In one paragraph, Heard wrote, “Two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic violence, and felt the full force of our culture’s anger for women speaking out.” Depp, 58, argues the op-ed hurt his career even though Heard did not name it; he denied all allegations of abuse and sued her for $50 million for defamation.
Heard, 36, sued Depp for $100 million after his lawyer called his allegations a hoax. His attorneys said the op-ed is not only true, but is protected by the First Amendment. The lawsuit is taking place in Fairfax County because The Post, which is not a defendant, hosts its printing press and online server in Virginia.
Jurors heard video testimony from Terence Dougherty, general counsel and chief operating officer of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2016, following $7 million divorce settlement with Depp, Heard said she would donate half the money to the ACLU and the other half to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Dougherty said. In October 2018, she became an ambassador for the ACLU, a title she still holds; Dougherty pointed to a page on the organization’s website that describes her as an ambassador “for women’s rights, with a focus on gender-based violence.”
Dougherty detailed how the editorial was published, while Benjamin Chew, one of the attorneys representing Depp, referenced various exhibits and documents. In November 2018, Dougherty said, an ACLU communications strategist emailed Heard’s publicist and others that read, “I would like you and Amber to consider doing an op-ed in which she discusses the ways survivors of the gender-based violence have been made less safe under the Trump administration and how people can act.
Dougherty, who was called as a witness by Depp’s attorneys, agreed with Chew that it was at Heard’s discretion to determine how much personal information she wanted to share. He explained that the strategist’s goal was to brainstorm potential topics of political importance to the ACLU that could be part of an op-ed, and how they might fit within Heard’s tenure as as an ambassador.
Further correspondence, Dougherty confirmed, showed that an ACLU employee met with Heard, who agreed that members of the ACLU communications staff would write the first draft of the editorial. Dougherty also confirmed that a staff member forwarded the first draft to Heard and wrote: “I tried to pull together your fire and rage and some really interesting analysis and turn it into an op-ed.” Depp’s attorney questioned whether the reference to Heard’s “rage” relates to Depp’s alleged abuse, although Dougherty said he interpreted it as anger about gender issues in general.
There’s also been a lot of back-and-forth between the ACLU and Heard’s representatives and legal team, Dougherty said. At one point, the staff member who wrote the op-ed wrote, “Your lawyers should look into this for how I avoided talking about your marriage.” Dougherty, who said he hadn’t personally seen the editorial before it was published, but had been reviewed by four ACLU lawyers, said they wanted to be careful that nothing put Heard in danger of violating a nondisclosure agreement she signed in her divorce. settlement with Depp.
Depp’s lawyer Chew asked if it was true that Heard’s team edited the draft to remove references to Heard’s marriage or divorce, and Dougherty recalled there had been a number communications between the ACLU and Heard’s attorneys suggesting changes relating to matters covered by the NDA. Dougherty agreed with Chew that some at the ACLU said removing references to Heard’s marriage to Depp would make the op-ed “less impactful”, but said he did not recall Heard pushing to reclaim that material.
The ACLU took responsibility for placing the editorial, Dougherty said, and after a conversation with Heard, the communications strategist suggested pitching the article to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Teen Vogue and USA. Today. There was also discussion of the timing for “Aquaman” to be released in December 2018, with Heard alongside Jason Momoa.
Heard was about to get “an incredible amount of press” in the public eye, Dougherty pointed out, so for the ACLU there was no better time to get the op-ed out to a significant readership to find out. more about the causes of the organization. Dougherty said he believed Heard’s public relations team was involved in conversations about timing.
An ACLU staffer contacted several Post opinion writers, Dougherty said, and the Post agreed to publish the story. Depp’s lawyer asked about the title of the online version (“Amber Heard: I spoke out against sexual violence – and faced the wrath of our culture. This needs to change.”) Dougherty said he doesn’t know if the ACLU played a role in drafting it.
Depp’s attorney pointed to an email from an ACLU staffer that referenced a later USA Today article about the editorial that linked Heard’s statements to Depp, and the staffer said writes: “So much not to mention JD.” Dougherty speculated that this meant Heard’s lawyers made “significant efforts” to remove references to her marriage, but people made the connection anyway.
During Dougherty’s testimony, there was a lot of back-and-forth about Heard’s pledge to donate half of her divorce settlement — $3.5 million — to the ACLU. An early payment plan proposed in 2016 indicated that Heard would donate $350,000 each year, although according to the documents, Heard had only donated $1.3 million in total so far; Dougherty said the last payment they received was towards the end of 2018, and then they realized Heard was struggling financially.
Dougherty said Heard made a payment of $350,000; Depp made a payment on his behalf for $100,000; Heard then made another payment of $350,000 through a donor-advised fund; and $500,000 came from another donor-advised fund in Heard’s name, which Dougherty said his staff came from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whom Heard dated following his split from Depp.
During brief cross-examination, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, pointed out that there was no evidence to suggest Heard had no intention of paying the full amount, and Dougherty agreed. that there was no indication that Heard had decided to end his donations.