Elon Musk's name came up during Johnny Depp's defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard Thursday. The Tesla founder allegedly donated $500,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union in Heard's name, the organization's chief operating officer said in virtual testimony played in court. After Heard and Depp reached a $7 million divorce settlement in 2016, Heard said she would split the money between the ACLU and the Children's Hospital Los Angeles. However, Depp argued that Heard never completely followed through, and the actor won a motion last year to force the ACLU to release documents related to the donation.
ACLU COO and General Counsel Terence Dougherty testified in December 2021 that the organization received a $500,000 donation from a fund at Vanguard, reports Entertainment Tonight. Dougherty believed Musk was the donor since Musk emailed the ACLU about the donation. Dougherty said that the $500,000 was credited towards Heard's $3.5 million pledge. Musk has not commented on Dougherty's testimony. He was on the list of potential witnesses, but a source close to his legal team told CNN Musk will not testify.
According to Dougherty, the ACLU has received $1.3 million of Heard's $3.5 million pledge at the time his testimony was recorded. The total included a $350,000 donation from Heard, a $100,000 donation from Depp, a $350,000 payment from a donor-advised Fidelity fund, and the $500,000 payment from the Vanguard donor-advised fund.
The ACLU stopped receiving payments in 2018, Dougherty said, reports PEOPLE. In 2019, the organization reached out to Heard about future payments. "We learned she was having financial difficulties," Dougherty said. He added that ACLU lawyers helped Heard write and vet the Washington Post op-ed she published in 2018 that is at the center of the defamation case. Heard wrote about surviving domestic abuse in the piece but did not name Depp. Still, Depp sued her for defamation, claiming that the op-ed led to him losing out on career opportunities.
Heard and Depp married in February 2015. In May 2016, they split and Heard accused him of domestic violence when filing for a restraining order. Depp denied the allegations. They reached an out-of-court settlement in August 2016 and finalized their divorce in January 2017. When the divorce settlement was announced, they released a joint statement that ended with heard vowing to donate "financial proceeds from the divorce to a charity." In another statement, Heard said she received $7 million and would donate all of it.
"As described in the restraining order and divorce settlement, money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully, help those less able to defend themselves," Heard said in 2016. She said the amount was "over and above any funds that I have given away in the past and will continue to give away in the future." The donation would be divided among charities focused on stopping violence against women and the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
In August 2021, Depp's legal team won a victory when they demanded the ACLU be forced to say if it received the full $3.5 million from Heard. Her lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, told the court in July 2021, Heard still planned to finish the full pledge but did not set a timeline. "[Heard] has always said she fully intends to continue to give the full $7 million, but she can't do it yet," Bredehoft said. "She will do it when she can. But she has given a significant amount."
Heard has not testified in the trial in Fairfax, Virginia, yet. Depp was on the stand for four days and again denied abusing Heard. "Sir, if anyone had a problem with my drinking, at any time in my life, it was me," Depp told Heard's attorney Ben Rotterborn during cross-examination Monday when asked if Heard was the only person who had trouble with his alcohol abuse. "The only person I've abused in my life is myself."