After promising to donate half of her $7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union in 2016, Amber Heard personally gave and arranged for others to donate less than half of that, an official with the organization said Thursday.
Terence Dougherty, the ACLU's chief operating officer, said pledges of donations typically don't come all at once and that Heard never agreed to a schedule of payments.
“We reached out to Heard starting in 2019 for the next installment of her giving, and we learned that she was having financial difficulties,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said Heard donated $350,000 to the ACLU "very soon" after August 2016, when she said in a statement that she would donate half of the divorce settlement to the ACLU and the other half to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. At some point, her ex-husband Johnny Depp donated $100,000 to the ACLU on her behalf. And another $500,000 and $350,000 were donated on Heard's behalf, bringing the total to $1.3 million donated out of the $3.5 million promised. Dougherty said he believes the $500,000 donation came from a donor-advised fund set up by Elon Musk, Heard's former boyfriend, but that's "not conclusive," he said.
The scrutiny of Heard's giving comes as trial is underway in the $50 million defamation lawsuit Depp filed against her. Depp has alleged that a 2018 op-ed in which Heard described herself as a victim of domestic violence falsely implied that he had abused her, costing him movie roles and other opportunities. Attorneys for Heard have said that she was physically and sexually abused by Depp, often when he was drinking or using drugs, and the op-ed fell within her right to free speech.
While preparing for the current defamation trial, Depp sued the ACLU to determine whether Heard had donated the money she pledged. In August 2021, a New York judge granted Depp and his legal team permission to determine that.
The op-ed in question came out of Heard's relationship with the ACLU, which named her an ambassador in October 2018. The group helped Heard write and place the piece in the Washington Post, and emails show that publication was meant to be around the same time that her movie Aquaman was released.
The op-ed initially mentioned Heard's relationship with Depp, Dougherty testified, but any mention was cut to protect Heard from breaking the nondisclosure agreement she signed with Depp as part of finalizing their divorce.
"The language that wound up in the final op-ed piece was very different from the original language that Robin [Shulman, an ACLU communications strategist] included in the op-ed after having spoken with Amber about her personal experiences," Dougherty said during his December deposition, which was played in court Thursday. He clarified that the final language was different because "it did not refer directly to Ms. Heard's relationship with Johnny Depp."