Johnny Depp is a wife beater, the high court in London ruled today.
The stunning verdict, which went against most expectations, will be appealed by Depp, his legal team said, calling it “as perverse as it is bewildering.”
After examining 14 alleged episodes of abuse, the judge ruled that a 2018 story in the Sun newspaper that labeled Depp a “wife beater” was “substantially true.”
Depp was suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publishers of the British newspaper, for libel over the article that said the 57-year-old attacked his ex-wife, Amber Heard, 34, during their relationship.
During the trial, Depp denied he’d ever been violent toward his ex-wife and claimed she’d been abusive toward him during their relationship, including accusing her of putting out a cigarette in his face and throwing a vodka bottle.
However, lawyers for NGN based their defense on 14 specific allegations of abuse by Heard between 2013 and 2016. Heard was their star witness.
The case saw salacious and intimate alleged details of the private lives of Depp and Heard revealed in open court.
Among the extraordinary allegations were claims that Heard defecated in the marital bed as a “prank” on her husband, leading him to dub her “Amber Turd.”
The court heard the actor called his wife a “malicious, evil, and vindictive c---” who was “desperate for success and fame” in a series of scathing texts.
In one text, he wrote “I just cannot live like this... She is as full of shit as a Christmas Goose!!! I’m done. NO MORE...!!!”
Depp sent messages to British actor Paul Bettany, describing Heard as a witch, saying he would “fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.” Lawyers for Depp had argued the messages should not be taken seriously “however dark and extravagant the language.”
The Sun said Depp’s claim that Heard was abusive to him could not be true as the actress weighs only eight stone (about 112 pounds) and “lacked the physical capability” to attack the actor, who she called a “hopeless addict.”
The Sun claimed Depp’s jealousy, addictions, and misogyny led to “violent explosions” that were followed by “embarrassment” and “apologies.”
The court heard details of a 2015 fight in Australia in which Depp’s finger was severed and he used the stump to scrawl messages in his own blood. The court also heard that during the couple’s honeymoon onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express in Malaysia in August 2015, Heard wrote in her diary “graphic description of Depp trying to strangle her with her own shirt.”
A spokesperson for the Sun said: “The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years. Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the Judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”
In his ruling, the judge, Justice Nicol, said: “The claimant [Depp] has not succeeded in his action for libel… The defendants [the Sun and News Group Newspapers] have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true.
“I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account. In those circumstances, parliament has said that a defendant has a complete defense.”
The long-awaited decision was published online at 10 a.m. on Monday, more than three months after the high court hearing finished in late July.
The case was arguably the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century and became the subject of global attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Spending 20 hours in the witness box over five days, Depp faced intense questioning about his Hollywood lifestyle, his use of drink and drugs, allegations of violence, and his friendships and associations.
Depp admitted to prodigious drink and drug use during the case. He admitted to spending $30,000 on red wine each month and said he used large amounts of cocaine, which he said merely “brought him to a normal level.” Depp lost a staggering $650 million he made at the height of his Pirates of the Caribbean fame and was left owing $100 million in taxes. Heard was accused of having an affair with Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, which she denied. Depp is said to have threatened to cut Musk’s penis off.
Sasha Wass, a lawyer for NGN, told the court there was “no doubt that Mr. Depp regularly and systematically abused his wife,” adding: “The characterization that he is a wife beater is entirely truthful.”
Depp is likely to be made to cover the bulk of the Sun’s legal costs, plus his own.
Depp will now have to decide whether to continue with a separate claim against Heard in the U.S. where he is suing her for $50 million over a column she wrote.