AP

Potential defense opens up for Heard in Depp libel suit

Mar 24, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: 1:48 pm

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Johnny Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard, can argue to a jury that she should be protected from a libel lawsuit because her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence deals with a matter of public interest, a judge ruled Thursday.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Virginia after The Washington Post published her opinion piece. Depp’s lawyers say the article falsely implies she was physically and sexually abused by Depp when the actors were married.

At a Fairfax County courthouse Thursday, Depp’s lawyers sought a ruling that Heard could not invoke a Virginia law in her defense designed to protect people from nuisance lawsuits when they speak about matters of public concern.

Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, said the law, known as an anti-SLAPP provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), is not designed to interfere with private disputes, like Depp’s contention that his ex-wife defamed him.

Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, argued the article in question does not even mention Depp by name, and that it addresses a very serious issue of public concern: preventing domestic violence.

The judge, Penney Azcarate, ruled against Depp, who had sought to bar Heard’s lawyers from claiming immunity. Her ruling does not mean Heard has immunity for what she wrote, but simply that she can make that argument to a jury as part of her defense.

Heard has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against Depp because of statements Depp’s lawyer made about her.

The ruling comes just weeks before a lengthy trial is scheduled to begin in Fairfax. Both Depp and Heard are scheduled to appear in court and testify, and numerous other Hollywood figures are listed as potential witnesses, either to appear in person or by video link.

Depp was allowed to sue in Virginia because the Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County. Heard’s lawyers had sought to have the case moved to California, where the actors reside.

During Thursday’s arguments, Depp’s lawyer said that one of the reasons they brought the case in Virginia is because the state’s anti-SLAPP law is not as broad as the one in California.

Depp filed a similar lawsuit in England against a newspaper there and lost. The judge there found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in fear for her life on multiple occasions.

The Virginia lawsuit seeks $50 million in damages. While the December 2018 Post article never mentions Depp, Heard refers to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Depp has said the accusations are untrue and have made it difficult for him to get the sorts of roles he once did.

___

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Heard was the defendant in Depp’s lawsuit in England.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden gestures after speaking to graduating students at the Morehouse College commenc...

Associated Press

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Joe Biden on Sunday offered his most direct recognition of U.S. students' anguish over the Israel-Hamas war.

53 minutes ago

Rudy Giuliani...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani is the final defendant to serve indictment in Arizona fake elector case

Rudy Giuliani has been served an indictment in Arizona's fake elector case for his role in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

21 hours ago

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday...

Associated Press

Some in Houston facing no power for weeks after storms cause widespread damage, killing at least 4

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday, May 17. Thunderstorms hit the southeastern part of Texas, killing at least four people.

2 days ago

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer...

Associated Press

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer

A man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for attacking the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer.

2 days ago

audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents blocked...

Associated Press

GOP advances Garland contempt charges after White House exerts executive privilege over Biden audio

The move to release audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents was blocked on Thursday by the White House.

3 days ago

Asylum processing for new migrants: Changes could come soon...

Associated Press

The Biden administration is planning more changes to quicken asylum processing for new migrants

The Biden administration is planning to quicken the asylum processing for new migrants as an interim step rather than an executive order.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Potential defense opens up for Heard in Depp libel suit