Johnny Depp Trial: Former close contacts chart Johnny Depp’s rise and fall

The $50 million defamation trial between Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard continued Thursday in Fairfax County with three people who were once close to Johnny Depp charting the actor’s rise and fall from "the biggest movie star in the world" to a man who struggled with drugs, money and the ability to show up at movie sets on time.

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Testifying at the behest of attorneys representing Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard were a longtime agent, a former business manager and a friend of Depp’s for nearly four decades.

Tracey Jacobs, who served as the actor’s agent for about 30 years, said Depp was "showing up late to set consistently on virtually every movie" during their final years working together.


US actor Johhny Depp returns from a break during the 50 million US dollar Depp vs Heard defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 19, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she w


US actor Amber Heard speaks with a member of her legal team as she arrives at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 19, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in Th

"I was very honest with him and said, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this – this is hurting you,’" Jacobs said during a previously recorded deposition that was played in court Thursday. "And it did."

The testimony served to push back against Depp’s libel lawsuit against Heard. Depp claims that a 2018 op-ed piece Heard wrote in The Washington Post unfairly portrayed him as a domestic abuser and cost him a lucrative Hollywood career that included the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise.

Heard’s attorneys argue that Depp’s professional undoing was the result of his own bad behavior.

Depp says he never struck Heard and that he was the victim of abuse inflicted by her. Heard’s attorneys say Depp did physically and sexually assault her, and that his denials of abuse lack credibility because he frequently drank and used drugs to the point of blacking out.

Jacobs said Depp was an extraordinary talent who went on to become "the biggest movie star in the world." But his behavior in the years before he fired her in 2016 became increasingly unprofessional, while his drug and alcohol use increased, Jacobs said.

"And it also got around town," Jacobs said. "I mean, people talk, it’s a small community. And it made people reluctant to use him."

Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, testified in a previously recorded deposition that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films had "catapulted him into an entirely different level of success."

"It meant more employees," Mandel said. "It meant buying additional property. … It meant a bigger life and a more expensive one."

Things began to change around 2010, and it "became clear over time that there were issues with alcohol and drugs," Mandel said. "And that translated into more erratic behavior, more stressful behavior, more times when it was difficult to engage in the kinds of conversations I needed to do my job."

At one point, Depp was spending around $100,000 a month for a doctor and staff to help him get sober, Mandel said. At another, he was spending $300,000 a month on full-time staff, he said. And he said there also were times when Depp spent thousands of dollars a month on prescription drugs.

"The spending levels had grown very, very, very large and required that level of incredibly high income to be maintained," Mandel said. "And when it dropped off, the disconnect became untenable."

Mandel said he became extremely worried about Depp’s finances in 2015, but that Depp met those concerns with anger. He said the actor fired him in 2016.

Bruce Witkin, a musician who was friends with Depp for nearly 40 years, testified in a previously recorded deposition that Depp could become jealous in his romantic relationships.

That jealousy was demonstrated with Heard when she would be off filming a movie "or doing something that he couldn’t be around to see what was going in," Witkin said. "I think he would work himself up."

Witkin said he once saw bruises on Heard’s arm when he and Depp were working on a documentary about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. And he saw Depp with a "fat lip" one time. But Witkin said he never saw Depp or Heard physically abuse each other.

Witkin said he tried to help Depp with his substance abuse and had set him up with a therapist.

"He’d say, ‘I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’" Witkin said, recalling a conversation. "Well, you’re not all right."

Depp’s sister, Christi Dembrowski, was always concerned with his well-being, both in terms of his substance abuse and generally, Witkin said.

"Everybody, I think, deep down inside was, but ... the people on the payroll won’t really say much. They’ll try but they don’t want to lose their job," Witkin said. "I’m not saying they all fall into the category. But it’s a strange thing around people like him. Everybody wants something."

Witkin said his friendship with Depp began to dissolve toward the end of 2017, when the actor started to pull away.

"He wrote me this weird text saying I stabbed him in the back and badmouthed him," Witkin said. "And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he wouldn’t explain it. And I pretty much haven’t seen him since 2018."


The trial resumed Thursday following Wednesday's testimony from Heard’s sister who said she personally witnessed Depp strike her sibling.

Whitney Heard Henriquez was on the witness stand Wednesday and said she often found herself involved in the troubled relationship of the ex-Hollywood couple. Henriquez testified she saw Depp hit Heard during a March 2015 fight that happened about a month after their wedding following an argument between the two regarding an alleged extramarital affair by Depp.

Henriquez said she was struck in the back before Heard became enraged and "landed one" on Depp. Bodyguards broke up the fight but not before Depp had already grabbed Heard by the hair and struck her several times, Henriquez testified.

Henriquez said it was the only time she witnessed Depp strike Heard but witnessed the aftermath of many other fights.

Also Wednesday, in a recorded deposition played for jurors, Heard’s friend Raquel Pennington, testified she never witnessed Depp strike Heard but she said she saw injuries, and took photos of Heard's face in December 2015 following a fight in which Heard claimed Depp head-butted her and possibly broke her nose. The photos showed Heard with a cut lip, black eyes and strands of her hair.

Pennington also said she saw cuts on Heard's feet following her return from a March 2015 trip to Australia.

The cross-examination of Heard concluded Tuesday after she was cross-examined for most of the day following her testimony in the libel suit against her.

Depp's legal team questioned her about several incidents in which she says she was attacked by her former husband including a fight during which Heard claimed Depp sexually assaulted her.

Heard was questioned as to why she never sought medical attention following the alleged attacks and as to why she wrote a series of love notes to Depp in the months after she said she was assaulted.

The jury was also shown a recording of a deposition Heard gave in 2016 in which she appeared to inadvertently admit she had tipped off the media regarding the former couple's divorce proceedings.

Heard's grueling cross-examination concluded with questions about her arrest for allegedly hitting an ex-girlfriend in 2009.

Heard's lengthy cross-examination began Monday when Depp's lawyers questioned her about photographs taken within days of alleged abuse incidents but which did not appear to show any visible signs of bruising. Depp's lawyers questioned Heard about photographs taken within days of alleged abuse incidents but which did not appear to show any visible signs of bruising.

Lawyers also questioned Heard about her $7 million divorce settlement from Depp and her pledge to donate that full amount to charity. Heard has only donated a portion of it saying Depp's lawsuit prevented her from fulfilling her pledge.

During her direct testimony earlier in the trial, Heard said she did not want to publicly expose Depp as an abuser but had to in order to obtain a restraining order against him. She discussed at length her makeup routine and her expertise in covering up bruises with what she called her "bruise kit." Heard's legal team also showed photographs to the jury that showed her with red marks and swelling on her face which came after they say the Hollywood couple had their final fight before their divorce in May 2016.

Also Monday, Heard strongly denied Depp's accusation that she left human fecal matter in the couple's bed following a fight. Heard said it belonged to their teacup Yorkshire terrier that messed the bed.

Heard concluded her testimony by saying daily accusations from Depp supporters that she's lying about the alleged abuse are "torture." Heard is expected back on the witness stand Tuesday.

Prior to the one-week trial hiatus, Heard went into graphic detail as she described disturbing sexual assault allegations against her ex-husband.

From the witness stand, she described an alleged sexual assault she said took place over several days while the then-couple was in Australia in 2015.

Heard alleged Depp accused her of cheating on him with movie co-stars including Billy Bob Thornton and Eddie Redmayne, with whom she'd just shot the film "The Danish Girl." Heard has denied those accusations.

Heard said Depp tore off her clothes and repeatedly punched her before he sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle in an alcohol-fueled rage.

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Heard also described bizarre details she alleges followed the attack, including Depp using her torn nightgown to wrap a raw steak that had been left out.

She accused Depp of writing on the walls with blood from his finger that she says he severed during the incident. Depp has accused Heard of causing the injury after she threw a bottle of alcohol at him.

The March 2015 incident in Australia, that happened over three days during the couple's first year of marriage while Depp was filming the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, has been disputed and has been a focal point of the trial.

Heard spoke about how the couple met during their work on the film "The Rum Diary" and how they began dating while doing a press tour for the film's release in 2011.


She said Depp's first act of physical violence against her came in 2013 when he slapped her several times while she looked at his tattoos – specifically one that read "Wino" — an alteration to the lettering he had made when he'd been dating actor Winona Ryder.

Heard also described a 2013 incident when she said she was sexually assaulted by Depp as he performed what he called a "cavity search" on her during a drug-fueled night in California.

The libel lawsuit was filed by Depp against Heard over an op-ed piece Heard wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 in which Heard refers to herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse." The Post article doesn't mention Depp by name, but he says it clearly refers to her allegation that she suffered physical abuse at his hands. Depp denies the allegation.

Prior to her testimony, Heard abruptly fired her public relations team after she was reportedly angered over negative headlines about the trial.

Earlier in the trial a psychologist testified that Heard suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from violence, including sexual violence, she suffered at the hands of Depp. The psychologist, Dawn Hughes, told jurors that there is corroboration of many of the instances of abuse -- including apologies and admissions made by Depp to Heard. Hughes is the first witness to take the stand on Heard's behalf in the four-week trial after Depp rested his case earlier in the day.

Depp's agent testified that Heard's op-ed piece in The Washington Post describing herself as a victim of domestic abuse was "catastrophic" to his career. Agent Jack Whigham said Depp lost a $23 million deal for a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel following Heard's piece.

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The trial opened April 11, and since its start, Depp has testified regarding his past drug use, has discussed suffering a mental breakdown and talked about the disturbing details surrounding his relationship with Heard. Heard's attorneys have highlighted text messages Depp sent to friends recounting alcohol and drug use and have shown photos that showed cocaine and other drugs they say belonged to the actor.

A forensic psychologist hired by Depp's legal team testified that Heard suffers from borderline and histrionic personality disorder. The psychologist, Shannon Curry, took the stand saying she reached her diagnosis during 12 hours of interviews with Heard and after a review of her mental-health records. Curry also testified that Heard does not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from her relationship with Depp. On cross-examination, Heard's lawyers questioned Curry for potential bias.


Jurors have also heard testimony from Tara Roberts, the woman who managed Depp's private island in the Bahamas who testified that she never saw Heard with any kind of bruises.

Los Angeles police officer Melissa Saenz who testified about her visit to Depp's penthouses just days before Heard filed for divorce and sought a restraining order said that Heard had been crying but she saw no evidence of an injury.

Depp's cross-examination concluded after four days on the witness stand.

During his time on the stand, Depp denied ever hitting Heard and accused her of striking him. Depp said Heard threw liquor bottles and paint cans at him during arguments the two had during their relationship. He also denied cutting off his own finger during a fight with Heard, claiming she severed it when she threw a vodka bottle at him.

Jurors also heard audio clips of Depp berating his then-wife with vulgarities. In other clips, Heard seemingly taunted Depp, suggesting he wouldn't be believed if he were to accuse her of abuse. Jurors were also shown dozens of text messages from Depp to friends regarding drinking, drug use and interactions with Heard.

Throughout the cross-examination, Heard's lawyers focused on Depp's drinking, drug use and heated interactions with her. Depp expressed disapproval and displeasure with many of the questions asked during his four days on the stand.

Earlier in the trial, Depp's older sister, Christi Dembrowski, faced a barrage of questions from Heard's lawyers about Depp's alcohol and drug use. Isaac Baruch, a longtime friend and next-door neighbor of Depp also testified that Amber Heard told him Depp had hit her but he never saw evidence of abuse on her face.

A former personal assistant to Amber Heard, Kate James, also testified in a video deposition that was played in court saying she never saw the actress suffer any physical abuse at the hands of her then-husband but did say Heard once spit in her face when she asked for a higher salary.

Lawyers also presented a video deposition of Laurel Anderson, a couple's therapist who worked with Heard and Depp in 2015 who said both suffered childhood abuse. As a couple, they were engaged in "mutual abuse," Anderson testified.

Depp and Heard met in 2009, were married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce a year later.


Actor Johnny Depp and Amber Heard at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 18, 2022 (Photos by KEVIN LAMARQUE / POOL / AFP) (Photos by KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Associated Press contributed to this report