A Florida judge said Hulk Hogan’s legal team has the right to look into electronic correspondence of some employees of Gawker Media regarding the former professional wrestler.
On Wednesday, Pinellas county circuit judge Pamela Campbell ruled that the WWE wrestler could hire a court appointed forensic expert to inspect the "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 and including the U. S. District Court case of Gawker Media v. FBI (“FOIA” lawsuit), for the time frame of June 26, 2015, through August 6, 2015.”
Hogan wants access to the correspondence because he believes Gawker leaked a recording of him making a 2006 racist rant to the National Enquirer. It is the latest court ruling in relation to Hogan's $100 million lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing a video recording of him having sex on one of its web sites.
“We are exceptionally pleased with the court’s rulings in our favor and it will be our goal to have the court appointed expert begin their search as soon as possible," Hogan's lawyer David Houston told FOX411. "We will comb through Gawker’s records looking for information that may substantiate our concern as to whether or not Gawker or an associate is responsible for the dissemination of otherwise court protected information. If we are able to find that information we will seek the most severe sanctions possible.”
Gawker's lawyers disagreed with the ruling and will appeal. Attorney Michael Berry said in a statement to FOX411: “The Judge’s order is literally unprecedented. It has no basis in law or fact. We intend to appeal. This order should send a shiver down the spine of all media companies and anyone who believes in the free press. 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.”
Houston called Gawker's invocation of the First Amendment "nauseating," saying "if in fact they knowingly violated a court order the First Amendment does not protect this type of conduct. Gawker clearly brought this upon themselves giving messages to the media. Gawker has done virtually everything possible for us to look at them as the cause of the leak.”
“By using the First Amendent, we hear the rattling of the sabers of Gawker in order to gather the respectable media to their defense," Houston added. "It seems absurd not only because of the general reputation of Gawker but it represents a desperate effort by a defendant in their death throes.”
Hogan’s lawyer told FOX411 in July that he was suspicious of who leaked Hogan's rant, which went viral and led to the former reality star getting fired by the WWE.
“I have my suspicions, as you can imagine,” Houston told FOX411. “If I can find out it is Gawker who leaked the transcripts, we will bury them.”
The Hogan/Gawker trial is set for March 7, 2016.