Did Amber Heard donate her US$7 million divorce settlement to charity as promised? Judge sides with Johnny Depp and wants proof – the latest in their nasty battle explained

Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard ... the Hollywood divorce battle which shows no sign of winding down any time soon. Photos: AFP
Just like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard divorce battle appears to be a never-ending saga. Just when we think things are reaching a close, another swipe gets taken.

This week, Depp notched an unexpected victory in his lengthy legal battle against his ex-wife. Here’s what happened.

US actress Amber Heard arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, on July 24, 2020, where her ex-husband Johnny Depp is suing The Sun’s newspaper publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) over claims he abused her. Photo: EPA-EFE

Did Heard donate the money as promised?

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 US$7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as she pledged.

As a result of the ruling, the ACLU must release documents that confirm whether 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 lawyer Benjamin Chew said in a statement.

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Johnny Depp’s arrival at the final day of his libel trial against News Group Newspapers (NGN), last year, at the High Court in London. Photo: AFP

In case you missed it …

In November, Depp lost a libel lawsuit in London against the publisher of The Sun tabloid, which had labelled 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”.

In this court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook, actress Amber Heard is cross-examined by Eleanor Laws QC as she gives evidence at the High Court in London, on July 21, 2020. Photo: AP

Team Depp implies she kept the money

Caldecott 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 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 defence, were mostly true.

Amber Heard and then-husband Johnny Depp in happier days, pictured here at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in 2015. Photo: AFP

So what’s next?

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 Washington Post is printed) seeking US$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.

Amber Heard, left, and Johnny Depp arrive at the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in 2016. Photo: AP

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 postnuptial 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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  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aren’t the only couple going through a very ugly, bitter divorce battle with no end in sight – as a new legal filing proves
  • A New York judge has granted a petition to determine if Amber Heard donated the entirety of her US$7 million divorce settlement to good causes as pledged