Judge sides with Johnny Depp: ACLU must reveal if Amber Heard donated $7M divorce settlement

Johnny Depp has notched a victory in his lengthy legal battle against ex-wife Amber Heard.
Johnny Depp has notched a victory in his lengthy legal battle against ex-wife Amber Heard.

Johnny Depp has notched a victory in his lengthy legal battle against ex-wife Amber Heard.

A New York judge has partially granted a petition from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star to determine if Heard donated the entirety of her $7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union and to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, as she pledged.

As a result of the ruling, the ACLU must release documents that confirm whether or not Heard followed through on the donation promise, which has become a point of contention in the former couple's legal saga.

“Mr. Depp is most gratified by the Court’s decision," Depp's attorney Benjamin Chew said in a statement to USA TODAY.

USA TODAY has reached out to Heard's attorney and to the ACLU for comment.

In November, Depp lost a libel lawsuit in London against the publisher of The Sun tabloid, which had labeled him a "wife beater" in a 2018 headline after Heard accused him of abuse in Los Angeles in 2016 as they were ending their short, volatile marriage. The case pitted Depp against a powerful tabloid and its editor, with Heard as their star witness.

In March, Depp was refused an appeal after his lawyer Andrew Caldecott argued that Heard's donation pledge was a “calculated and manipulative lie" that "tipped the scales against Mr. Depp from the very beginning."

Caldecott also alleged one of Heard's intended charitable beneficiaries, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, wrote to Depp's business adviser in 2019 saying Heard had not made any payments.

Lawyers for The Sun's publisher rejected the arguments in court in March, saying Heard did not lie about the donations because she was pledging to pay the sums over 10 years. She had made “a number of payments already in pursuance of these pledges," said Adam Wolanski, representing News Group Newspapers.

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The High Court ruling came after a three-week circus-like trial in July, during which Depp and Heard both took the stand and both were damaged by lurid testimony about drinking, drug use, fighting and room-trashing. The judge ruled that "the great majority" of Heard's claims of abuse, as presented by the tabloid's publisher in its defense, were mostly true.

Proceedings now move to Virginia, where a separate case arose after Heard published a column in the Washington Post in December 2018, proclaiming herself a victim of domestic abuse and suggesting, without actually using his name, that Depp was the alleged abuser. Three months later, Depp filed a lawsuit in Fairfax County (where the Post is printed) seeking $50 million and accusing his ex-wife of defaming him with "hoax" allegations of domestic abuse.

Heard shot back by filing more than 300 pages of documents in Virginia, expanding on the abuse allegations she lodged against Depp during their divorce in 2016, claiming Depp regularly beat her up before she married him in 2015 and continued to do so during their 18-month marriage.

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In her Virginia filing, Heard attached multiple pages of photos of herself with bruises on her face, scars on her arms and hair allegedly torn from her head, plus pictures of wrecked rooms – broken glass and overturned furniture – that she says Depp inflicted on their home. She included screenshots of dozens of text messages describing these incidents at the time and excerpts of her divorce deposition describing shocking abuse.

But Depp went a step further in the Virginia case in May 2019, saying that "while mixing prescription amphetamines and non-prescription drugs with alcohol," Heard "hit, punched and kicked me. She also repeatedly and frequently threw objects into my body and head, including heavy bottles, soda cans, burning candles, television remote controls and paint thinner cans, which severely injured me."

As evidence, he submitted a photo of his black and puffy eyes and scratches. The actor also detailed an alleged attack by Heard one month after their marriage in Australia during his described efforts to get Heard to sign a post-nuptial agreement. Depp said the conversation resulted in the severing of his fingertip from a shattered glass bottle thrown by his then-wife.

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Contributing: Maria Puente and Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Johnny Depp granted request for ACLU to confirm Amber Heard donation