(Adds details from trial)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 14 (Reuters) - The former Gawker editor responsible for publishing a sex tape of wrestling celebrity Hulk Hogan, acknowledged in a Florida courtroom on Monday that it was not news to show his genitalia.
A.J. Daulerio, Gawker’s editor when the tape was posted on the website in 2012, was the company’s first defense witness in a civil trial testing media boundaries in the digital age.
The case will weigh Hogan’s right to privacy against the public interest in a free press under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The one-minute, 41-second edited video features Hogan having sex with the wife of his then-best friend, radio “shock jock” personality Bubba the Love Sponge.
Hogan, 62, said he did not know the consensual encounter, which occurred nearly a decade ago in Bubba’s home, had been recorded.
Gawker attorneys wanted Bubba to testify, but a judge in the trial opted not to force him to appear before the jury. Bubba said he planned to plead the Fifth Amendment rather than make self-incriminating statements under oath.
Attorneys, however, can ask him questions away from the jury under an arrangement outlined by the judge on Monday.
The decision followed a brisk cross-examination of Daulerio, which Hogan’s attorneys called a boon to their case.
In his testimony, Daulerio described directing a video editor at Gawker to cut highlights from the roughly 30-minute sex tape sent to its offices. He was interested in “innocuous” conversation between Hogan and his friend’s wife for a commentary on sex tapes.
“That was what I found most amusing,” he said, noting that he had grown up watching the mustachioed Hogan when he was a dominant figure in the wrestling world in the 1980s and 1990s.
The final cut featured nine seconds of actual sex, he said, to confirm the encounter. Daulerio said he did not consider blurring images, nor contact the wrestler before publication.
Hogan, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, told jurors he still suffers from humiliation over the tape’s release, when he testified at the trial near his home in St. Petersburg last week.
Hogan’s attorney, Shane Vogt, ripped into the former Gawker editor Monday on cross-examination.
“Mr Bollea’s penis had no news value, did it?” Vogt asked. “No,” Daulerio responded.
Still, a Gawker attorney said the jury would recognize that the specific questions that tripped up Daulerio on cross-examination were not the full picture.
“You don’t sit and carve out one tiny piece of a story and say was this newsworthy, or was not newsworthy,” said attorney Seth Berlin. “You look at the whole thing.”
Gawker founder Nick Denton began testifying late on Monday and is expected to continue on the witness stand on Tuesday. (Editing by Bernadette Baum, Tom Brown and Bernard Orr)
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