A British judge ruled Monday that a tabloid did not defame Johnny Depp by calling him a “wife beater,” a decision likely to have major implications for the Oscar-nominated actor’s career, the Los Angeles Times reported from London.
Justice Andrew Nicol wrote that, although Depp had “proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel,” the newspaper he sued had shown that “what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true.”
Nicol delivered his judgment Monday morning in writing three months after the end of a trial that exposed stark details of Depp’s tempestuous marriage to actress Amber Heard, The Times reported. There was no in-person hearing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, Heard’s U.S. attorney, said in a statement quoted by The Times, that the verdict is “not a surprise” for anyone who followed the trial in the summer.
“Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the U.S.,” she said.
Depp sued Britain’s News Group Newspapers, publisher of the Sun, and the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, at London’s High Court over an April 2018 article that accused him of assaulting Heard, an actress whose films include “Justice League” and “Aquaman.”
Both Depp and Heard spent several days in the witness box during the three-week trial in July, giving contradictory accounts of their stormy relationship. The couple had met on the set of the 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary” and married in Los Angeles in 2015. They separated the following year and divorced in 2017.
Heard, 34, testified as the main witness for the defense, saying Depp turned into a violent alter-ego he dubbed the “Monster” when under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She alleged 14 separate incidents between 2013 and 2016 in which he hit, slapped and shoved her, pulled her hair and threw bottles at her. The alleged assaults took place in glamorous settings including the couple’s luxury penthouse, Depp’s private island in the Bahamas and an executive jet.
Depp, 57, branded the allegations as “sick” and a “hoax” and accused Heard of being the aggressor during their relationship. He said that Heard hit him, and had even severed the tip of his finger with a thrown vodka bottle during a fight in Australia during filming of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
Depp acknowledged heavy drug use, saying he took marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and magic mushrooms, and became addicted to opioid painkillers. But he denied that drugs made him violent.
Depp’s lawyer, David Sherborne, accused Heard of wrongly donning the mantle of the #MeToo movement and called her “a wholly unreliable witness and frankly a compulsive liar.”
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