FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Two years to the day after Amber Heard published an editorial describing the backlash she faced as a domestic abuse survivor, a Virginia judge ordered the actress to produce her arrest record as part of discovery in a defamation case brought by her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
Depp contends that Heard was the abuser during their 15-month marriage that began in 2015. Her arrest record, which involves an altercation with a different romantic partner more than a decade ago, is “crucial to key allegations in Mr. Depp’s complaint,” said the actor’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick, during a hearing Friday in Fairfax County.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star sued Heard over an editorial she wrote and published in The Washington Post on Dec. 18, 2018. In it, the “Aquaman” actress described the repercussions she faced after coming out as a victim of domestic abuse.
“Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic,” she wrote. “That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes — not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise.”
Depp, 57, claims the article was clearly referring to him. He filed his defamation lawsuit three months after the editorial was published and seeks $50 million in damages from Heard, 34. The complaint notes that Heard was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge involving a former girlfriend.
For her part, Heard filed a counterclaim in August asking for $100 million in damages, contending that she has become the target of a smear campaign that included “false and defamatory statements to reporters repeatedly accusing Ms. Heard of being a liar and a hoax artist and accusing Ms. Heard of the crime of perjury.”
Heard’s lawyers maintained that Depp’s team is on a fishing expedition, demanding a slew of documents not relevant to the central question of whether Heard and Depp have defamed one another.
“What is on trial is Mr. Depp’s conduct toward Ms. Heard,” said one of Heard’s lawyers, Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers, on Friday.
Circuit Court Judge Bruce White denied some of the requests for documents by Depp’s legal team but ordered Heard to produce her arrest record as well as information related to her claims that the $7 million she received in her 2017 divorce settlement had been given to charity. Depp contends that Heard invented the abuse claims to get a larger settlement and market herself as a courageous survivor.
The case in Fairfax County, where the Post is printed, is one of two defamation cases filed by Depp over accusations of domestic violence. Last month he lost the other case, in which he sued The Sun, a U.K. tabloid that had described him as a “wife beater.” A British judge found the publishers had proved that what they wrote was “substantially true.”
Soon afterward, Depp announced via social media that he had been asked by Warner Bros. to resign from playing Grindelwald in the third “Fantastic Beasts” film.