- A lawyer who called Amber Heard’s abuse claims a “hoax” raised thousands of dollars to obtain unsealed court filings.
- The effort may have backfired on the legions of Depp fans who helped raise money for the trove of documents.
- So far, the documents have shed light on the evidence Heard was not allowed to present at the trial.
For weeks, Johnny Depp fans have been riding high on the actor’s relative victory in his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard, who insinuated in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that he had physically abused her.
But their parade was somewhat dampened last weekend by the release of thousands of pages of unsealed court documents in the case, with much of the new information casting Heard in a more sympathetic light and Depp in a less flattering one.
The newly released documents, for example, show Heard declined to demand her fair share of Depp’s multimillion-dollar fortune when they divorced and allegations that Depp’s lawyers tried to get nude photos of Heard submitted as evidence at trial.
A pro-Depp lawyer chases the documents
Last month, when Judge Penney Azcarate unsealed thousands of court documents in the case, Andrea Burkhart, a Washington State-based attorney, reached out to the Fairfax County Circuit Court to get copies of the records, according to her tweets.
Burkhart is a self-described “legal color commentator” who followed the Depp v. Heard case closely.
In videos, Burkhart says she’s been a practicing attorney for 15 years. In addition to the Depp trial, she has also been closely following the litigation involving Marilyn Manson and has expressed the belief that both men are victims of false abuse accusations.
In her Depp coverage, Burkhart seeks to offer a legal perspective on his case but often crosses over into opinion.
From the get-go, Burkhart made it clear she thought Heard had committed an “abuse hoax.” On the first day of the trial, Burkhart tweeted it was “time to stop ignoring the reality of female violence and erasing male victims of abuse.”
Throughout the trial, Depp maintained that he never physically abused Heard and that he was the real victim in their relationship.
When Burkhart learned that many of the sealed court filings would be made public after the verdict, she was practically giddy on her YouTube channel about the prospect that they could contain dirt on Heard.
“If Amber Heard was hoping to keep all this stuff secret behind a seal in the Fairfax County courthouse I think she’s going to find herself out of luck and at the end of the day,” Burkhart said in a YouTube video two weeks ago, before she got her hands on the unsealed filings.
Depp fans raise more than $7,000 for unsealed filings
Getting the unsealed court documents was expensive. Burkhart was told by the court’s legal records manager that there were more than 6,600 pages of unsealed filings and it would cost $3,321 to get copies, Burkhart said in another tweet.
So she appealed to her more than 44,000 followers to raise the money. Less than an hour later, Burkhart tweeted that the fundraising goal had been surpassed. Many of those who responded to her call featured pro-Depp pirate hats in their twitter handles.
In subsequent tweets, Burkhart posted screenshots showing she donated more than $7,000 in extra money to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and The Art of Elysium.
The selection of those charities was a jab at Heard, since the two organizations became a focal point at trial when Depp’s team offered evidence that Heard failed to fulfill donation pledges to them as well as to the ACLU.
Leslie Cup, a vice president at The Art of Elysium, confirmed Burkhart’s donation in a statement to Insider on Tuesday, which also took a subtle shot at Heard.
“Yes, I can confirm that we received a donation, not a pledge, of more than $5000 from Andrea Burkhart. We are extremely grateful,” Cup said.
Insider could not independently confirm the donation to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which did not return a request for comment.
The newly exposed court documents were seen by many as a net win for Heard after she faced widespread backlash online during the trial — as well as a bit of karma for her detractors.
“Johnny Depp defenders crowdsourcing thousands to pay to unseal new pages and texts that support Amber Heard’s case …. sometimes fate has a sense of humor,” Kat Tenbargea tech and culture reporter at NBC News, tweeted on July 31.
Newsweek spoke to two lawyers on Tuesday who expressed the opinion that the unsealed documents reflected poorly on Depp and may have come as a surprise to the fans who helped get them published.
Entertainment lawyer Frank Salzano told the outlet he thought the unsealed filings “damaged Johnny Depp,” while Seattle-based attorney Kirk Davis told Newsweek: “If the fans thought unsealing the records was going to significantly help Depp, they were certainly mistaken.”
—camilla (@k4mil1aa) August 2, 2022
—bruce wayne’s wife (@whatismisandry) July 31, 2022
—Tealariss (@Tealariss) August 2, 2022
—hylh (@lovingheard) July 31, 2022
Mainstream media ‘cherrypicking’ information
Insider reached out to Burkhart, who declined to be interviewed but provided a statement that focused mostly on the importance of public access to court documents.
“Having followed this trial for more than two years, my appreciation for the importance of direct access to court records has grown because prestige media outlets have proven unable or unwilling to accurately and fairly report on the proceedings. Recent wildly inaccurate coverage about these unsealed documents reaffirms the importance of making these materials publicly available so that everyone can evaluate the contents themselves,” Burkhart said in her statement.
On a Depp supporter’s YouTube channel Wednesday morning, Burkhart expressed the opinion that the mainstream media was “cherrypicking” and “misinterpreting” information from the unsealed documents.
“The funny thing in all of this is that the bottom line has not really changed. The things that were significant in the trial have not been undermined in the least,” Burkhart said.
“It’s sort of like a sociological observation seeing how these things can be so distorted and so twisted and so imagine if all we had were the mainstream media telling us what was going on with this stuff,” Burkhart added.
Burkhart then spent a large part of the hourlong appearance downplaying the seriousness of a set of text messages between Depp and Manson that were included in the unsealed documents.
In one exchange, Manson seems to offer up a groupie to Depp.
“My new fan meet and greet girl. Looks like you need it. Trust me. I’ll send a pic,” Manson said in the text.
Burkhart characterized this exchange in particular as merely “bro talk.”
“Shocker — these are rock and roll people, I’m sure they pay attention to beautiful women in their entourage,” Burkhart said.