It’s been a while since I’ve written anything of considerable length and, as the internet’s latest meme says, it shows. The following piece was born out of my bad habit of taking on racism and misogyny in both online political and comic book-related discussions. My daughter, who’s turned 13 late last year, has become quite the geek girl when it comes to Harry Potter and comic book-related material and I’ve found myself explaining to her more than once that there are so many bad people in the world that they infest even the most joyous things we love. It’s best to ignore them if possible but sometimes (well, often) they have to be called out.
The latest issue near and dear to my heart is the recent flare up between Johnny Depp, the magnificent Captain Jack Sparrow, and his former wife Amber Heard, who totally nailed the role of Mera, Queen of Atlantis, in 2017’s Justice League and this year’s Aquaman. Long story short, in 2016 the couple separated amidst allegations Depp had physically and verbally abused Heard.
If you’re reading this, you no doubt have some knowledge of #metoo, a movement primarily focused on raising awareness and taking actions to address sexual harassment and sexual assault of women. Months after Depp and Heard reached a divorce settlement, Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post revealing her past abuse in quite general terms. No one was named in the piece (unless you count Donald Trump whom she referenced as an example of how our society accepts powerful men who abuse women.)
Johnny Depp apparently believed she was singling him out and that the op-ed violated their divorce agreement not to discuss their marriage or make derogatory statements about each other. So earlier this month he filed $50 million defamation suit against her. Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, said the column was an “abuse of the #MeToo movement” and claimed Heard “masquerades as victim rather than abuser.” You read that correctly. Depp and his lawyer contend SHE abused HIM.
The Hollywood Reporter reported the complaint admits Depp was not specifically named in the Post article but it was clear Heard was talking about him. The lawsuit calls her ongoing allegations of domestic abuse “categorically and demonstrably false.”
“They were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career,” the lawsuit says, claiming that “she is the perpetrator.”
So with little to no evidence that this highly unlikely scenario of Heard abusing Depp played out, people have chosen sides, with the aggressors usually coming from Depp’s fanbase. Peruse the comments section of any article, forum, or post reporting these latest developments and you’ll find a cesspool of false assertions. People are claiming to have seen the evidence against Heard, although anything Depp’s legal team has designated as evidence has not been made public. Men in particular go in profanity-infused tirades where Amber Heard is either a diabolical mastermind who carried out an elaborate conspiracy to doctor videotapes, apply cosmetics to make herself look bruised, manipulate police, and drain Johnny Depp’s bank accounts, or she’s a “mindless bitch.” She’s often both, referenced in the same breath by someone who doesn’t recognize the dichotomy of the two. To them, ‘evidence’ is the charges Depp’s Vladimir Putin-connected lawyer has leveled at Heard.
I’m not lawyer, but I do know in any solid case, a person’s history is often used to establish a pattern of behavior. Hopefully by the end this piece, you’ll see that pattern in one of these litigants and will be able to make a better judgement call on this case.
In this post, I’ll give a brief summary of Johnny Depp’s established pattern of public drunkenness and violence — true events — facts that are relevant to any legal proceedings that Depp is currently involved in, has been involved in, or will be involved in. I’ll introduce you to several key players beyond Depp and Heard whose names have been dropped in news and conversation about Depp and Heard. Finally, I’ll show you how unlikely it is Heard was the physical aggressor in their relationship. On each point I’ll endeavor to provide links to news, legal, and mental health sources to support my points.
If you are of the belief women are naturally ‘out to get men,’ that Heard can alternately be the perpetrator of a well-planned conspiracy and a ‘dumb bitch,’ and that women lie about domestic abuse ‘all the time,’ you may want to quit reading now. If the concepts of misogyny, equality, and the #metoo movement give you more than pause, you’d best move on to the next story.
WHY AM I DOING THIS?
You may be asking yourself why I’m spending so much time and effort discussing the dysfunctional relationship of two Hollywood stars, one who is on the way up, and one who has been on the decline for the better part of a decade. The truth is, I didn’t know who Amber Heard was until she was cast as Mera in the DC Cinematic Universe. And while I believe she did a fine job in that role, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan of hers. On the other hand, I’ve been a fan of Johnny Depp’s since his 21 Jumpstreet Days. He’s quite the actor and has made some enjoyable films. Even his sub par movies were made more entertaining with him in the lead. What I’m getting at is I don’t have a personal stake in their current ordeal. But what this high profile case is exposing is the often extreme toxicity in both showbiz and comic book fandoms directed at women, sometimes BY women. Being an ardent follower of both communities, I’m raising a daughter who is just now being exposed to the misogynistic double-standards present on the Depp-Heard case, a case that is becoming just one more high profile example of the cancer that is permeating the dark underside of gender politics. To that end, I do have a personal stake in what the Depp-Heard case represents.
Quick note: I’m not a great writer and I don’t claim to be. I am, however, a pretty good researcher, a skill I’ve been hired for in the past and one I use often in my daytime gig. I also want apologize in advance to any writer that I may not have credited properly in my piece. It wasn’t intentional.
The history of Depp’s assaults and arrests record is a matter of public record. Each time he managed to scrape by with just a warning and/or a small fine. Membership in the famous white male club has its privileges. He was a frequent subject of both gossip and hard news sites in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. In 1989, Depp was arrested for assaulting a hotel security guard in Canada after the guard asked a drunken Depp and his friends to leave the premises. Depp was released after promising to appear in court April 12.
Then, in 1994, Depp was arrested again when he destroyed a hotel room while fighting with his girlfriend at the time, 20 year old supermodel Kate Moss. After several hours in a holding cell, he was released and told that the charges would be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for six months and agreed to reimburse the hotel $9,767.12 in damages and guest fees. Moss reportedly left him sometime later because of his “intense mood swings.”
In 1999, Depp was arrested for threatening the paparazzi in London. Enraged because his picture was being taken, he swung a wooden plank at the photographer. He was later cautioned for his threatening behavior and released.
In 2001, Depp was sued for fraud by his former business partner & Viper Room co-owner Anthony Fox. By all reported indications, Fox was about to win the case when he suddenly disappeared without trace.
The Charley Project, an online source that provides information on missing persons cases, states, “Fox was last seen in Ventura County, California on December 19, 2001. His pickup truck disappeared with him, and a .38 caliber revolver disappeared from his briefcase at the same time. On January 6, 2002, his truck was found abandoned on Chestnut Street in Santa Clara, California. Fox left behind several thousand dollars in his bank account, and there hasn’t been activity on his financial accounts since his disappearance. He also left behind a teenage daughter.”
The Charley Project continues, “Fox was scheduled to testify in court shortly after his disappearance. He was in the process of suing five people over financial problems at his business, a West Hollywood, California nightclub called The Viper Room, which he had co-founded with Johnny Depp in 1993. The club was frequented by Hollywood celebrities, and gained notoriety when actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose there on Halloween in 1993. Depp was one of the defendants in Fox’s lawsuits. Fox had accused Depp of defrauding him of millions of dollars in profits. Fox went missing before the lawsuit could be brought to a conclusion. In 2004, Depp turned over his share in the nightclub to Fox’s daughter, who resold it. According to the Celebrity Justice section of the Warner Brothers Studios website, and as reported in the San Francisco Gate, the Judge in this case ruled that: “Defendant Depp breached his fiduciary duties to the corporation and to Fox as a minority shareholder. The facts establish persistent and pervasive fraud and mismanagement and abuse of authority.” So it’s likely Depp didn’t voluntarily turn over his shares of the club to Fox’s daughter but was ordered to do so because he and the four others involved were actively hiding profits and defrauding Fox.
“It is unclear what caused Fox to vanish, or whether The Viper Room or the pending litigation had anything to do with his disappearance. His case remains unsolved.”
Now, the theory about Depp’s possible involvement in Fox’s disappearance is borderline conspiracy, and I typically prefer to leave conspiracies out of my writing (I’ll leave the conspiracies to those who believe Amber Heard used makeup to make herself look bruised), but a lot of things about it are indeed extremely sketchy. While lawyers for both sides were battling it out over the lawsuit, two things happened; Johnny Depp moved to France and Anthony Fox disappeared.
And if you could indulge me for one more borderline conspiracy before I resume proven factual events regarding Depp, please direct your attention to celebrity gossip site The Data Lounge, which has alluded to Depp actually shooting Winona Ryder:
“This couple was everywhere. They were all over every tabloid. The actor, all movies all the time is still A+. Back in the day not so long ago he was a drinking and drugging machine and had a thing for antique weapons. Still does. Brings them to the set all the time. Much more careful with them now though. His girlfriend at the time was A list. She was strictly a booze and cigs kind of person with the sometime coke night if she was really having fun. Well, one night, our actor was showing off a new gun he had purchased at auction and was drinking and playing around and swinging it and shot his girlfriend. Bam right in the ribs. The bullet sliced off a chunk of her right below her bra line. She was not wearing a bra at the time. She was naked. There was blood everywhere. They screamed for several minutes before one of them finally got the idea of trying to towel it off. Yeah, that did not last long. They then used the hotel room drapes. Finally our actor made a call and the hotel sent up a doctor.” It’s believed this was the actual event leading to Rider’s decade-long addiction to painkillers.
Speaking of Winona Ryder, those who are passionately supporting Johnny Depp point to her as a character witness, seemingly coming to his defense in 2016 when he stood accused of abusing Amber Heard. “He was never, never that way towards me,” she stated. “Never abusive at all towards me. I only know him as a really good, loving, caring guy who is very, very protective of the people that he loves.”
They conveniently ignore the entire quote, though. Ryder also said in the same LA Times article, “I can only speak from my own experience… I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. I’m not calling anyone a liar.”
Even the full quote by Ryder is a marked departure from her 2014 position when she refused to reunite with Depp for a movie role because she either disapproved Depp’s relationship with Heard or she was jealous of it. I’m also not certain Ryder is the character witness Depp and his legal team would want. In 2002, Rider was given probation for stealing and vandalizing merchandise at a Saks Fifth Avenue store and for doctor shopping and having drug illegally prescribed to her under at least two different names.
“Have you ever taken painkillers? It isn’t like you’re out of your head. It’s just confusion,” said Ryder in a later interview.
From a strictly legal perspective, would you want her as a character witness? Would any lawyer call her to the stand? Doubtful.
In August of 2018, a lawsuit was filed by location manager named Gregg Brooks, who alleged Depp punched him while on the set of “City of Lies.” According to court documents, “the incident between Depp and Brooks took place on April 13, 2017, and allegedly arose after Brooks advised Depp that they would have only one more shot, in order to abide by the city permit restricting filming to 11 p.m. inside the Barclay Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Depp was incensed by Brooks’ comment and allegedly shouted at the location manager before punching him twice in the ribcage. Depp was then removed from the set by his bodyguards.”
Disney fired Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise late last year. If you don’t believe it was over Depp’s increasing erratic behavior, you’re simply gullible. Did you read the Rolling Stone piece? It gives a damning account of Depp’s squandered finances, irresponsible spending habits, drug and alcohol use, and mafia-like behavior. It also provides insight into his lawsuit against his former management team who he’s accused of financial malfeasance (kinda like what Depp is alleged to have done to the missing and presumed dead Anthony Fox, Depp’s partner in the Viper Room.) This is the same management team that provided testimony against Depp during his divorce proceeding with Amber Heard. The fact he’s suing his former managers of supposedly cheating him out of money after they provided statements implicating him in Heard’s abuse is quite similar to Depp also suing Heard for defamation. Could be a coincidence the two events happened in a short time frame or they could be revenge lawsuits, designed to bring maximum negative press against Heard and his former managers but never expected to go beyond an eventual settlement.
The two suits taken together, and the optics surrounding them, does sound quite Trumpian and the Depp sycophants who seem desperate to believe him might as well be wearing red MAGA hats. Similar behavior.
Speaking of MAGA, one little tidbit that flew under the radar in the Rolling Stone piece was the revelation (at least to me) that Johnny Depp’s attorney is Adam Waldman. You may be wondering why I made a passing reference to him and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier. According to a Business Insider piece titled Here Are The American Executives Who Are Working On Behalf Of Vladimir Putin, Adam Waldman is the founder, chairman, and president of the Endeavor Group, a D.C. consultancy based about two blocks from the White House. In May 2009, Waldman filed paperwork with the DOJ indicating he would be working with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to provide ‘legal advice on issues involving his U.S. visa as well as commercial transactions.’”
Waldman has been paid more than $2.3 million for his work on behalf of Deripaska. Meanwhile, Deripaska became a bit player in the Trump-Russian-collusion scandal when it was reported by The Washington Post that then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered to give Deripaska private briefings on the campaign shortly before the GOP convention.
According to Great Britain’s The Guardian, Waldman visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange nine times at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017. It isn’t clear if Waldman’s visits with Assange are related to his work with Oleg Deripaska but, seriously, what other reason would he have gone for? Based on text messages between him and US Senator Mark Warner, Walman may have tried to arrange some sort of immunity deal for Assange and Deripaska. Mother Jones reports Waldman did not respond to multiple requests for comment when asked if his efforts for Assange and his business relationship with Deripaska were related. US intelligence agencies concluded with “high confidence” in 2017, in an unclassified intelligence assessment, that the Kremlin shared hacked emails with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks that undermined Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as part of its effort to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.
It was Waldman who advised Depp to file lawsuits against his former management team and his ex-wife Amber Heard.
So let’s discuss Amber Heard. Many people really have no idea who she is. Unless you’re a fan of DC comics movies, your knowledge of her is likely limited to what you’ve read on social media and in the press regarding her high profile split from Depp in 2016 and the current defamation suit filed by Depp against her this year.
Her claim to fame, according to those supportive of Depp, is she, too, has a ‘history’ of abuse. They’re referring to an incident in 2009 where Heard was charged with a misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree, which literally means “physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.” Tapping someone on the shoulder to get his attention could be considered a misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree if it’s offensive to the recipient.
In Heard’s case, she grasped her girlfriend Tasya van Ree’s arm during an argument at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Apparently Ree didn’t call security or report Heard. The incident was apparently witnessed by officers. The incident was so minor and meaningless prosecutors declined to press charges against her and in 2011 the incident was struck from county records.
If you, the Depp supporting reader, actually believe that was a serious indicator of Heard’s character and established the pattern Waldman and Depp are alleging, there is little I can do to dissuade you. For the rest of you, this ludicrous false equivalence presented by some that this rises to the level of Depp’s history shows you just how deluded some can be.
It is possible Heard is lying, that she planned an elaborate scheme to ensnare Johnny Depp, but it isn’t likely. In her thorough piece on victim-blaming culture, Amy Zimmerman writes, “A 2016 study of celebrity domestic violence cases found that media coverage regularly included ‘victim-blaming statements’… failed to contextualize domestic violence as larger social problem, and commonly portrayed domestic violence as a couple’s problem.’ Additionally, ‘When reporting on white male celebrities, articles are 2.5 times more likely to make excuses for their behavior, suggesting there was mutual violence or pointing to drug addiction and inebriation as mitigating circumstances.” That means E! Newsheadlines like Johnny Depp Never Laid a Hand on Amber Heard While Sober and Why Amber Heard Finally Left Johnny Depp: ‘His Problems Got the Best of Him,’ Source Says.
Zimmerman continues, “articles are riddled with subtle accusations that the actress is to blame for her own abuse, from The Mirror’s claim that Johnny Depp’s Marriage to ‘Alpha Female’ Amber Heard Was Destined to Fail to Hollywood Life’s shady interrogative, Did Amber Heard’s lesbian friends have an impact on her marriage? The relentless inclusion of Heard’s bisexuality in the coverage of her divorce intimates, sometimes overtly, that her sexuality triggered Depp’s distrust, and eventually drove him to violence. Referring to Amber Heard as Johnny Depp’s ‘bisexual wife’ — as opposed to, you know, using her real name — contributes to her casting as an archetype, a sexually promiscuous, lying manipulator.”
In doing research for this piece, I ran across multiple men on several discussion forums claiming to be “assault investigators” and other similar professional titles that denote some kind of expertise in the matter (one was actually the editor of a Batman fansite, LOL.) In every single instance, they would say things along the lines of ‘dumb bitches always lie about abuse.’ But research reveals false allegations are largely a myth. Only 25 percent of physical assaults perpetrated against women are reported to the police. As Zimmerman astutely observes, why would they come forward, given the cold reception that Amber Heard, an incredibly privileged, famous white woman, received?
If we are to believe Heard abuse Depp, the more plausible scenario is she knew how to hit abusive men back instead of curling up in a corner and crying like Depp was expecting her to do. Must be her Texas upbringing. My advice to my daughter is to always protect yourself.
As of this writing, news of Depp’s defamation suit against Heard is making news daily and it’s disheartening to not only see women take his Putin-connected Lawyer’s claims as gospel truth, but that virtually no one has come to Heard’s defense. Not #metoo. Not any feminist source I can find. But if they… we… can’t pushback on the attacks on a high profile woman, how can we protect the women in the trenches?
UPDATE: Along with some really bizarre claims being made by Depp and Waldman, Johnny has requested the judge in his other ongoing assault case with Gregg Brooks not refer to his current case with Amber involving domestic abuse or his past drug offenses.
(this article originally appeared on Medium.)