- A lawyer who called Amber Heard’s abuse claims a “hoax” has raised thousands of dollars to get unsealed court records.
- The effort may have backfired on the legions of Depp fans who helped raise money for the document vault.
- So far, the documents have shed light on evidence Heard was not allowed to present at trial.
For weeks, Johnny Depp fans have been eyeing the actor’s relative victory in his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard, who hinted in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that he 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 showing Heard in a more sympathetic light and Depp in a less flattering light.
Newly released documents, for example, show that Heard refused to claim her share of Depp’s multimillion-dollar estate when they split and allegations that Depp’s lawyers tried to have nude photos of Heard submitted as evidence in the trial.
A lawyer for Depp is chasing the documents
Last month, when Judge Penney Azcarate unsealed thousands of court documents in the case, Andrea Burkhart, a Washington state attorney, petitioned 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 a video, Burkhart says she has been a lawyer for 15 years. In addition to Depp’s trial, he also closely followed the trial involving Marilyn Manson and expressed his belief that both men are victims of false accusations of abuse.
In covering Depp, Burkhart seeks to provide a legal perspective on his case, but often finds herself at cross-purposes.
From the beginning, Burkhart made it clear that she thought Heard had committed an “abuse hoax.” On the first day of the trial, Burkhart he 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 she was the real victim in their relationship.
When Burkhart learned that many of the sealed court records would be released 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 these things secret behind a seal in the Fairfax County courthouse, I think she’s going to be out of luck at the end of the day,” Burkhart said. YouTube video two weeks ago, before she got her hands on the unsealed shavings.
Depp fans raise more than $7,000 for unsealed records
Obtaining the unsealed court documents was expensive. The court’s director of legal records told Burkhart there were more than 6,600 pages of unsealed records and it would cost $3,321 to obtain copies, Burkhart told 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 exceeded. Many of those who responded to her call had pro-Depp pirate hats on their twitter handles.
In subsequent tweets, Burkhart posted screenshots showing that she donated more than $7,000 in extra money to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and The Art of Elysium.
The choice of those charities was a jab at Heard, as the two organizations became the focus of the lawsuit after Depp’s team offered evidence that Heard had failed to fulfill donation commitments to them as well as the ACLU.
Leslie Cup, vice president at The Art of Elysium, confirmed Burkhart’s donation in a statement to Insider on Tuesday, which also took a subtle jab at Heard.
“Yes, I can confirm that we have received a donation, not a pledge, of over $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 released court documents were seen by many as a clear win for Heard, after she faced widespread online backlash during the trial — as well as a bit of karma for her critics.
“Johnny Depp’s defenders raise thousands to pay to unseal new pages and texts supporting Amber Heard’s case… sometimes fate has a sense of humor.” Kat Tenbargetechnology and culture reporter at NBC News, tweeted on July 31.
Newsweek spoke with two attorneys on Tuesday, who said the unsealed documents reflect poorly on Depp and may have come as a surprise to fans who helped publish them.
Entertainment attorney Frank Salzano told the outlet he believed the unsealed files “hurt Johnny Depp,” while Seattle attorney Kirk Davis told Newsweek, “If fans believed unsealing the files would help significantly Depp, they were definitely wrong.”
—kamilla (@k4mil1aa) August 2, 2022
—Bruce Wayne’s Wife (@whatismisandry) July 31, 2022
—Tealariss (@Tealariss) August 2, 2022
—hila (@lovingheard) July 31, 2022
Information “cherrypicking” mainstream media
Insider reached out to Burkhart, who declined to be interviewed, but provided a statement that focused primarily on the importance of public access to court documents.
“Having followed this trial for more than two years, my appreciation of the importance of prompt access to court records has grown because the mainstream media has proven unable or unwilling to accurately and fairly report the proceedings. Recent wildly inaccurate coverage of with these unsealed documents reaffirms the importance of releasing this material so that anyone can evaluate the content,” Burkhart said in her statement.
To a Depp fan YouTube channel On Wednesday morning, Burkhart opined that the mainstream media is “selecting” and “misrepresenting” information from the declassified documents.
“The funny thing about all of this is that the bottom line hasn’t really changed. The things that were important in the trial haven’t been undermined in the slightest,” Burkhart said.
“It’s kind of a sociological observation that sees how these things can be so distorted and so twisted and so imagine if all we had was the mainstream media telling us what was going on with these things,” Burkhart added.
Burkhart then spent much of the hour-long appearance downplaying the seriousness of a series of text messages between Depp and Manson contained in the unsealed documents.
In one exchange, Manson appears to offer a group 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 that exchange in particular as just “bro talk.”
“Shocker – these are rock ‘n’ roll people, I’m sure they pay attention to the beautiful women around them,” Burkhart said.