Johnny Depp found in breach of court order after failing to disclose 'Australia drug texts' in Sun libel case
In its ruling, the High Court determined that the messages, which referred to "happy pills" and "whitey stuff", were "adverse to the claimant's pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants' pleaded case"
Johnny Depp was found in breach of court orders in his libel case against the News Group Newspapers (NGN), which the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' actor filed over a 2018 story in the Sun, which branded Depp a "wife-beater," after the media company's legal team revealed a string of texts that showed Depp had acquired a number of illegal drugs back in 2015 while shooting in Australia.
The salacious article, which led the actor to also sue the newspaper's executive editor, Dan Wootton, painted Depp as someone who was violent toward his former spouse, Amber Heard, during their short-lived marriage, a claim that he vehemently denied. Last week, NGN's lawyers urged the judge to throw out Depp’s claim on the grounds that he had not handed over what was referred to as the “Australia drugs texts," which could be used against him in the case by the defense.
In its ruling, the High Court determined that the messages, which referred to "happy pills" and "whitey stuff", were "adverse to the claimant's pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants' pleaded case". As a result, Depp was found in breach of an "unless order" by failing "to comply fully with [his] obligation” to disclose documents from separate and ongoing libel proceedings against the 'Aquaman' actress in the United States. However, the judge did not strike out Depp's case against NGN altogether as he wants to hear further applications from both sides.
The judge's decision comes before the scheduled trial which begins July 7 and is expected to last three weeks.
In her 300-page declaration, Heard claimed that the actor cut off the tip of his finger when he slammed a "hard plastic phone against the wall" in March 2015 after he had downed eight pills of MDMA and stayed awake for nights in a row while shooting a movie in Australia. She also added that every night was filled with various instances of domestic abuse that Depp inflicted upon her that she would try to escape by barricading herself inside her bedroom.
Adam Wolanski, a lawyer for the publisher, said in court that Depp's "rage on that occasion had been triggered by Heard seeing him use drugs and challenge him about his use of drugs." He added that the actress "confronted" him after he had produced "a bag of MDMA." At the time, Depp allegedly told her it wasn't on a list of things he wasn't allowed at the venue.
On Thursday, Wolanski urged the High Court judge to throw out Depp's claims, alleging that he failed to disclose texts exchanged with his assistant which allegedly proved that he was trying to buy drugs in Australia. He further added that his client had obtained messages between Depp and his assistant Nathan Holmes from Heard's lawyers.
A series of text messages, referred to as the “Australia drugs texts”, were sent between late February and early March 2015 – shortly before the alleged incident between Depp and Heard. On March 7, Depp allegedly texted Holmes: "May I be ecstatic again?" Wolanski said that the text was “a reference to ecstasy” and that the use of the word “again” meant he was placing “a request for further ecstasy”. On the same day, Depp reportedly sent another text where he wrote, “Need more whitey stuff ASAP," adding, "I’m in a bad bad shape. Say NOTHING to NOBODY!!!!” Wolanski believed that it “must be a reference to cocaine”. At one point, he also requested his assistant to bring him "happy pills."
The lawyer said that another text after that, reading, “F**king give me the goddamn numbers, I will take care of this s**t, don’t bother," showed Depp’s “increasing exasperation about the fact that he doesn’t have any drugs there and then”. On being told by Holmes, “If they don’t have it, I can’t get it. It’s someone that works on the film, not a professional dealer. I will bring it to you," Depp told his assistant that he did not want anyone lecturing him about drugs.
David Sherborne, representing Depp, said the actor had not deliberately withheld evidence, arguing that he did not know the text messages were “relevant” because the main issue in the case was not about his drug abuse. “The defendants claim, wrongly, that Depp has withheld this document because it is ‘profoundly damaging to his case’; their implied accusation being that he withheld it deliberately. This is untrue. First, the claimant has already provided this document in the US libel proceedings," he said.