Heard Asks Virginia Judge to Adopt UK Court Findings of Depp Abuse

Attorneys for the “Aquaman” actress say the issue of whether the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star was abusive has already been decided by a court.

Actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London for a hearing in his libel case against the publishers of The Sun newspaper last July. (Aaron Chown/PA Wire via AP)

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Last summer, a court in the United Kingdom sifted through the rubble of a high-profile marriage gone bad and found that actor Johnny Depp was not defamed by a British newspaper’s article describing him as a “wife beater.” Now an attorney for Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard, wants a Virginia judge to embrace those findings in a separate defamation case unfolding in the U.S.

During a hearing Friday in Fairfax County Circuit Court, attorneys for Heard asked Judge Penney Azcarate to allow them to amend the “Aquaman” star’s grounds for defense in the defamation case brought by Depp.

Representing Heard, attorney Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of the firm Charlson Bredehoft Cohen pointed out that the question of whether Depp, 57, was violent and caused Heard, 35, to fear for her life has already been litigated in the U.K.. And Depp lost that case.

Actress Amber Heard arrives at the High Court in London last July. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, FILE)

The entire world can say, “Mr. Depp is a wife beater,” she argued.

This is the third time in two years that Heard’s defense team has attempted to get the Virginia defamation case tossed out, noted Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick. He described this as “the latest Hail Mary.”

Both cases involve defamation, but the parties in the two lawsuits are different and issues are different, Chew said.

Azcarate agreed to allow Bredehoft to file an amended defense and will hold a hearing in July. But the judge declined the attorney’s request to stay discovery in the meantime.

In the U.K. case that concluded last summer, a judge issued a 129-page ruling finding that Depp had committed a dozen acts of domestic violence.  

Bredehoft argues the Virginia court should take judicial notice of the findings — or accept them as true — and end the case brought by the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star.

“If the court rules and applies the U.K. judgment,” Bredehoft argued Friday, “the case will be dismissed.”  

Depp first filed suit against The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper, in June 2018 over an article that labeled him a “wife beater.” The defendants included News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and Dan Wootton, the newspaper’s executive editor. Heard was not a party.    

In that case, Depp sought “a determination that he did not commit domestic abuse against his wife, Amber Heard,” according to a filing in the Virginia case. Instead, the British court found the article was substantially true.

Depp filed the second lawsuit in March 2019, three months after Heard wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post describing the backlash she faced after coming out as a victim of domestic abuse. Depp sued in Virginia, where the newspaper is printed, and is asking for $50 million in damages. Heard has countersued for $100 million.    

Recognizing the British court’s findings would prevent a waste of judicial resources, Bredehoft argued. The courts are currently backlogged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trial, which has already been delayed several times, is slated to unfold over a four-week period next spring.

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