Elon Musk covered nearly half of ex-girlfriend Amber Heard‘s donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after the actress pledged to give away her multimillion dollar divorce settlement to charity following her split from Johnny Depp.
Jurors in Heard and Depp’s $100million defamation trial on Thursday heard the actress has so far only paid $1.3million of the $3.5million she promised the ACLU nearly six years ago, with Musk’s money making up a large chunk of it.
The billionaire Tesla founder, 50, gave $500,000 to the civil rights group on behalf of Heard after the two began dating after her divorce from Depp in 2016.
The Aquaman star, 36, announced she would donate the $7million she received in her settlement to two organizations when the couple’s legal separation was finalized in August 2016.
Heard promised to give half the money to the ACLU to support its work in ‘fighting violence against women’, and the other $3.5million to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
Billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk, 50, donated $500,000 to the ACLU on behalf of Amber Heard when the two were dating in 2016, the actress’s defamation trial heard Thursday. The two are pictured together in 2017
The court heard the Aquaman actress has so far only paid $1.3million of the $3.5million she promised the ACLU nearly six years ago, with Musk’s money making up a large chunk of it
ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Terence Dougherty testified Thursday revealing only half the money has been paid by Heard or on her behalf
But Terence Dougherty, the ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, testified in the trial Thursday, telling the court the organizations’ promised donation has not been paid in full yet.
Dougherty said that so far only a total of $1.3million has either been paid by Heard or on her behalf.
Of that money, Heard contributed $350,000 directly, while $100,000 was paid by Depp and another $350,000 came from a fund at Fidelity, an investment company.
Another $500,000 payment came from an account at investment firm Vanguard, which Dougherty said he ‘believed it was a fund set up by Elon Musk.’
Asked by one of Depp’s lawyers if there were messages with Musk about it, Dougherty said there were.
He said there was a document and emails they had produced to the lawyers in the case regarding the money.
Dougherty said that based on emails with Musk, the ACLU understood that Heard’s $3.5million donation would be given over 10 years.
Heard had promised to donate her $7M divorce settlement to charity, splitting the funds between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles
He said that Heard’s money was considered a ‘pledge’ so rather than a check all at once, it would come over time.
Heard’s lawyers have previously told the court that she fully intends to pay the money but for now needs the divorce settlement to pay her legal fees.
The court heard that Heard’s last donation of $350,000 in December 2018 and that she had not paid any money since.
Dougherty said that Heard had told the organization that money was from her anonymous account with Fidelity but they did not do any further checks to guarantee it was her money.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty what ‘efforts the ACLU has made to get Amber Heard to pay’.
He replied: ‘We reached out to Miss Heard starting in 2019 for the next installment of her giving and we learned she was having financial difficulties’.
The court heard that Musk played a central role in setting up Heard’s donations to the ACLU, partly because he had given to it before.
Heard and Musk dated for a year following the actress’s divorce from Johnny Depp in 2016
Johnny Depp’s $50million defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard that started on April 10 is expected to last five or six weeks
In an email dated August 18, 2016, Musk wrote to Heard and Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU: ‘I described your (Heard’s) plan to donate $3.5million to the ACLU over the next 10 years as you very much believe in what they’re doing’.
The court heard that Robin Shulman, a communications strategist with the ACLU wrote the first draft of the op-ed in November 2018, a month before the article was published.
In a message to Heard dated November 29, 2018, Shulman said that she tried to ‘gather your fire and rage’ and shape it into an op-ed piece.
Asked if that meant rage against Depp, Dougherty said it was about ‘gender-based violence issues’.
In a follow up message, Shulman told Heard: ‘Our lawyers should review this for the way I skirted around your marriage’.
Jessica Weitz, another member of the ACLU communications team, told Heard: ‘I want to make sure nothing was said in here that puts you in jeopardy with your NDA’ with Depp after the divorce.
Shulman and Heard met in person and that op-ed was changed, the court heard.
Heard’s lawyers also made some edits.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty: ‘Some at the ACLU expressed belief that excising references to the marriage and divorce from Johnny Depp made the op-ed less impactful?’
Dougherty said: ‘That is correct’.
Dougherty said that the ACLU had the responsibility of placing the op-ed and considered the New York Times, Washington Post, Teen Vogue and USA Today as places where it could go.
As Dougherty put it, the list was in ‘descending importance and reach as we go down’, but with a greater likelihood they would publish it.
Gerry Johnson, one of the ACLU communications team, emailed his colleagues about timing the op-ed so it would come out at the same time as the premiere of Aquaman, the film Heard was starring in.
Johnson wrote: ‘Since draft turned out pretty strong and Aquaman slated to do large numbers I’m wondering what you think about it?’
Actor Amber Heard returns following a break at the Fairfax County Circuit Court Thursday, April 28, 2022
Depp, 58, had previously accused his ex-wife of lying about giving all of her divorce settlement to charity
Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’
Dougherty said that media outlets were more likely to take on an op-ed if it had ‘strong views’ and the more the person was in the public eye at the time, the ‘more likely it will be accepted by a more prominent media outlet’.
Depp’s lawyers asked Dougherty if Heard’s marriage to Depp made the op-ed a ‘stronger product’.
Dougherty said: ‘Amber’s contributions to the portion of op-ed that talks about personal experiences is what informed the view this was a strong op-ed’.
One of Depp’s lawyers asked: ‘She wanted the op-ed to come out just after Aquaman release?’
Dougherty said: ‘I recall there was a conversation for optimal timing’
Dougherty added that it was ‘correct’ that Heard wanted the article to come out just after the Aquaman release.
On December 11 2018, Witz emailed her colleagues that Heard’s team had sent back a final draft but it ‘neutered much of her marriage and domestic violence’.
Witz said that the goal was the ‘get this out this week to capitalize on the tremendous campaign for Aquaman’, referring to the publicity surrounding the film.
In follow up emails, Witz said that Heard wanted to get a mention of her getting a restraining order back into the article.
Witz said: ‘Is there an artful way to to do that?’
Such a mention did not make it into the final cut.
Around that time, Stacey Sullivan, another member of the ACLU’s communications pitched the the article to Michael Duffy, an editor at the Washington Post.
Emails shown in court Thursday revealed Johnny Depp contributed towards Heard’s $3.5million pledge to the ACLU
The email said: ‘Hey Michael, wondering if we might interest you in an op-ed by Amber Heard ‘Who as you may recall was beaten up during her brief marriage to Johnny Depp’
Once it had been agreed the article would be published, Heard emailed her team and the ACLU: ‘It’s going to the Washington Post!!!’
The court also heard about the panic within the ACLU how in 2019 Reuters inquired about how much Heard had paid of her $3.5m pledge.
In an email to colleagues, Witz insisted that Heard had ‘donated her full settlement to charity’ but investigations revealed she had only paid $1.3m
As Witz and her colleagues struggled to phrase a statement to Reuters, she emailed her colleagues: ‘I had nightmares about this last tonight, do you think this is OK?’
Depp’s lawyers asked if Witz was ‘concerned the ACLU was not telling the truth?
As Depp looked on and smiled, Dougherty said: ‘She was doing everything she could to give a correct statement to the press’.