to accompany a story about how celebrity sex tapes fascinate the public - while being lackluster.

"Celebrity sex is incredibly dull," said Berry.

Berry said Gawker didn't make money off the post. Advertisers don't post ads on Gawker's items that are labeled "NSFW," or "not safe for work."

He also said news of the tape, including screen shots, was on other gossip sites before Gawker published the video.

Berry added that Gawker founder Denton "wants people to know the truth. The simple unvarnished truth."

Hogan attained pro wrestling stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, winning multiple championships. He also became a celebrity outside his "Hulkamania" fan base, appearing in numerous movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, "Hogan Knows Best."

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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