Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Attorney says Heard was raped during relationship with Depp

The claim comes after years of relentless legal bickering between the Hollywood stars and was made during a hearing over whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom during an upcoming defamation trial.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Actress Amber Heard once described herself in a Washington Post op-ed as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." But in a Virginia courtroom Friday, her attorney spelled it out: Heard, the attorney claimed, was raped while the partner of actor Johnny Depp.

Attorney Elaine Charlson Bredehoft argued that because of the nature of the case – including sexual violence – cameras should not be allowed in the Fairfax County Circuit Court during an upcoming trial in which Depp has accused his ex-wife of defaming him and derailing his career.

In Virginia, a court "may solely in its discretion" permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during the progress of judicial proceedings and the broadcasting of judicial proceedings by radio or television. But coverage of some categories of witnesses are prohibited, including victims of sexual offenses.

Bredehoft, of the firm Charlson Bredehoft, said Heard was the victim of assault "including rape" during and before her marriage to Depp, which was lasted from 2015 to 2017.

While Bredehoft did not offer specific details or name Depp as the alleged rapist, his attorney, Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick, called the charges both false and outrageous. Heard "is a liar," Chew said. He told Judge Penney S. Azcarate that Depp favors transparency and does not object to cameras in the courtroom.

Azcarate, who is the chief judge in Fairfax County, said the Virginia statute referred to by Bredehoft involves criminal cases. In civil cases like this one, the judge has discretion. Azcarate said she has received requests for camera coverage from multiple news outlets and will allow one pool camera in the courtroom.

The judge added that there would be restrictions on what could be photographed and filmed. "It will be a tight leash," she remarked.

Heard described herself as a domestic abuse survivor in a Washington Post op-ed in December 2018. Depp, who contends her story is false, filed a defamation lawsuit against the "Aquaman" actress three months later in Fairfax County, where the newspaper is printed.

The trial has been postponed multiple times, at first due to scheduling conflicts and later because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Barring another delay, trial is set for April 11 – more than three years after the complaint was filed. The proceedings could extend well into May.

Depp's lawsuit asks for $50 million in damages. The 58 -year-old actor contends that Heard crash-landed his once lucrative career. Four days after the publication of her article, in which he was never mentioned by name, he lost his “Pirates of the Caribbean” role.

Heard, 35, filed a counterclaim asking for $100 million in damages. In court documents, she alleges Depp "threatened to kill her and otherwise harm her in private messages to friends. These threats were realized in the form of rampant physical violence and abuse Ms. Heard suffered at Mr. Depp's hands before and during the marriage."

Throughout the case, Chew has attempted to paint Heard’s story as a pack of lies. Heard’s lawyers, for their part, reiterate that Depp lost a previous lawsuit brought against The Sun, a U.K. publication, for a story that labeled Depp as a “wifebeater.” A judge in that case found that Depp had abused Heard on a dozen occasions.

Categories / Entertainment, Media, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.

Loading...