The Johnny Depp defamation trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, took a turn towards divorce – and possibly extortion. According to sworn deposition testimony introduced in court, after filing for divorce Heard demanded Depp sign divorce papers and comply with her list of demands. Could a settlement letter be considered extortion?
On Strange Tides
Heard filed her petition two days after Depp’s mother passed away. At the trial, Heard’s lawyer reportedly said her client was afraid of Depp, but wanted to keep the matter private. Heard’s team was reported to have said they avoided arranging for Depp to be personally served with legal papers at one of his movie premieres.
Heard’s lawyer allegedly wrote:
“Amber wishes to work quickly towards a private and amicable resolution of all matters, but she will need Johnny’s immediate cooperation to do so.”
Heard then demanded Depp sign divorce papers and comply with a list of demands. Heard wanted him to allow her to use the black Range Rover in her possession and for him to make the payments, exclusive use and possession of three units owned by Depp in a Los Angeles building, that he continue to pay the bills, attorney fees forensic accountant fees.
A couple of days later, Heard filed for a restraining order against her then-husband claiming she was the victim of repeated domestic violence.
Florida Extortion and Divorce
I have written about divorce and extortion before. It is easy to cross the line from harmless threats to the crime of extortion. The fact remains that in Florida, it is a second-degree felony to threaten to expose another for the commission of any crime or offense for one’s own pecuniary advantage.
There are several examples of how this happens in divorce. One which comes to mind, is taxes. It is not uncommon for spouses to threaten to report the other spouse to the IRS for underpayment of taxes unless money is paid to keep the silence.
Another very common extortion technique in Florida is to issue a threat to report a spouse to immigration officials. One spouse will to use the threat of deportation unless money is paid in a settlement. This was more common during the previous administration when the country cracked down on illegal immigration.
Extortion also happens when signing settlement agreements. For example, spouses sometimes threaten that if the other spouse does not sign the settlement agreement, the other spouse will tell the children about infidelity, or something else to ruin what reputation the spouse has.
“Why Fight When You Can Negotiate?”
– Capt Jack Sparrow
Depp is suing Heard for defamation arising from a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The article, Depp alleges, insinuated he was the perpetrator; the Oscar-winning actor claims the column made him lose job opportunities.
The letter that Heard’s divorce lawyer sent to Depp’s divorce lawyer was reportedly seen online and mentioned physical injuries Depp allegedly inflicted on Heard and noted that there were many witnesses. It mentioned a domestic violence temporary restraining order, which Heard had not yet sought to keep the issue out of the media spotlight.
Heard’s lawyer reportedly asked Depp’s lawyer to let Heard live rent-free in their apartments while Depp continued to pay the mortgage and utilities in exchange for allegedly keeping their divorce out of the media spotlight. Depp was promoting “Alice in Wonderland” at the time of the couple’s separation. The letter then listed Heard’s demands, concluding:
“We are indeed hopeful that we can swiftly work out mutually acceptable short and long term solutions outside of the public eye.”
Amber Heard’s divorce lawyer’s letter was shown in court last week as evidence in the defamation trial. Depp himself testified in court over four days about their tumultuous relationship and break-up. By the time the divorce was finalized in early 2017, Depp was on the hook for more than $14 million, according to Edward White, Depp’s business manager, who also testified.
Heard pledged to split the $7 million between donations to the ACLU and a children’s hospital. But an ACLU executive who testified this week said it received only $1.3 million of the promised $3.5 million in her name, and that $500,000 of that money actually came from Elon Musk, who Heard dated following her breakup with Depp.
The Insider article is here.