The Florida judge overseeing Bollea v. Gawker Media et al — the high-stakes lawsuit Hulk Hogan (given name: Terry Gene Bollea) is bringing against Gawker Media over Gawker.com's publication of excerpts from his sex tape—will allow Hogan to look through Gawker email, computers, cell phones, tablets, cloud files, and more. Hogan is seeking $100 million from Gawker, and the suit will be heard in March.
Hogan and his team will be permitted to search specific terms to help them determine if anyone from Gawker leaked damning audio published by The National Enquirer and RadarOnline.com, in which the wrestling star can be heard using the n-word. The recording is, allegedly, taken from an extended version of the 2006 sex tape Gawker posted in part to its site.
In a nine-page court ruling, Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell outlined the parameters of Hogan's search. They are very wide (emphasis ours):
Bollea is entitled to a forensic inspection of desktop and laptop computers, computer network systems, servers, tablets, smart phones and any other electronic data equipment of Defendants, Gawker Media, LLC, Nick Denton, A.J. Daulerio, and Heather Dietrick, for any data, files, emails, messages, texts, phone records, and similar electronically stored information concerning the Plaintiff, Terry Bollea, in this action
Gawker will have to, per the ruling (again, emphasis ours):
Permit and cooperate with the computer forensic examiner… to forensically image and inspect computers, computer networks, systems, serves, tablets, smart phones and any other electronic data equipment, including without limitation, backup tapes and devices such as disks and USB drives, cloud based services, which are in the care, custody or control of or used by Gawker Defendants.
Hogan will be allowed to look through material exchanged from June 26 to Aug. 6 of this year, and will be able to use 18 search terms, which range from "Hulk Hogan" to "Hulk_Hogan_Sex_Tapes.doc" to "racist" to "Cowhead," a reference to radio host Mike Calta, a long-time rival of Bubba the Love Sponge. According to the ruling, the inspection can include "all reasonable iterations of these terms,"
as well as nine phrases,
plus the tape itself and any related transcripts, and searchers for "system operations" or "specific commands" that would have removed relevant content.
Hogan's lawyer David Houston told FOX411 that they "are exceptionally pleased with the court’s rulings in our favor," adding, "we will comb through Gawker’s records." Houston said that if they find that someone from Gawker leaked the tape in question, "we will seek the most severe sanctions possible."
In a statement, a Gawker spokesperson said the order "should send a shiver down the spine of all media companies and anyone who believes in the free press." The statement continues, per the Hollywood Reporter:
The judge's order is literally unprecedented. It has no basis in law or fact… It says that a court can confiscate all data in a media companies' computer system based on nothing more than a baseless hunch and accusation. It then gives a litigant all reporters' and editor's data that mentions his name and a long list of other names. This order is an affront to the First Amendment.
Gawker founder Nick Denton added that Gawker will appeal the order, which is set to go into effect on Nov. 18.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.