Johnny Depp’s lawyers have floated a deal with Amber Heard which could spare her from paying millions she owes her ex-husband in damages.
In their first TV interviews since the bombshell trial concluded, Ben Chew and Camille Vasquez said discussions were ongoing over the verdict and the $8.35m the Fairfax court has ordered Ms Heard to pay.
In the first of two morning interviews, Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos asked if Mr Depp would forego the damages if Ms Heard dropped her appeal. Attorney Ben Chew said the case was ‘never about money’ for Mr Depp.
“You have said that the goal was not to impoverish Ms Heard – is it possible that we could see a settlement where she foregoes the appeal in return for Mr Depp waving any monetary damages?” the host asked the lawyers.
Mr Chew said he couldn’t speak about his private conversations with Mr Depp but noted that the actor testified, and that the lawyers said in their closing statement.
“This was about restoring his reputation and he has done that,” he said.
“So you’re not disclosing any privileges, but it sounds like that’s something that could be on the table but it’s up to Ms Heard?” Mr Stephanopoulos asked.
“We have to be careful what we say, but this was about Mr Depp’s reputation, that’s what it was about for him,” Mr Chew said.
The lawyers said Mr Depp was “over the moon” when he was told about the verdict.
“It was like the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders and I feel that finally after six years he’s gotten his life back,” Mr Chew said.
A jury handed down the verdict on 1 June, awarding Mr Depp $10m in compensatory damages and $5m in punitive damages following Ms Heard’s 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, in which she claimed to be a domestic abuse survivor.
Mr Depp was awarded $10.35m in damages in total because Virginia state law caps punitive damages at $350,000. Ms Heard was awarded $2m in compensatory damages because of comments made by Mr Depp’s previous lawyer.
The trial began on Monday 11 April in Fairfax, Virginia following Mr Depp’s March 2019 lawsuit. Mr Depp argued that Ms Heard defamed him in the op-ed titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.
While Mr Depp wasn’t named in the piece, his legal team argued that it contained a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”, which they said was “categorically and demonstrably false”.
In the same interview, Depp’s other lawyer Camille Vasquez said the actor was given the chance “to speak the truth for the first time” during the trial.
“It was six years in the making, and I think he was able to connect with the jury and the general public and tell what really happened in this relationship,” she added.
“The facts, in this case, were overwhelmingly positive for Johnny and the verdict speaks for itself”.
Ms Vasquez also rejected the idea that the verdict was a setback for the #MeToo movement.
“I think our response to that is we encourage any victim to come forward – domestic violence doesn’t have a gender,” she said. “The facts are what they were. The jury made a unanimous decision based on those facts.”
Mr Chew said that “Johnny took ownership of a lot of things and it seemed at times, and perhaps it came through to the jury, that she had an answer for everything and she wasn’t taking accountability for anything, and I think that made a difference”.
Concerning her own fame on social media, Ms Vasquez said: “If I’m being honest, a bit overwhelming, but if I can be an inspiration to young women that want to go to law school and study and work hard, then it was all worth it”.
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