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Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial: ACLU Believes Elon Musk Was Behind $500,000 Donation Toward Actress’s Pledge

The general counsel of the ACLU testified Thursday in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial in Virginia that the foundation believed billionaire Elon Musk was behind a $500,000 payment to help the actress fulfill a $3.5 million donation pledge to the organization.

Heard had said she would donate $7 million from her divorce settlement with Depp to charity, split between the ACLU and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

But in Depp’s $50 million defamation claim against Heard, his attorneys have been trying to show that Heard has not followed through on the pledge to the ACLU.

Excerpts from a video deposition of the organization’s general counsel, Terence Dougherty, were played in court on Thursday, and he said that the organization has so far received $1.3 million that has been credited to Heard.

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Dougherty said that the Musk payment was believed to have been made via a Vanguard fund set up to make charitable contributions. Heard made a direct payment in August 2016 of $350,000, $500,000 in 2017 and $350,000 from a Vanguard fund in 2018. The latter payment was via Heard. Another $100,000 came from Depp and was credited to Heard.

Heard and Musk dated after her split from Depp.

Dougherty said that Heard’s donations stopped after 2018. He said that the ACLU reached out to her at one point “and we learned that she was having financial difficulties.” But Musk had indicated in a 2016 email to the organization that Heard’s pledge would be fulfilled in installments over 10 years. She never signed an official pledge form, though, Dougherty said.

Heard served as an ACLU artist ambassador on women’s rights. She announced that role as the Washington Post published her op-ed that is at the heart of Depp’s $50 million defamation claim against her. In the December 2018, piece, Heard wrote that “two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”

Depp’s attorney’s claim that even though the op-ed did not mention him by name, there was enough a link to damage his reputation, given her abuse claims against him.

In his deposition, Dougherty talked of the work that the ACLU did to craft the op-ed. An email showed that as the op-ed was being developed, Heard wanted to find a way to include a reference to her obtaining a restraining order against Depp in 2016, but her lawyers would not clear it. No reference was included.

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