One of the jurors who made Gawker Media pay $140 million in damages to Hulk Hogan for invasion of privacy said Tuesday even if he had known Silicon Valley titan Peter Thiel was funding the lawsuit, it would not have changed his mind one bit.
According to an audio recording obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Shane O’Neil, one of the six jurors, confirmed that even if had known during deliberation that Thiel was bankrolling the Hogan lawsuit against Gawker Media, “that would have absolutely not changed anything, because it really has absolutely nothing to do with the facts whatsoever.”
A Florida jury awarded damages to Terry G. Bollea, otherwise known as former wrestler Hulk Hogan, after finding that Gawker invaded his privacy by posting a sex tape, in which Bollea was featured. Kenneth G. Turkel, one of Bollea’s lawyers, described Gawker as a publication that routinely engages in “morbid and sensational prying,” an opinion shared by many covering the site’s progressive downfall. The jurors essentially agreed and even awarded Bollea more money than they had originally intended just because of Gawker founder Nick Denton’s unbelievable arrogance throughout the trial.
O’Neil then went on to explain the logic behind his statement, even hinting that Thiel’s funding of the case was actually a positive development, given that very few people damaged by companies like Gawker are capable of striking back.
“As a matter of fact, when you really think about it, a lawsuit like that, which I have no clue the cost…most people would not be able to afford that, so you probably have thousands of people that have been victimized by similar companies, Gawker and others, that can’t simply defend themselves and obviously even what seems like a wealthy individual, Terry Bollea, obviously needed help…I just don’t really see how that would change the outcome at all,” O’Neil said.
Bloomberg separately spoke with Salina Stevens, one of the other jurors, who said, “As far as I’m aware, the law does not say anything about how a case can or cannot be funded.”
Forbes broke the story of Thiel’s involvement in the lawsuit last Tuesday, citing sources with intimate knowledge of the situation. Thiel has reportedly spent around $10 million funding the lawsuit to crush Gawker Media, which is slowly starting to bend under pressuring, owing to at least five other simultaneous defamation suits underway. The animosity between Gawker and Thiel dates back to a 2007 article, in which Gawker outed Thiel as gay.
While Gawker has bitterly complained about Thiel’s slow and steady campaign to crush the site and its various web properties, there’s been a striking lack of legitimate sympathy in the press, as Gawker has previously attempted to out non-public figures like Condé Nast CFO David Geithner as gay. The site–and Nick Denton in particular–have developed a long list of enemies for abysmal standards of practice, namely digging into people’s private affairs and airing the gory details where there is no plausible journalistic reason for doing so.
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