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Johnny Depp’s $50M Defamation Suit Should Be Tossed Because Of UK “Wife Beater” Ruling, Amber Heard Says

Dominic Patten
·4-min read

Johnny Depp’s recent failure to secure an appeal in the “wife beater” verdict against him in Britain is causing legal ripples on this side of the Atlantic. Flying the flag of international law, Amber Heard’s lawyers say the Pirates of the Caribbean star’s Stateside $50 million defamation lawsuit against the Aquaman actress should be sent packing.

“Giving full effect to the UK Judgments necessitates a finding that statements in the op-ed published in the Washington Post are true – Mr. Depp committed domestic violence against Ms. Heard on many occasions, causing her to fear for her life,” declares a supplemental plea in bar from Heard and Charlson Bredehoft Cohen & Brown, PC and Woods Rogers PC attorneys (read it here).

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“Therefore, as a matter of law, Depp cannot prevail on any of his claims, and Depp’s Complaint against Ms. Heard should be dismissed in its entirety,” adds the April 13 filing that recently appeared on the Fairfax County docket.

As the more than two-year-old matter crawls toward its new-ish April 11, 2022, trial start date, Heard has requested a May 28 hearing on her plea filing in front of Judge Penney Azcarate, who was assigned to the case by last month by Chief Judge Bruce White.

Having proved unsuccessful in the past at getting Depp’s suit shuttered, Heard is making a bit of a long shot with this new strategy. However, with little to lose, the effort could at least gain her some traction in the U.S. courts

The axed Fantastic Beasts actor came up short on March 25 in his hope to be permitted an appeal in his high-profile libel case in the UK with The Sun publisher News Group Newspapers. Following a trial in London last summer, Justice Andrew Nicol decreed on November 2 that the claim in an article by the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid about Depp’s relationship with ex-wife Heard that the one-time Oscar nominee was a “wife beater” was “substantially true.”

With all the testimony and evidence presented at that Covid safety-protocol-enhanced trial and Justice Nicol’s decree, Heard’s team — which is countersuing Depp for $100 million, BTW — believes once again that the March 2019-filed Virginia suit should be DOA.

“Depp cannot relitigate these factual issues, and as a result of their preclusion, he cannot claim that the statements are false and ‘actionable’ under Virginia defamation law, so his claims are barred as a matter of law,” the plea filing states.

Depp’s primary lawyer Benjamin Chew of the DC offices of Brown Rudnick LLP did not respond to request for comment on Heard’s filing and has not made a response filing for his client.

In and out of the courts on various matters the past several years, Depp sued Heard two years ago for defamation and $50 million over an op-ed the actress wrote about domestic violence for the Washington Post in December 2018. Depp alleges the piece cost him a role in Disney’s Pirates reboot, though the column never mentions him by name.

The initial suit also staked out that it actually was Depp who was the real victim in the couple’s short-lived marriage that ended in full public view and a $7 million settlement in 2016. “Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator,” Depp’s spring 2019 suit said. Since the filing, Depp and his crew have consistently declared that Heard has been lying about any abuse at the actor’s hand, as a steady stream of media leaks and footage have sought to establish.

Before filing her countersuit, Heard had not only tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get the case tossed out but at one point had wanted it moved to another jurisdiction — which didn’t work out so well. Depp, on the other hand, sought to undermine the UK case and Heard’s credibility by claiming that his ex did not donate all of the $7 million she received in their break up to L.A.’s Children Hospital Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, a claim that is true to some extent, according to WME-repped Heard’s top lawyer

“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, VA located Elaine Bredehoft told Deadline on January 7 this year. “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,” the attorney added, dodging the timeline speed bump and focusing on media stories that slag her client.

The bitter matter has seen the after mentioned ACLU, Disney, the LAPD and Elon Musk among those drawn into the sticky case with wide-ranging subpoenas from both sides. As of yet, Depp’s close confident and lawyer Adam Waldman has not been served, despite repeated attempts by the defendant. Waldman, however, did step away from active representation in the case late fall.

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