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Johnny Depp Loses Amber Heard Libel Trial Over Tabloid Calling Him a ‘Wife Beater’

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s short-lived marriage began with their 2011 meeting on the set of The Rum Diary. Per court documents, Heard says the abuse started just two years later, in 2013, even before they’d tied the knot. These abuse allegations have been detailed like never before this summer as Depp launched a lawsuit against the publishers of British tabloid The Sun for a 2018 article in which they call him a “wife beater” and urge author J.K. Rowling to recast his role in the Fantastic Beasts series. Today, London High Court Judge Andrew Nico has rejected Depp’s claim that the article constituted libel, asserting instead that Heard’s claims of abuse are proven by evidence to be true. Depp and his legal team continue to deny all claims of abuse and are planning to appeal the decision.

Nico’s ruling, per The New York Times, established that Depp had “not succeeded in his action for libel,” and found Heard’s allegations of physical abuse to be “substantially true.”

“I accept her evidence of the nature of the assaults he committed against her. They must have been terrifying. I accept that Mr. Depp put her in fear of her life,” Nico wrote. “I also accept that Ms. Heard’s allegations have had a negative effect on her career as an actor and activist.”

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The latter point is a key counterstrike against one aspect of Depp and his defenders’ argument — that Heard has come forward with false claims for her own advancement. While Heard has enjoyed a tremendous wave of support, she’s equally endured attacks from those who believe Depp’s version of events, and faced the kind of scrutiny that so often turns coming forward about abuse into another wave of trauma.

“I reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents,” Nico adds in his ruling, referring to 14 violent altercations Heard had detailed between herself and Depp. The judge was particularly disturbed by one account of Depp writing messages in blood from a severed fingertip after a violent fight.

“It is a sign of the depth of his rage that he admitted scrawling graffiti in blood from his injured finger and then, when that was insufficient, dipping his badly injured finger in paint and continuing to write messages and other things,” he wrote.

The Sun has released another statement since the judge’s ruling in support of Heard: “Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced, and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”

If you or someone you love is dealing with an abusive person, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224) or find your state hotline here.

Before you go, click here to see the most important celebrity lawsuits of all time. 

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