Judge denies Amber Heard bid to dismiss Johnny Depp defamation suit

Depp lawyer says Heard’s ‘false allegations’ reaches threshold to sue

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 06 May 2022 18:13 BST
Watch live as Johnny Depp’s defamation case against Amber Heard continues
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A judge denied Amber Heard’s bid to dismiss Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against her on Tuesday after the latter actor’s legal team rested its case.

The defamation trial between Mr Depp and Ms Heard began on 11 April in Fairfax, Virginia following Mr Depp’s lawsuit against his ex-wife in March 2019. Mr Depp is arguing that she defamed him in a December 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.

In seeking a dismissal, defence lawyer Ben Rottenborn argued that the only issue in the case is if Ms Heard can be held responsible for defamation because of her 2018 column and nothing else.

He said that there’s “ample evidence” that Mr Depp physically abused Ms Heard and acknowledged that this claim is disputed, but argued that there is no dispute over the aspect of non-physical abuse.

If Mr Depp abused Ms Heard “even one time, then she wins. It’s that simple”, Mr Rottenborn said.

The lawyer made a motion to strike – requesting that the judge remove all or part of the evidence put forward by the plaintiff from the record.

He asked the court to “strike the plaintiff’s evidence and award summary judgment to Ms Heard”.

Mr Depp’s lawyer Ben Chew then opposed the motion to strike, insisting that Ms Heard’s “false allegations” reached the level required to constitute defamation and saying that “she’s the abuser in this courtroom”.

Mr Chew said the testimony of the ACLU’s Terence Dougherty “was disgusting”, arguing that they pitched the Heard op-ed using Mr Depp’s name to make it more attractive to publishers surrounding the release of the Aquaman film.

Ms Heard’s legal team argued that Mr Depp’s case hasn’t proven malice, making the point that the Washington Post op-ed headline was not written by Ms Heard.

Judge Penney Azcarate said she denied the motion to dismiss the case in regards to two statements brought by the plaintiff but that she’ll take a third under advisement.

In a statement to Law & Crime, a spokesperson for Mr Depp said, “over the last 3.5 weeks, we’ve seen and heard from nearly 30 witnesses who have attested to and supported Mr Depp’s claims that Ms Heard defamed him in her 2018 op-ed”.

“Ms Heard’s reckless op-ed, in turn, caused him to lose a $22.5 million deal with Disney for Pirates of the Caribbean 6, resulting in an overall loss of earnings of over $40 million since December 18, 2018,” the spokesperson added.

“Numerous witnesses have testified that Ms Heard engaged in psychological, verbal and physical abuse towards Mr Depp and we are pleased at Chief Judge Azcarate’s ruling to continue with the trial after Mr Rottenborn failed to convince the court that there was reason to dismiss the case. We stand confident in the future of the case and for the truth to be continued to be shared,” the spokesperson said.

In her 2018 op-ed, Ms Heard wrote that “like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim”.

Depp Heard Lawsuit
Depp Heard Lawsuit (AFP or licensors)
Depp Heard Lawsuit
Depp Heard Lawsuit

“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she added at the time.

While Mr Depp isn’t named in the piece, his legal team argues that it contains a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”, which they say is “categorically and demonstrably false”. Mr Depp is seeking damages of “not less than $50m”.

Ms Heard has filed a $100m counterclaim against Mr Depp for nuisance and immunity from his allegations.

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