#MeToo actress was 'misquoted' in Sun's Johnny Depp 'wife beater' article, libel trial hears

#MeToo actress was 'misquoted' in Sun's Johnny Depp 'wife beater' article, libel trial hears

Johnny Depp was cast into the “rogues’ gallery of abusers” highlighted by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements after the publication of an article which labelled him a “wife beater”, his lawyers have said.

He was “cited in the same breath as disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein”, who had by then “become notorious” for carrying out “heinous assaults on women”, the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s legal team argued.

The Hollywood actor is suing News Group Newspapers and its executive editor Dan Wootton over the publication of an article on April 27 2018 with the headline: “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

The trial has been heard in the High Court over the past three weeks.

In a written document on the final day of his libel action, lawyers said the piece “put Mr Depp into the same category of Harvey Weinstein and invoke #MeToo and Time’s Up movements just so no reader is in any doubt as to the seriousness of what Mr Depp has done or how much society should condemn him”.

It adds: “The Claimant is included in the rogues’ gallery of abusers that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are campaigning against, cited in the same breath as Harvey Weinstein who had become notorious by then for having committed numerous heinous assaults on women.”

Depp‘s lawyers said the comparison has been repeated at trial by “equating Mr Depp to Harvey Weinstein in their cross-examination of Ms Kendall”.

Actress Katherine Kendall, an advocate for the #MeToo movement which sprang out of widespread revelations about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, gave evidence in Depp‘s trial, saying she felt “misquoted and misused” over the article.

Kendall has publicly accused Weinstein, who was jailed for 23 years in March after being convicted of rape and other sexual offences, of harassing her in the 1990s.

In a written statement to London’s High Court, she said when she read the article: “I realised that I had been completely misquoted and misused by The Sun to accomplish their goal.

“In my brief interview, I had actually said many of the opposite things that The Sun had falsely quoted me as saying.”

In her statement, she said that in a message to a reporter she had spoken to, she wrote: “I felt like I was misquoted, or that my words were taken out of context.

“I never meant to be in an article that called Johnny Depp a ‘wife beater’. I told you that I didn’t know that to be true at all!”

Three weeks ago, in his opening statement, Depp‘s barrister David Sherborne said Wootton and The Sun newspaper had chosen to “make deliberate and highly topical references to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements” as well as to Weinstein.

The lawyer said his client had not launched this libel action for money, but that “it is about vindication”.

He added: “That is why he has come here – to clear his reputation.”

Sherborne told Mr Justice Nicol that “the allegations made against Mr Depp are exceptionally serious”, with the actor accused of “repeated violence involving serious physical injury and causing her (Heard) to fear for her life on several occasions”.

He said the fact that Depp has “a history of consuming alcohol and taking drugs” was “neither newsworthy nor, quite frankly, probative of anything”, and described the questioning of the actor during the trial about his drink and drug use as “a wasteful exercise”.

Sherborne said Depp “never denies taking controlled drugs or consuming alcohol”.

“He admitted it and, if occasionally he was mistaken or forgot exactly when he stopped taking something … it is quite hard to see why that would make any material difference given how candid he has been about his use of certain substances,” Sherborne said.

He told the court: “The defendants’ case has to be more than that he (Depp) took controlled drugs or that he consumed alcohol.”

During the hearing, Sherborne reminded the judge that the burden of proof rests on NGN to prove what it published and said there is a higher standard of proof for the allegations because many are criminal in nature.

The barrister added: “This court requires compelling and cogent evidence before it will find that an allegation that someone is guilty of a serious criminal offence is true.”

On Monday, lawyers for NGN made their closing submissions, with barrister Sasha Wass QC telling the court that the defence to the article complained about by Depp is “one of truth, namely that Mr Depp did indeed beat his wife”.

Mr Justice Nicol has said that his judgment will be reserved.

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire



Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.