Johnny Depp Calls Amber Heard's Pledge to Donate $7 Million Settlement a 'Lie' as He Seeks to Overturn Ruling
Amber Heard’s pledge to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity "subliminally" influenced the judge in Johnny Depp’s libel case, a London court was told Thursday
Speaking at the Court of Appeal in London on Thursday, Depp's lawyers appealed the November 2020 judgment on the grounds that Amber Heard's pledge to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity was a "calculated and manipulative lie" that "subliminally" influenced the original trial judge.
They backed this assertion up with new evidence they say shows the actress has directly donated a total of $550,000 to the ACLU and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles since the couple's 2016 divorce.
It was, they claimed, far removed from the $3.5 million "the court was led to believe" each organization would receive.
Heard's legal team stated that she has done "nothing dishonest" with her donations to both charities and that she "pledged to pay over 10 years" — something they added was "understood" by the ACLU.
To support this, Heard's attorneys provided their own evidence, which they say showed that the Aquaman star has, in fact, gifted a total of $950,000 to the ACLU and $850,000 to the Children's Hospital through anonymous donors.
"She has pledged this amount," said Wolanski. "She is a donor."
According to Depp's attorney, Andrew Caldecott, Heard's highly publicized charitable pledge tipped "the scales against Mr. Depp from the very beginning" in the mind of libel trial judge Mr. Justice Nicol, who ruled that a 2018 article in The Sun newspaper depicting Depp as a "wife-beater" was "substantially true" on Nov. 2.
"(It says) I want him to pay but I don't want to keep a dime of his money because of the way I've been treated," continued Caldecott, adding that it "implies revulsion at the way she has been treated."
"It goes to the likely starting point of whether she was a likely victim of domestic violence," said Caldicott. "It's a false plus to her and a false minus to him."
Heard publicly stated that she would donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity on August 18, 2016, adding that the money would go to the ACLU and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
"Money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully, help those less able to defend themselves," Heard, 34, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE at the time.
"As reported in the media, the amount received in the divorce was $7 million, and $7 million is being donated," she added. "This is over and above any funds that I have given away in the past and will continue to give away in the future."
On Thursday, Depp's lawyers contended that the public pledge played an important role in the original libel hearings as judge Nicol stated in his ruling: "Her donation of the seven million U.S. dollars to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger."
After entering the new evidence, Caldecott added that if "the truth about the charity claim emerged at the trial, it would have materially affected Mr. Justice Nicol's consideration of Ms. Heard's evidence as a whole."
Caldicott, added: "Her public statements expressly stated that the ACLU donation had victims of domestic violence specifically in mind. The subliminal message of the charity claim was, in any event, clear: Ms. Heard would not wish to keep any of Mr. Depp's money, because he had subjected her to serious violence."
In reply, lawyers for News Group Newspapers — the parent company of The Sun — described Depp's allegations as "fanciful" during the court hearing.
"The whole theory is nonsensical," added lawyer Adam Wolanski. "The material would have made no difference at all to the credit of Ms. Heard."
Wolanski continued that the claims were also part of a "misogynistic trope" that sought to paint Heard as a "gold-digger" and had no bearing on the wider case of whether she had been assaulted by Depp during their 15-month marriage.
At the close of the hearing, the three Court of Appeal judges stated that they would deliver a written judgment on Depp's submission as soon as possible. Neither Heard or Depp was present at the hearing.
Heard and Depp tied the knot in 2015. In May 2016, she sought a domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the claims, and the former couple settled their divorce out of court in August 2016.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.