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Gawker Trial: This Is Why You Always Prep Employees Before Depos

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 16, 2016 4:14 PM

In case you haven't been reading the tabloids lately, Gawker, the Internet gossip site, is currently facing a $100 million lawsuit by Hulk Hogan, the 80's professional wrestling superstar.

Gawker, you see, posted an illicit video of Hogan having sex with a friend's wife, but the real shocker is how poorly Gawker's editors performed when deposed. Gawker's terrible showing is a helpful reminder to the rest of us: never cut corners when it comes to prepping high-level employees for litigation.

He Said What Under Oath?

Hogan's suit, which seeks $100 million in damages for invasion of privacy, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, could bring down Gawker's Internet media empire. So you'd think their editors, and lawyers, would take it a bit more seriously. That, however, doesn't seem to have been the case.

Last week, Albert J. Daulerio's deposition was played in court. It was bad. Really bad. Here's how The New York Times describes it:

A palpable sense of shock rippled through a courtroom here Wednesday morning when the former editor in chief of Gawker.com was shown in a videotaped deposition suggesting that almost anything goes when it comes to the newsworthiness of celebrities' sex videos.

So what did Daulerio, a former Gawker editor and named defendant, do that was so shocking? When asked to "imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy," he replied, "if they were a child."

"Under what age?" Hogan's lawyers inquired.

"Four."

Yep. A former editor claimed, under oath, that Gawker wouldn't have any problem posting a sex tape involving five, six, or seven-year-olds.

So You Think You Got Jokes?

Gawker quickly released a statement saying that the comment was meant to be flippant. On Monday, Daulerio sought to move away from his statement, noting that he was not seriously proposing disseminating child pornography. That also didn't go over too well.

"You think that's a funny topic to joke about?" Shane Vogt, one of Hogan's attorneys, asked.

"No, I don't," Daulerio responded. But he still couldn't escape the consequences of his statement.

"You were joking about child pornography, were you not?" Vogt persisted.

An Ounce of Prevention ...

Now, we don't think Daulerio's statement about children will be key to the trial's outcome, which turns on complex questions of Hogan's celebrity, the newsworthiness of Gawker's content, and freedom of the press. But it certainly won't help.

One can't help but wonder if a bit of pre-deposition legal advice -- don't be a smart ass; take this thing seriously; know that what you say will be used against you -- could have helped prevent this whole situation.

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