The multi-national legal battles between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have just become a lot less charitable.
As the once married Rum Diary co-stars’ inch towards a May 3 trial start in Depp’s $50 million defamation suit against Heard, claims have now reemerged over whether the Aquaman star actually donate her $7 million 2016 divorce settlement to charity as promised.
A clearly planted story in the UK’s Daily Mail that seems aimed to help get the Pirates of the Caribbean actor the new trial he is seeking against fellow tabloid The Sun over being labelled a “wife beater” in print.
“Mr. Depp’s effort to plant stories in the media criticizing Amber for not yet fulfilling all the donations she pledged to charity is yet another desperate attempt to divert attention from the UK Court’s findings relating to allegations of Mr. Depp committing domestic abuse and violence,” Heard’s US attorney Elaine Bredehoft told Deadline in a statement Thursday after the Mail story appeared online.
Diverting perhaps, but not untrue, it seems.
While Depp initially handed over $100,000 of a promised $3.5 million to L.A.’s Children Hospital Foundation in Heard’s name in 2016, a 2019 letter from the organization asks the actress “if you have knowledge if CHLA should expect further installment(s) on your behalf or if the pledge will not be fulfilled.”
Heard stated in the UK High Court last year, and on various other occasions over the past few years, that she donated the full $7 million to CHLA and the ACLU after some initial hiccups in the agreement with her ex-husband. In fact, in his biting November 2020 decision against Depp in the libel case against the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun, Judge Andrew Nichol made a distinct point of praising Heard as Team Depp sought to sully the motivations of the anti-domestic violence advocate. “Her donation of the $7 million to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger,” said the High Court judge, also asserting The Sun’s claims against Depp was “substantially true.”
However, today Heard’s lawyer in the Virginia based defamation matter and her client’s $100 million counterclaim, did noticeably walk back the full extent of the actress’ benefactions
“Amber has already been responsible for seven figures in donations to charitable causes and intends to continue to contribute and eventually fulfill her pledge,” the Reston located Bredehoft added. “However, Amber has been delayed in that goal because Mr. Depp filed a lawsuit against her, and consequently, she has been forced to spend millions of dollars defending Mr. Depp’s false accusations against her.”
While implicitly confirming Depp’s allegations that the donations weren’t fully made, Bredehoft’s explanation actually further complicates the matter in another manner. Depp sued Heard for defamation in 2019, over two years after the divorce settlement. So, what were the big bucks Heard had to pay out to lawyers from 2017 to 2019?
That question may now become pivotal in the UK Having already seen one appeal attempt go nowhere, as Depp’s UK lawyers want a new trial in part because the first trial’s judge “failed to properly assess her credibility by reference to documentary evidence, photographs, recordings or otherwise.”
Judge Nicol “concluded that the appellant was guilty of serious physical assaults without taking account of or even acknowledging that Ms. Heard had been untruthful in her evidence, without testing her account against the documentary evidence and the evidence of other witnesses, and without making any findings that he disbelieved those witnesses,” barrister David Sherborne wrote to the Appeals Court on Christmas Eve.
Deadline asked Heard’s attorney Bredehoft if the fact that her client has not donated all of the $7 million settlement as she has said she has could impact either the US defamation case(s) or the UK matter. “No. They have nothing to do with each other,” the Charlson Bredehoft Cohen & Brown, P.C. partner replied.
The ACLU did not reply to a request from Deadline on the state of Heard’s donations. CHLA did, sort of. “Due to circumstances of the litigation, CHLA is legally precluded from sharing details about the case publicly,” said a Children’s Hospital Los Angeles spokesperson tonight.
Representatives for Depp did not have a timely statement when contacted by Deadline. But, Depp’s longtime legal advisor Adam Waldman did respond online to Bredehoft’s remark of Heard “eventually” fulfilling the donations by posting “is that the same thing as a 4 year media spasm of the $7m charitable donation? Is that the same thing that was said in court under oath? No, it is not the same thing.”
Frequently mentioned in filings by Heard’s lawyers in the Virginia cases and no longer directly representing Depp in the matter, Waldman is currently being sought for a deposition that Heard’s team say he is ducking. “Just like Mr. Depp, who refused to appear for his properly noticed deposition, Mr. Waldman appears or believe this Court’s clear Rules respecting depositions do not apply to him,” says a January 4 memorandum in opposition from Heard’s attorneys to Team Depp’s motion for a protective order.
Having failed earlier this week to get Heard’s $100 million counterclaims dismissed in Virginia court, it probably is no coincidence that the donations dispute is being ratcheted up to a new level now. In December, Fairfax County Judge Bruce White did grant Depp’s desire to have Heard hand over her decade-old arrest record and documentation related to how she allocated the funds from the 2016 divorce deal.
While the Oscar nominee lost out in other large portions of that “wide array of irrelevant, overbroad, and privileged discovery,” (to quote Heard’s opposition filed of December 11), suddenly documentation potentially damning to the defendant and counter-plaintiff is showing up in the UK press – the other front in the couple’s ongoing litigation.
The now axed Fantastic Beats actor sued Heard in the Old Dominion in March 2019 after she penned a Washington Post op-ed about being a victim of domestic abuse. The piece never actually named Depp, but the already litigious actor said that it cost him a gig in a planned Pirates of the Caribbean reboot. The action went on to say that in fact it was Depp who was the victim in the tempestuous relationship: “Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator.”
In that case, more once closely held documents are about to become public, so to speak. On January 5, on the advice of both sides, Judge White ordered that Depp’s financial information and tax returns will no longer be designated as “Confidential under the Protective Order.”
With seen the full extent of his wealth and seemingly excessive spending habits made public before in a previous suit, since settled, with his ex-business managers, Depp may not care too much about his financial state being out there again.
Yet, perception, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.