On the first day of a trial over whether Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp, a lawyer for the actress said the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle in 2016.
The allegation has not previously been made public, although Heard and Depp, who married in 2015 before divorcing in 2016, have battled it out in both legal courtrooms and the court of public opinion for years. Both agree that their relationship was violent—but while Heard says that Depp abused her, Depp says it was the other way around.
The Virginia trial centers around a 2018 op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post, where she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the piece didn’t call Depp out by name, Heard accused him of domestic abuse in 2016.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million in 2019, claiming that her allegations were an “elaborate hoax.” Heard’s allegations, the actor has said, ravaged his career and led to Disney dropping him from the “Pirates of the Carribbean” franchise. Heard then filed a $100 million counter-claim against Depp, accusing her ex-husband of defaming her too.
Depp was often drunk and high when they were together, Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft said during opening statements Tuesday, according to Vulture. On one alleged bender in Australia in 2016, Depp allegedly took several ecstasy tablets, punched and kicked Heard, and penetrated her with a liquor bottle.
“Ms. Heard had never made that accusation against Mr. Depp—it was never part of her allegations of abuse. So, what changed?” Depp’s lawyer, Camille Vasquez, told the jury of the sexual assault allegation. Vasquez said that Heard “panicked” and then “alleged sexual assault.”
“Ms. Heard’s pattern is consistent,” Vasquez continued. “She tells a lie, then covers up that lie with still more lies, in a constantly changing, evolving, ever more dramatic story.”
The sexual assault allegation wasn’t the only mention of physical violence in opening statements. The two sides also presented duelling narratives about how Depp came to have a severed finger: Depp’s legal team said that Heard threw a liquor bottle at Depp, which cut the end of his finger, while a lawyer for Heard called the severing “act of self-mutilation,” according to Rolling Stone.
“He was with Marilyn Manson for the week before scoring on cocaine,” Bredehoft said.
The trial is expected to last six weeks and include testimony from both Heard and Depp. It starts nearly two years after a London judge concluded that a British newspaper had not defamed Depp when it labeled him a “wife beater” and claimed that there was “overwhelming evidence” that Depp had assaulted Heard.