Johnny Depp’s lawyers say Amber Heard had “two extra-marital affairs” with SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk and actor James Franco while still going out with the Pirates Of The Caribbean star.
The judge presiding over the case, Mr Justice Nicol asked what bearing the alleged affairs had over the High Court libel case against The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton.
David Sherborne, who is defending Depp, said evidence of “multiple affairs” is relevant as it would prove “false motive” for the alleged violence Heard says she suffered due to “Depp’s supposed paranoia and mistaken belief” that she was unfaithful.
It is now being decided whether or not the case will go ahead.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean actor brought the case over an April 2018 article in the tabloid which referred to him as a “wife beater”, following allegations made by Heard.
Depp strenuously denies these allegations.
Mr Sherborne also made reference to CCTV footage taken from the lift of Depp and Heard’s LA penthouse on 22 May 2016, which show the actress with a man alleged to be Franco.
He said the “intimate” meeting between the pair took place “hours after the final incident of alleged abuse”, when police were called to the apartment.
Depp’s team is now asking for “disclosure of all communications over a particular period in 2016” between Heard, Musk and Franco.
The lawyer representing Heard, David Price QC, said whether she had “extra-marital relationships” was “not a contested issue on the statement of case”, adding that CCTV footage from the penthouse lift had “been widely available online for some time”.
Lawyers for The Sun have argued that the case should be dropped, after Depp was found to be in breach of court for failing to disclose “drugs texts” to its lawyers.
Messages sent to Depp’s assistant apparently show the 57-year-old actor trying to obtain drugs in Australia.
They referred to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff”, which Adam Wolanski QC – who is defending NGN – said showed he was trying to obtain MDMA and cocaine.
The messages were sent in late February and early March 2015, shortly before an alleged incident in Australia between Depp and Heard, which Heard claims was “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults”.
Mr Wolanski also accused Depp and his lawyers of intimidating Heard and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
David Sherborne, who is defending Depp, said the defendants’ claim that the dispute is between Mr Depp and Ms Heard ignores the fact that The Sun’s publication of the allegations bought it to the attention of millions of readers, both in the paper and online.
He also said the messages were not relevant as they did not relate to the allegations of domestic violence, which he says is the crux of the case. He said Depp has previously been open about his drug-taking history.
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Mr Sherborne went on to say the tabloid has persisted in “inflaming publicity” around the case and accused NGN lawyers of taunting Depp by calling him a “coward” after the actor asked for the March trial to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The alleged “three-day ordeal” in Australia – when Depp is said to have been taking MDMA and drinking heavily – is one of 14 separate allegations of domestic violence, between early 2013 and May 2016, that NGN relies on in its pleaded defence to Depp’s claim.
Depp “expressly denies” that he took the drugs, that Heard found a bag of pills or that they had any conversations about drug use during that time, and claims Heard went into “a prolonged and extreme rage” after a discussion of a post-nuptial agreement.
The case is due to be tried at the High Court in London, beginning on 7 July, and is expected to last three weeks.
Five courtrooms are understood to have been set aside for the case and Heard has already arrived in London ahead of giving evidence. The defence has described her as their “key witness”.
Depp will travel from his home in France to attend court.
The couple met on the set of 2011 comedy The Rum Diary and married in Los Angeles in February 2015.
In May 2016, Heard obtained a restraining order against Depp after accusing him of abuse, which he denied.
They settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Heard donating her $7m (£5.5m) settlement to charity.
Depp’s former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, are also expected to give evidence. Both have previously given witness statements saying Depp was “never violent” towards them.
Sky News has contacted Amber Heard, Elon Musk and James Franco for comment.