Hollywood News

Amber Heard Accuses Johnny Depp of Sexual Assault on Day 1 of Defamation Trial

Amber Heard accused former husband Johnny Depp of sexual assault during day one of the trial in the $50 million defamation suit filed by the latter against her.


The trial that started on Tuesday is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle between the two actors since Heard filed for divorce in 2016, alleging domestic abuse at the hands of Depp.

In their opening statement, Heard’s representatives alleged that Depp had penetrated her with a liquor bottle during one of the episodes of domestic abuse.

Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft said Depp took eight to ten ecstasy tablets, while in Australia in 2016, then ripped off Heard’s nightgown, dragged her across the floor, punching and kicking her. “Then he penetrates her with a liquor bottle — that’s the Johnny Depp you’re going to hear about in this case,” she added.

Depp’s defamation suit concerns an opinion piece published by Heard in The Washington Post in December 2018, in which she shared her experiences as a domestic abuse survivor. Depp, who has continued to deny the allegations of domestic abuse, claims that her article was defamatory and impacted his career, even though she did not mention him by name.

The trial is set to unfold at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia, over the next six weeks, and is being broadcast live. Opening statements from both parties were presented to the 11-member jury panel and the presiding judge Penney Azcarate on Tuesday.

Depp’s representatives said three statements from Heard’s opinion piece were particularly devastating for the actor and his film career. Attorney Ben Chew further added, “She didn’t have to (name Depp). She didn’t have to, because the evidence will show that everyone in Hollywood, and outside, knew exactly what she was talking about.”

Chew claimed that Heard’s domestic abuse allegations against Depp were prompted by his repeated requests for a divorce, which made her concoct a story that was designed to trap Depp and “recast herself as an abuse survivor.”

Another of Depp’s lawyers, Camille M Vasquez, called Heard “a profoundly troubled person who manipulated the people around her – just like she manipulated Mr Depp.” She said that Heard was obsessed with her public image, and decided to become the face of abuse to avoid humiliation and advance her career, after Depp had left.

Around the time Heard had filed for divorce in 2016, she had also applied for a restraining order against Depp.


Chew noted that Depp and Heard had reached an out-of-court settlement, and the latter had decided to not go forward with the order. “In the wake of the ‘Me Too’ movement and the release of her film Aquaman, Heard chose to remind the world about the festering allegations – this time under the banner of the international newspaper The Washington Post,” he continued.

Calling her allegations “false,” Chew added that they devastated Depp’s career and family.

Depp was dropped from big-budget projects like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean as well as the new Fantastic Beasts film in the wake of Heard’s allegations. “Hollywood studios don’t want to receive backlash for hiring someone accused of abuse,” said Chew.

Heard’s team, meanwhile, said that it was Depp’s unprofessional behaviour and his refusal to quit drugs and alcohol that kept him from being a reliable actor, and not Heard’s allegations.

One of Heard’s representatives shared an instance, when Depp had gone without food for days, and just lived on drugs and alcohol before blacking out. This had resulted in his long absence from the sets of a film that he was working on, they claimed.

“Disney wasn’t going to cast him (Depp) in Pirates of the Caribbean 6. Months before the op-ed, Disney was considering dropping him. Disney had a dossier on him that had articles from the press and other information about Depp. And they didn’t have this article (Heard’s op-ed) in their files. It didn’t register with them just as it didn’t register with the public,” her representative said.

He added that Depp’s suit was meant to humiliate, haunt, and wreck Heard, and that his financial distress fuelled his aggressive tendencies towards her. “It was two years ago, when Depp’s career was in a free fall while Heard’s was taking off, that he decided to file the suit.”

Heard’s representatives also brought up her right to freedom of speech, and emphasised that the case was about the First Amendment. They noted that the op-ed did not divulge details of the relationship between Heard and Depp, but was focused on social change and proposed legislation on abuse.

It is to be noted that Depp’s legal team pushed for the trial to be held in Virginia, which notably has a more lenient Anti-SLAPP law as compared to California.


The Anti-SLAPP (Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law aims at protecting the defendants of meritless lawsuits by invoking the First Amendment. It is primarily intended to protect the news media in matters of public interest.

The degree of Anti-SLAPP protections vary significantly from state to state. While the law is more broad in California and protects all speech made in connection with a public issue, like domestic abuse, Virginia has no allowance for invoking these protections at an early stage of the proceedings.

It remains to be seen how far Heard’s team will be able to push with free speech in this case.