Attorney Camille Vasquez told Newsweek of her joy over Johnny Depp‘s career comeback, one year after his high-profile court battle against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.
Screen star Depp appeared teary-eyed as he received a lengthy standing ovation after his French-language movie, Jeanne du Barry, opened last month’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Depp portrays King Louis XV in the film, his first in several years.
The moment stood in a stark contrast to his life exactly one year earlier, when a Virginia jury was days away from handing down its verdict on Depp’s televised court battle with Heard. Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post in which she said that she was a domestic abuse survivor.
While she did not name Depp, 59, in the article, lawyers for the Pirates of the Caribbean star argued that it was obvious Heard, 37, was referring to him. Heard countersued for $100 million, alleging that Depp had defamed her through comments made by his attorney, Adam Waldman.
After weeks of ugly courtroom scenes during which each party accused the other of domestic abuse—both stars denied the allegations—Depp emerged the victor. On June 1, 2022, the jury found that Heard had defamed Depp and awarded him more than $10 million in compensatory damages as well as $5 million in punitive damages. Depp, in turn, was ordered to pay $2 million to Heard. An appeal was filed, and subsequently dropped, by Heard’s team in the months that followed.
Vasquez, 38, whose prominent role in the trial catapulted her to stardom, told Newsweek that she is elated to see Depp’s return to the big screen, after the allegations leveled against him sparked questions about his future in Hollywood.
“I’m just so happy for him, that we were able to help him get his life back. And his career,” she said. “He had a very successful opening in Cannes on his film and he performed at the Royal Albert Hall [in London] for the Jeff Beck tribute.”
The Big Reunion
At the time she spoke to Newsweek, Vasquez—who serves as co-chair of the Brown Rudnick LLP’s brand and reputation management group—revealed that she and the entire team that worked on the case were days away from meeting up with Depp. The reunion would have taken place during Depp’s Hollywood Vampires tour stop in Boston on May 31. However, the plans were postponed after Depp called off his stage shows on doctor’s orders because of an ankle injury.
Vasquez revealed that the Boston outing would have been the first time that the full team “could be there together with [Depp] to celebrate the verdict. Because for some of us, it’s been a year since we’ve seen him.”
“We had been hoping to be together. And then obviously, when we learned that Johnny was going to be [at] a concert, and some of our team was actually going to be in trial on a different matter in Boston, we thought it was serendipitous,” she said. “We had to get together.
“We weren’t with [Depp] when the verdict came in, as you know.”
While Heard was in the courtroom last year to hear the headline-making verdict, Depp had already jetted off to Europe, where he played a series of shows with esteemed guitarist Jeff Beck, also a client of Vasquez’s firm, who died in January.
For Vasquez, the communication has remained very much alive between herself and Depp.
“I still represent him on some other outstanding matters, one that we just settled for him was a copyright dispute,” she said. “I definitely keep in contact with him.”
‘We Believed Him’
The fervor surrounding Depp’s trial last year saw deeply divided public opinion lobbed across each side of the wall. Many believed Depp and vilified Heard. Many believed Heard and vilified Depp.
Though confident in their case, Depp’s team had something of an uphill challenge in working to exonerate the actor in the court of public opinion. Before his trial began last year, Depp had already lost a 2020 libel case against British tabloid The Sun, which had labeled the actor a “wife-beater” in reference to Heard’s allegations.
Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse during their divorce proceedings in 2016. The stars, who wed in 2015, had their union officially dissolved in January 2017, months after Heard filed for divorce.
While Depp had repeatedly denied ever having been violent with Heard during the three-week trial in London, the judge found that the U.K. publication’s claims that the actor was abusive to Heard were “substantially true.”
The resulting fallout saw Depp being “asked to resign” from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
For Vasquez, who was seen in court on a daily basis alongside Ben Chew last year, the 2022 case was as much a passion as it was a professional undertaking.
“The one thing about all of us is we believed him,” she told Newsweek. “And we fought for him zealously. For us, it was incredibly important. It’s his life. And we were determined to get it back for him.
“These allegations are—as serious as they were—we say and the jury agreed, false. And defamatory. And it was his opportunity, his one opportunity. I think that [experience] bonds people for life. I mean, seven weeks of a trial and then that month before. Years for some of us working on this case. But definitely months intensely working. Prior to the seven-week trial, we just really bonded all of us in a way that they’re some of my favorite people, and we couldn’t have been happier for him.”
The trial instantly became a moment in pop culture, with self-styled sleuths sharing social media posts that analyzed each party’s every move, word and gesture, presenting what they saw as solid evidence of guilt or innocence.
While the snippets exploded far beyond TikTok, Vasquez admitted that the publicity surrounding the trial as it progressed proved to be somewhat helpful.
“I think the fan elements, it definitely has the ability to help, but it also obviously can be a distraction,” she said. “In our case, especially in the rebuttal case, in the Depp v. Heard matter, these witnesses came forward as a result of the trial being televised and them watching and saying, ‘That didn’t happen the way that I remember.’
“So most of Mr. Depp’s rebuttal case was actually as a direct result of the televised trial and people stepping forward. So everyone from Kate Moss to somebody that witnessed an alleged argument between the two of them that was not physical, even though Ms. Heard alleged that it was physical. I think that it definitely can help.
“The fans are devoted to my client….[It can be] incredibly helpful for the lawyers,” Vasquez continued. “Because they will collect things for us that are on the internet, that they know about, and send it through.
“But social media really didn’t play any role in the Depp v. Heard case. I know that sounds unbelievable. At least for the lawyers, in that courtroom, we just didn’t have the time to really look at it. We were incredibly busy. And you know, I got sent things kind of as the trial started really becoming a big thing. But I didn’t really have time to spend hours going on TikTok. Admittedly, I didn’t even know what TikTok was, until the trial started.”
As with Depp and Heard, the lawyers on each side of the trial also garnered their fair share of supporters and detractors. The rock star status afforded to Vasquez saw a sizable group of viewers gush over everything from her courtroom cross-examinations to her sartorial selections. She also faced cheering fans each day she arrived at court.
“Things have definitely calmed down for me personally, which I appreciate,” Vasquez said. “I’ll get stopped when I’m in public, I would say at least once a day. But it’s not, you know, that crazy fanfare that it was during the trial or after. But I still get stopped and talk to people and receive emails from a lot of young women that are in law school or contemplating going to law school.”
However, not all of those who have shared their thoughts are fans. Vasquez revealed that she has “absolutely” faced backlash from detractors who believe that, as a woman, she committed a gender-betraying misstep in representing Depp.
“I would say it was a lot less than the amount of very nice and complimentary emails that I received and messages of support for Johnny and for the work we did for him,” she said. “But I definitely received it. And I know some of the other women on the team as well received some really pointed criticism.”
Vasquez added that the criticism “wasn’t really based in anything other than we were women. And as women, some people felt that we shouldn’t be representing a man. But what I say to that is what I’ve said from the beginning, which is domestic violence doesn’t have a gender. And as a society, we shouldn’t be viewing allegations from the lens that a man can’t be abused by a woman. That’s just wrong. We know better.”
In recent months, Vasquez has settled into her role as an on-air legal analyst for NBC News. This, balanced with her ongoing work as an attorney and other commitments, has made for quite a challenging schedule.
“It’s definitely difficult to maintain,” Vasquez admitted. “I’m on a plane almost every week…between media appearances, speaking engagements, my clients, or visiting my colleagues in different offices around the world. We have an office in London, we have an office in New York and in D.C. So I travel almost every week.
“But really, my work is my passion. And when I look in the mirror, I see an advocate. And I feel very, very lucky. I get to do this for a living and earn a living. Doing what I know I was really born to do.”
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