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Amber Heard’s Domestic Violence Op-Ed Was Timed to ‘Capitalize’ on ‘Aquaman’ Publicity, Email Reveals

ACLU exec Terence Dougherty told the court one of his communications staffers wrote the first draft, capturing Heard’s ”fire and rage“

Amber Heard’s 2018 op-ed on gender-based violence ignited her current legal battle with ex-husband Johnny Depp, and now it’s been revealed the piece was timed to coincide with the release of her film “Aquaman.”

Terence Dougherty, general counsel and COO for the ACLU said, in a pre-recorded deposition played Thursday in Depp’s defamation trial against Heard, that the actress worked directly with the individual rights organization on what the op-ed would say, where it would be published and when it would be released.

“Placing op-eds about matters such as this is the kind of thing that is the bread and butter for the ACLU,” Dougherty explained in the video played Thursday in a Fairfax, Virginia courtroom.

He noted that Heard was asked to share her story because she was an ACLU ambassador working on women’s rights issues, particularly those surrounding gender-based violence, and the group wanted someone with “authentic stories” to speak publicly on the matter.

“There were a number of things Amber expressed from her personal story about her having been a survivor of gender-based violence,” said Dougherty in the video recorded on Dec. 2, 2021. He added that ACLU communications staffers wrote the first draft of the op-ed, capturing Heard’s “fire and rage.”

The organization informed Heard’s advisors that they skirted around her marriage to Depp, to avoid violating her non-disclosure agreement with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor. The first draft of the op-ed was reviewed by several ACLU lawyers. Heard’s attorneys also reviewed the piece and removed references to Heard and Depp’s marriage and divorce.

Dougherty said the decision to publish the op-ed in the Washington Post was made by the ACLU. The organization sent an email to the Post’s op-ed editor, Michael Larabee, trying to get it published. The email, which was read in court, said, “Hey Michael, wondering if we might interest you in a piece by Amber Heard who as you might recall was beaten up during her brief marriage to Johnny Depp on what the incoming Congress can do to help protect women in similar situations.”

Depp’s attorney read an email from the ACLU to Heard about the op-ed that said: “The goal is to get this out this week to capitalize on the tremendous campaign for ‘Aquaman.’”

Dougherty responded to the attorney, “I do recall that there was a conversation about the optimal timing for the op-ed piece.”

He said Heard agreed that the column should be released around the movie’s release. The piece was titled “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Dougherty said the ACLU was not responsible for the headline in the Post.

The paper published the piece on Dec. 18, 2018, three days before “Aquaman” arrived in domestic theaters on Dec. 21, 2018.

Dougherty said so far Heard has failed to deliver on roughly half of her $3.5 million pledge to the ACLU, an amount that represented half of her $7 million divorce settlement with Depp, according to Dougherty.

He said Heard has donated $1.3 million – though not all of it has come directly from her. He noted Heard has directly paid $350,000, ex-husband Depp paid $100,000, and another $500,000 was sent from Elon Musk, Heard’s one-time boyfriend. Dougherty said another $350 came from an anonymous donor, who the ACLU believes was Heard.

“We understood that the other half [of the $7 million settlement] was going to a children’s hospital in Los Angeles,” Dougherty testified.

The ACLU donation was to be made in installments over a 10-year period. However, Dougherty told the court, “We didn’t receive any amounts in 2019 and on.”

Later in the day, Depp’s longtime bodyguard, Malcolm Connolly told the court something wasn’t quite right with Heard, that “Amber could get a bit frosty at the drop of a hat.”

Testifying via video from the U.K., Connolly said the relationship between Depp and Heard started fine but quickly changed. “Amber started to change… a bit more feisty, demanding. I could see that Amber wanted to wear the pants in this relationship,” Connolly said, adding that Depp was becoming “quieter” and Heard became “grumpy.”

Connolly said he never saw the couple fighting but witnessed Heard throw a lighter and a can at Depp on separate occasions. Connolly told the court he never saw any physical injuries on Heard but said he did see injuries to Depp.

He said Depp’s injuries started with scratches and swelling but became more frequent, “It would be scratches on his neck, maybe a fat lip on the corner, maybe a bruising on the eye-socket.” Depp’s attorney showed a picture Connolly took of the couple while they were honeymooning. The photo showed Depp with bruises near his eyes.

Connolly was also with the couple in Australia while Depp filmed “Pirates of The Carribbean” 5. Connolly said when he arrived at the couple’s home, Heard was “berating” Depp and screaming, “F— off you f—ing coward.”

Another one of Depp’s bodyguard’s also testified Thursday. Starling Jenkins, who’s worked on Depp’s security team since 1993, said that in April 2016, Heard told him she and Depp fought the night before. “She threw his personal property over the balcony into the streets.”

Jenkins said that among the items Heard tossed were Depp’s wallet, phone and passport. Jenkins testified that he later found the phone with a homeless man on skid row. The man returned Depp’s phone and Jenkins gave him $420, food, and water as a reward for his honesty.

Depp’s business manager Edward White also testified in the Virginia courtroom. He said Heard initially requested $4 million in the couple’s divorce settlement, “but her demand continually increased.”

White, who described himself as a CPA, was hired by Depp in 2016 to handle his finances and to help him overcome financial troubles. White’s company made sure Depp’s bills and debts were paid including the amount of his divorce settlement. White said Heard increased the amount she wanted Depp to pay her four times.

In addition to the millions being sought, White said, “She demanded that payment be made free of taxation. That Mr. Depp would have to satisfy all the tax liabilities.”

Ultimately White said, “The total consideration paid to her was $14,250,000.” In 2017, Depp paid $4.5 million directly to Heard. On February 1, 2018 Depp sent Heard a final payment of $2.3 million for a total of $6.8 million. The rest of the settlement was made up of community liabilities, payments to Heard’s attorneys, and donations to charitable organizations.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million claiming she libeled him in that 2018 op-ed; Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim.

Depp spent four days giving testimony last week. Heard is expected to take the witness stand next week.

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