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Heard attorneys say Depp hasn’t shown damage caused by op-ed

Attorneys for actress Amber Heard dispute the notion that an opinion article she wrote damaged the career of her ex-husband, veteran actor Johnny Depp. His lawyers, meanwhile, say she is lying about his behavior.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Two years into a high-profile defamation case, actor Johnny Depp has yet to fully produce underlying financial documents showing that he suffered a loss after his ex-wife, Amber Heard, wrote an editorial describing herself as a domestic abuse survivor.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, court on Friday, Chief Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate held a hearing with legal teams for both actors to determine which documents are needed regarding Depp's finances, past drug and alcohol abuse and the value of any gifts or payments he may have made to people on his witness list.    

One of Heard’s lawyers, Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers, described Depp as a “serial litigator” who blames others for his problems.  Depp's lawsuit demands $50 million and "he needs to prove his damages," the attorney said.

Depp’s attorneys, for their part, contend Heard is lying about their client's behavior. Other than the 35-year-old "Aquaman" actress, there is “no woman on the planet" who has accused Depp, 58, of physical violence, his attorney Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick told the judge.

The two Hollywood stars married in February 2015, but by May 2016, Heard was in a California courtroom taking out a restraining order against Depp.

She then wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post in December 2018, describing how her life changed after she spoke out against sexual violence. While the piece did not mention Depp by name, he filed suit against Heard in March 2019, claiming his career had been damaged by the assertions that she had been the victim of domestic abuse.

The complaint – filed in Virginia, where the Post is printed – recounts that four days after the editorial was published, Disney announced that it was dropping Depp from his role as Jack Sparrow in a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel.

A trial in the case is scheduled for next spring.

In court Friday, Heard's attorney pointed out that the list of potential witnesses for Depp includes people who are either employed by the actor or are within his orbit and may have received gifts or payments.  

“We’re entitled to see what he paid them,” Rottenborn said.

Chew countered that the request was overly broad, saying if Depp bought someone a cup of coffee it would have to be disclosed.

Azcarate set a threshold of $5,000 for gifts or payments that must be disclosed. The judge said lawyers can't ask the actor's employees to disclose their salaries.

Earlier this week, a New York judge partially granted a petition from Depp's lawyers directing the American Civil Liberties Union to produce records that could determine whether Heard donated a portion of her divorce settlement to the organization, as she testified.

Depp lost a lawsuit in the United Kingdom last year against News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and its editor that also related to allegations of abuse against Heard. That case focused on an article in which Depp was described as a "wife beater." The U.K. court dismissed his libel suit, finding the evidence shows he abused her on several occasions.

Heard's attorneys have argued that the issue of whether Depp abused Heard has already been adjudicated in the U.K., and the Virginia case should be dismissed.

Azcarate has taken that motion under advisement.

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