Amber Heard is set to take to the stand in her bombshell defamation trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp as soon as Monday, with insiders saying the actress will be a ‘highly effective weapon’ in her $100million countersuit.
The A-list trial in Virginia, which started on April 11 and is set to last another three weeks, has so far seen Depp claim he was the victim of domestic abuse in his four days of testimony, with his bodyguard yesterday describing wounds on the actor’s face.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star is suing Heard for $50million, claiming she defamed him and ruined his career after a 2018 Washington Post article in which she described herself as a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’, without naming her ex-husband.
Heard is countersuing for $100million, and after three weeks of sitting silently in the courtroom during Depp’s testimony, she is preparing to start her fight back when court resumes next week after a day off today.
Insiders told Deadline she could take to the stand as soon as Monday, unless a major revelation comes out during the closing statements in Depp’s case.
A source said: ‘It’s hard to see how Amber won’t prove to be a highly effective weapon against Depp in her own advocacy.
‘Regardless of how they have tried to characterize her, she has been nothing but well composed and pretty conservative in court without having said a word.’
Heard was not a party and did not take the stand in Depp’s 2020 libel claim against The Sun in the UK, which he lost.
The trial in the Fairfax County Courthouse runs Monday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm, and is set to conclude on May 19. Judge Penny Azcarate has a prescheduled conference from May 9 to 12 when the trial will pause for a week.
Yesterday, Depp’s bodyguard said he noticed injuries and marks on the actor’s face as his relationship with Heard became increasingly volatile.
Amber Heard is set to take to the stand in her bombshell defamation trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp as soon as Monday
The A-list trial in Virginia, which started on April 11 and is set to last another three weeks, has so far seen Depp claim he was the victim of domestic abuse
The jury was then shown a photo taken by Depp’s bodyguard during Depp and Heard’s honeymoon in 2013 where the Pirates of the Caribbean star appeared to have visible scratches and ‘swelling’ on his face
Security guard Malcolm Connolly pointed to the ‘swelling on the left hand side’ of Depp’s nose and ‘under his left eye’ seen in the photo
Testifying remotely from his native UK, Connolly, who began working as Depp’s private personal security in 2006, said he witnessed Johnny and Amber’s relationship become increasingly volatile
Malcolm Connolly told the court he witnessed his client go from being happy in love to ‘quiet’ as Heard became more ‘dominant’ and ‘demanding.’
Testifying remotely from his native UK, Connolly, who began working as Depp’s private personal security in 2006, said: ‘At the beginning [it was] all lovey-dovey. Everything was great. Honeymoon period was on, and yeah it was good.’
‘It was great to see Johnny happy again. Amber was lovely, charming – as she usually is – and good as gold.’
But Connolly, who identifies as a ‘protection officer’, said things then ‘started to change’ between the two spouses, who began arguing more often.
‘Amber started to change. Amber started getting a bit more feisty, demanding. I could see that Amber wanted to wear the pants in this relationship. That was pretty obvious,’ he said.
The bodyguard added that Heard ‘could get a frosty at the drop of hat’ and over time witnessed Depp ‘getting quieter’ as Amber ‘started getting grumpy.’
Connolly admitted that he never did see any physical violence between the two, but testified that he would often hear Depp and Heard argue frequently.
‘I could hear Amber screaming. I could hearing shouting and bawling,’ he said, adding that he could ‘mostly’ hear Heard shouting and that the couple fought ‘more often than not.’
And while he never witnessed any violence, the security guard told the court that he began noticing scratches and injuries on Depp’s face. He noted that he never saw any marks on Heard.
‘What I noticed straight away was most of these marks were happening on the left hand side of his (Depp’s) face,’ Connolly said.
‘There would be scratches on his neck. Maybe a fat lip in the corner, a bruising in the eye socket.
‘It was getting more regular. Not every week, but it was definitely happening,’ he added.
The jury was then shown a photo taken by Connolly during Depp and Heard’s honeymoon in 2013.
Depp, posing alongside his now ex-wife and three others, appeared to have visible injuries and ‘swelling’ on his face.
When asked to described the photo, Connolly pointed the ‘swelling on the left hand side’ of Depp’s nose and ‘under his left eye.’
Asked what he thought had happened, the bodyguard said: ‘Either he’s walked into a door, or a door has walked into him,’ prompting laughter from the courtroom.
Earlier on Thursday, jurors also heard briefly from Depp’s business manager, Ed White, who said he intervened in 2016 to resolve financial difficulties for Depp, including unpaid taxes and a cash crunch.
The court heard how Depp went from being happy in love to ‘quiet’ as Heard allegedly became more ‘dominant’ and ‘demanding’
When he blamed Heard for an excessive wine bill that featured multiple $500 bottles of Spanish Vega Sicilia wine, Heard’s lawyers responded with a barrage of questions over Depp’s spending excesses, including spending millions of dollars to shoot journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes out of a cannon.
The court also heard testimony revealing that Elon Musk covered nearly half of ex-girlfriend Amber Heard‘s donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after she pledged to give away her multimillion dollar divorce settlement to charity following her split from Depp.
The actress has so far only paid $1.3million of the $3.5million she promised the ACLU nearly six years ago, with Musk’s money making up a large chunk of it.
The billionaire Tesla founder, 50, gave $500,000 to the civil rights group on behalf of Heard after the two began dating after her divorce from Depp in 2016.
The Aquaman star, 36, announced she would donate the $7million she received in her settlement to two organizations when the couple’s legal separation was finalized in August 2016.
Heard promised to give half the money to the ACLU to support its work in ‘fighting violence against women’, and the other $3.5million to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
But Terence Dougherty, the ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, testified in the trial Thursday, telling the court the organizations’ promised donation has not been paid in full yet.
Dougherty said that so far only a total of $1.3million has either been paid by Heard or on her behalf.
Of that money, Heard contributed $350,000 directly, while $100,000 was paid by Depp and another $350,000 came from a fund at Fidelity, an investment company.
Another $500,000 payment came from an account at investment firm Vanguard, which Dougherty said he ‘believed it was a fund set up by Elon Musk.’
Asked by one of Depp’s lawyers if there were messages with Musk about it, Dougherty said there were.
He said there was a document and emails they had produced to the lawyers in the case regarding the money.
Billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk, 50, donated $500,000 to the ACLU on behalf of Amber Heard when the two were dating in 2016, the actress’s defamation trial heard Thursday. The two are pictured together in 2017
The court heard the Aquaman actress has so far only paid $1.3million of the $3.5million she promised the ACLU nearly six years ago, with Musk’s money making up a large chunk of it
ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Terence Dougherty testified Thursday revealing only half the money has been paid by Heard or on her behalf
Dougherty said that based on emails with Musk, the ACLU understood that Heard’s $3.5million donation would be given over 10 years.
He said that Heard’s money was considered a ‘pledge’ so rather than a check all at once, it would come over time.
Heard’s lawyers have previously told the court that she fully intends to pay the money but for now needs the divorce settlement to pay her legal fees.
Heard had promised to donate her $7M divorce settlement to charity, splitting the funds between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles
The court heard that Heard’s last donation of $350,000 in December 2018 and that she had not paid any money since.
Dougherty said that Heard had told the organization that money was from her anonymous account with Fidelity but they did not do any further checks to guarantee it was her money.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty what ‘efforts the ACLU has made to get Amber Heard to pay’.
He replied: ‘We reached out to Miss Heard starting in 2019 for the next installment of her giving and we learned she was having financial difficulties’.
The court heard that Musk played a central role in setting up Heard’s donations to the ACLU, partly because he had given to it before.
Heard and Musk dated for a year following the actress’s divorce from Johnny Depp in 2016
Johnny Depp’s $50million defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard that started on April 10 is expected to last five or six weeks
In an email dated August 18, 2016, Musk wrote to Heard and Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU: ‘I described your (Heard’s) plan to donate $3.5million to the ACLU over the next 10 years as you very much believe in what they’re doing’.
The court heard that Robin Shulman, a communications strategist with the ACLU wrote the first draft of the op-ed in November 2018, a month before the article was published.
In a message to Heard dated November 29, 2018, Shulman said that she tried to ‘gather your fire and rage’ and shape it into an op-ed piece.
Asked if that meant rage against Depp, Dougherty said it was about ‘gender-based violence issues’.
In a follow up message, Shulman told Heard: ‘Our lawyers should review this for the way I skirted around your marriage’.
Jessica Weitz, another member of the ACLU communications team, told Heard: ‘I want to make sure nothing was said in here that puts you in jeopardy with your NDA’ with Depp after the divorce.
Shulman and Heard met in person and that op-ed was changed, the court heard.
Heard’s lawyers also made some edits.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty: ‘Some at the ACLU expressed belief that excising references to the marriage and divorce from Johnny Depp made the op-ed less impactful?’
Dougherty said: ‘That is correct’.
Dougherty said that the ACLU had the responsibility of placing the op-ed and considered the New York Times, Washington Post, Teen Vogue and USA Today as places where it could go.
As Dougherty put it, the list was in ‘descending importance and reach as we go down’, but with a greater likelihood they would publish it.
Gerry Johnson, one of the ACLU communications team, emailed his colleagues about timing the op-ed so it would come out at the same time as the premiere of Aquaman, the film Heard was starring in.
Johnson wrote: ‘Since draft turned out pretty strong and Aquaman slated to do large numbers I’m wondering what you think about it?’
Actor Amber Heard returns following a break at the Fairfax County Circuit Court Thursday, April 28, 2022
Depp, 58, had previously accused his ex-wife of lying about giving all of her divorce settlement to charity
Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’
Dougherty said that media outlets were more likely to take on an op-ed if it had ‘strong views’ and the more the person was in the public eye at the time, the ‘more likely it will be accepted by a more prominent media outlet’.
Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty if Heard’s marriage to Depp made the op-ed a ‘stronger product’.
Dougherty said: ‘Amber’s contributions to the portion of op-ed that talks about personal experiences is what informed the view this was a strong op-ed’.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked: ‘She wanted the op-ed to come out just after Aquaman release?’
Dougherty said: ‘I recall there was a conversation for optimal timing’
Dougherty added that it was ‘correct’ that Heard wanted the article to come out just after the Aquaman release.
On December 11 2018, Witz emailed her colleagues that Heard’s team had sent back a final draft but it ‘neutered much of her marriage and domestic violence’.
Witz said that the goal was the ‘get this out this week to capitalize on the tremendous campaign for Aquaman’, referring to the publicity surrounding the film.
In follow up emails, Witz said that Heard wanted to get a mention of her getting a restraining order back into the article.
Witz said: ‘Is there an artful way to to do that?’
Such a mention did not make it into the final cut.
Around that time, Stacey Sullivan, another member of the ACLU’s communications pitched the the article to Michael Duffy, an editor at the Washington Post.
Emails shown in court Thursday revealed Johnny Depp contributed towards Heard’s $3.5million pledge to the ACLU
The email said: ‘Hey Michael, wondering if we might interest you in an op-ed by Amber Heard ‘Who as you may recall was beaten up during her brief marriage to Johnny Depp’
Once it had been agreed the article would be published, Heard emailed her team and the ACLU: ‘It’s going to the Washington Post!!!’
The court also heard about the panic within the ACLU how in 2019 Reuters inquired about how much Heard had paid of her $3.5m pledge.
In an email to colleagues, Witz insisted that Heard had ‘donated her full settlement to charity’ but investigations revealed she had only paid $1.3m
As Witz and her colleagues struggled to phrase a statement to Reuters, she emailed her colleagues: ‘I had nightmares about this last tonight, do you think this is OK?’
Depp’s lawyers asked if Witz was ‘concerned the ACLU was not telling the truth?
As Depp looked on and smiled, Dougherty said: ‘She was doing everything she could to give a correct statement to the press’.