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    Defense witnesses describe Johnny Depp’s behavior, damage to Amber Heard’s career

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    Jurors in Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s defamation trial heard Thursday from Adam Waldman, one of Depp’s attorneys, whose remarks in 2020 led Heard to countersue Depp for alleged defamation — one of the complexities in a trial that is now ending its fifth full week at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia, as the movie stars offer differing accounts of their tumultuous relationship and marriage. Waldman, who was called to the stand by Heard’s defense team, didn’t answer many questions, citing attorney-client privilege.

    Depp sued his ex-wife Heard for $50 million, alleging defamation over a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post in which she referred to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. Though she did not name an abuser, Depp claimed the article ruined his reputation and career. He denied all allegations of abuse and instead said Heard was abusive toward him.

    Heard countersued Depp for $100 million after Depp’s lawyers said her allegations were false. The countersuit specifically revolves around multiple claims made to the media by Waldman, who characterized Heard’s accusations as a hoax. She claimed these statements led to the loss of career opportunities.

    Waldman testified via a video deposition on Thursday but refused to answer most questions, including those about his interactions with the media. He did, however, rebut a claim that he first contacted Rolling Stone magazine to write a 2018 feature story about Depp’s lawsuit against his former financial managers. He said Depp first contacted the magazine.

    He confirmed that he made several statements in the media, such as telling the Daily Mail, in part, “Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual violence allegations as both a sword and shield, depending on their needs.” But he declined to answer any further questions about his statements. He also testified that he released two audio recordings to the Daily Mail, though he did not offer further details about the recordings.

    During cross-examination, he explained why he says he believes Depp did not abuse Heard — in part by repeating the testimonies of several witnesses who said they did not see bruises on Heard.

    Another of Thursday’s witnesses, computer programmer and social media forensic expert Ron Schnell, testified that more than 2 million negative tweets toward Heard were posted from April 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021, and that 1 out of 4 of those tweets referenced Waldman in some manner — and that negative tweets toward Heard continue to reference Waldman. He also said he found a correlation between spikes in usages of negative hashtags toward Heard and the publication of the audio Waldman leaked.

    Heard’s role in the 2018 blockbuster “Aquaman” wasn’t the boon for her career as it historically should have been, agent Jessica Kovacevic testified Thursday, suggesting that negative coverage caused Heard to lose opportunities. “No one is going to say to me, ‘We can’t hire her because of these tweets,’ or whatever. They just don’t want someone who has bad press around them from these accusations,” Kovacevic said. “No one wants that association with their project.”

    The defense also called Detective. Marie Sadanaga, who serves as the Los Angeles Police Department’s domestic violence coordinator, to emphasize an allegation Heard’s team made early in the trial — that police were negligent in not creating an incident report after responding to a domestic dispute at Depp and Heard’s penthouse in Los Angeles.

    Sadanaga said that officers should create incident reports, even when there is no crime, if one of the parties is in fear of danger. “We know with domestic violence, there’s usually a series of incidents that happen and not all of those are crimes,” she explained. “We document those so in the future, if there is a crime, we can go back and say, ‘There have been all these other incidents.’”

    Earlier in the day, the defense called several former friends and colleagues of Depp who said there were changes in his behavior as his drug and alcohol use increased.

    Bruce Witkin, brother of Depp’s first wife, Lori Anne Allison, said the two were “brothers” until four years ago, when Depp suddenly ended their nearly 40-year friendship. He “sent me a weird text saying I stabbed him in the back,” Witkin said, adding that Depp never explained why he ended the friendship. He said he presumes it was linked to his testimony in previous lawsuits.

    “He terminated essentially everyone in his life, so I was along for the ride,” said Tracey Jacobs, an agent who represented Depp for decades and was fired in 2016. Jacobs described Depp as being at one time “the biggest star in the world” but said his “star had dimmed” in the past 10 years as he began frequently showing up late to sets and required an earpiece to feed him lines. She also testified that Depp demanded $20 million from his talent agency in 2016.

    Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, also testified that the actor’s increased drug and alcohol use, beginning around 2010, strained their professional relationship. He also said Depp had financial troubles that reached a head in 2015. Depp fired Mandel in 2016 and filed suit against his company, alleging it managed his money fraudulently and improperly for two decades, which Mandel denies. The parties reached a settlement in 2018.

    The defense also presented a few brief prerecorded video depositions, including former Heard attorney Michele Mulrooney, who testified that an inebriated Depp fired her on Heard’s behalf while hurling profane insults at her; and psychiatrist Alan S. Blaustein, who said Depp expressed to him issues with anxiety and substance abuse.

    Tina Newman, production executive for the Walt Disney Corp., said she did not know whether Depp was being considered for a potential sixth entry of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise, and said she had not heard of any decision-makers at Disney — or outside it — who have said they won’t consider Depp for a movie because of Heard’s op-ed.

    Actress Ellen Barkin, a former friend and sexual partner of Depp’s, described the actor as “drunk all the time … a lot of the time” on red wine during their mid-1990s relationship and remembered Depp’s assistant, who the actor called “pig.” She also testified that Depp threw a wine bottle across a hotel room at a group of people, including her, during a fight.

    “He’s just a jealous man,” she said. “Controlling. … I had a scratch on my back once that got him very, very angry because he insisted it came from me having sex with a person who wasn’t him.”

    Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.



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