Johnny Depp has won the right to sue Amber Heard for libel in the United States despite a London judge having ruled that he was a “wife beater”.
The Pirates of the Caribbean actor lost a libel case against The Sun, which claimed that he had assaulted Heard, a star of the Aquaman superhero movie.
Heard, 35, tried to use the ruling to block Depp, 58, from suing her in the US over an article she wrote for The Washington Post in which she described being a victim of domestic abuse without naming her former husband.
Penney Azcarate, chief judge of the Fairfax county circuit court in Virginia, ruled that Depp had not had a “full and fair opportunity” to put his case in the UK. Depp sued only The Sun, not Heard, who gave evidence on behalf of the newspaper.
Mr Justice Nicol found in November that Depp had assaulted Heard 12 times and left her in fear of her life as he dismissed the actor’s libel claim.
Depp is suing Heard over a December 2018 column in which she wrote: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Heard, who is countersuing for lost income, argued that the US court should recognise the London judgment and declare that the issue of Depp’s violence had already been adjudicated.
In a written ruling Azcarate said: “The court is not persuaded by [Heard’s] argument that [Depp] had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the UK action. [Heard] was not a part in the UK action and was not treated as one. Because she was not named a defendant, she was not subject to the same discovery rules applicable to named parties. In fact, [Heard] could not have been a named defendant to the UK litigation because her allegedly defamatory statements were made after the UK action commenced.”
The judge said that the cases were not identical. The London trial related to The Sun’s allegations but the Virginia case was about Heard’s statements.
Depp told The Sunday Times at the weekend that he was being boycottted by Hollywood because his latest film, Minamata, was not released in the US. After his libel defeat Warner Bros required him to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the Harry Potter spin-off in which he portrayed evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
Nicol found that all but two of the alleged incidents of abuse were proved. They included a honeymoon attack, one on Heard’s 30th birthday and one while Depp was filming in Australia. Two incidents involved sexual abuse detailed in a confidential annex.
The announcement that Depp was to receive a lifetime achievement award next month from Spain’s San Sebastian International Film Festival was condemned by the country’s leading group of film-makers.
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