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Johnny Depp Defamation Case Opens With Claims of Drug Use, Blackouts and ‘Old Fat Man’ Insults

Opening statements began Tuesday in Fairfax, Virginia

Johnny Depp’s defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard opened Tuesday in Fairfax, Virginia with explosive allegations of “excessive” drug and alcohol use, and claims of physical and psychological abuse in the couple’s marriage.

Depp’s attorneys Benjamin Chew and co-council Camille Vasquez painted Heard as the aggressor, telling the jury that the actress and model concocted stories of abuse because Depp “wanted out” and told his wife it was time to divorce.

Depp is suing his ex-wife for $50 million claiming she libeled him in a 2018 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, costing him a lucrative role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Although Heard didn’t name Depp in the article, she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Depp’s lawyers laid out their civil case to the seven jurors and four alternates Tuesday. Attorney Chew said for decades the actor’s name was associated with “success at the box office. Today, his name is associated with a lie, a false statement uttered by his former wife.”

Chew insisted no one ever accused Depp of being violent before Heard, and this is “a case about how devastating words can be when they are false and uttered publicly.”

Depp attorney Vasquez added that the actor’s family and friends saw “red flags” early in the relationship. She told jurors Heard would “berate him and scream at him,” and security would remove him from various situations because Heard was “chasing and screaming” at him.

Amber Heard at Johnny Depp Defamation Trial
Amber Heard is seen outside court for the start of a civil trial at Fairfax County Circuit Court on April 11, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Getty Images)

Depp’s attorneys said they plan to call security guards, medical professionals, and police officers to testify that Heard fabricated stories and images of physical abuse.

After a brief break, Heard’s attorneys began their opening statements saying the “Aquaman” actress had a right to free speech and “Amber did suffer abuse.”

Her attorney Ben Rottenborn told the court, Heard never wanted to spill secrets about Depp in the Op-ed calling the actor’s alter-ego “the monster.”

Rottenborn added that the version of Depp fans see in movies, is far from his real persona.

“You’re going to see who the real Johnny Depp is — behind the fame, behind the pirate costumes,” Rottenborn told the jury. “Because Johnny Depp brought this case, all of this is going to come out.”

Heard’s attorneys said she suffered physical, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of Depp throughout their marriage. Telling jurors, Depp was violent and prone to drug and alcohol induced blackouts and that he sexually assaulted her.

Heard filed a $100 million defamation counterclaim for statements made by Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman. Co-council Elaine Bredehoft showed the court statements where Waldman called Heard’s story “abuse hoax” and said his comments were “tremendously damaging to Amber” and her career.

Bredehoft told the jury that after starring in the box office smash “Aquaman,” Heard’s co-stars were offered opportunities and she wasn’t. In addition, it’s the “emotional impacts of being called a liar,” Bredehoft said, adding that Heard wanted to move on with her life and was “re-triggered.”

The first witness to take the stand was Depp’s older sister and personal manager, Christi Dembrowski. Her testimony began with questions about abuse from their mother. “She would hit us, she would throw things,” Dembrowski said. Although she stated Depp never hit his mom back, instead “he would get away.”

When pressed on cross-examination about allegations that Depp had abused drugs and alcohol during his relationship with Heard, Dembrowski downplayed the claims.

Although she did say there were many, many problems in the marriage between Depp and Heard.

Dembrowski said as a personal manager, she would book travel for the couple and always made sure to secure an extra hotel room for Depp so he could “escape” his wife. She also said Heard mocked her then-husband as an “old fat man,” when he told her he was being considered for a Dior fashion campaign. “Why would Dior want to do business with you? They’re about class and style, and you don’t have style,” Dembrowski accused Heard of telling Depp.

The contentious case is being tried in Virginia, at the request of Depp’s legal team, because The Washington Post’s computer servers for the paper’s website are located in Fairfax County.

The case is expected to last six weeks. Attorneys signaled both Depp and Heard are expected to take the stand and testify during the trial.

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