A Virginia judge rejected Depp’s offer to dismiss Amber Heard’s counterclaim, ruling on Tuesday that the matter must be decided by a jury.
Banso alleges that Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, defamed Heard and damaged his career by accusing Heard and her friends of committing “abuse fraud”. Heard brought the case to a standstill on Tuesday morning, and Depp’s team urged him to take routine action to dismiss the claim.
Depp’s attorney, Ben Chew, argued that Waldman’s opinion was not defamatory. Chew also argued that there was no evidence that Depp saw or knew Waldman’s statements until a counterclaim was filed.
“He believed Heard’s allegations of abuse were clearly false and will continue to do so until the day he dies,” Chew said.
Heard’s attorney Ben Rottenborn argued that Waldman acted as Depp’s attorney and that Depp was therefore responsible for Waldman’s actions. He also said that there is ample evidence that Depp abused Heard, so it should be left to the jury to decide whether to pay damages in the counterclaim.
“The counterclaims are 100% false,” Rottenborn said. “There were no fakes. Ms. Depp is an abusive abuser of Ms. Heard. She didn’t conspire with her friends to create a scam. She didn’t cheat herself.”
Judge Penney Azcarate rejected Depp’s offer.
“It is not my job to weigh the truth or the weight of the evidence,” she said.
Heard’s lawyers filed a similar suit to dismiss Depp’s basic defamation suit on May 3 after his team closed the case. Depp sued Heard in a December 2018 article in the Washington Post for alluding to her previous domestic violence allegations. Azcarate also rejected the offer, meaning the jury must decide both Depp’s case and Heard’s counterclaim.
Depp’s team also introduced legislation that would prevent Heard from claiming immunity from defamation lawsuits under Virginia’s anti-SLAPP statute. While the statute is designed to protect speech on matters of political or social importance, it does not protect speech that is “real evil”. If Heard prevails on these grounds, she is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees from Depp. Azcarate rejected the offer, stating that the jury should also address the facts of the matter.
Depp’s team will present witnesses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to refute Heard’s objection, with a closing statement scheduled for Friday.
Gene Maddaus of Variety.com via Reuters