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Judge dismisses TMZ’s motion to quash ex-employee from testifying in Depp/Heard trial

The ex-employee is expected to speak on a source for a leaked video of Johnny Depp yelling at Amber Heard.

Photos by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images and Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images. Remix by Danny Peterson.

A judge has ruled an ex-employee of TMZ will be allowed to testify in the trial of dueling defamation lawsuits between celebrities and ex-spouses, Johnny Depp and  Amber Heard.

TMZ previously tried to get the testimony quashed under an argument of journalistic privilege, but Judge Penney Azcarate ruled the argument was not germane to the case in a courtroom in Fairfax, Virginia.

The original argument was to protect privileged information between reporters and their sources.

According to Law & Crime Network, the judge’s ruling means ex-TMZ employee Morgan Tremaine will soon be testifying in the case.

The tabloid publication is known for getting scoops about celebrities, including the first outlet to report on the death of beloved comedic actor Betty White this past New Year’s Eve, so whatever information comes out from Tremaine’s testimony may very well contain some eyebrow-raising details about the case. However, TMZ does not adhere to typical journalistic ethics and is known to pay sources for tips.

Tremaine will allegedly testify on whether he knows the source of a video of Depp yelling at Heard and slamming cabinets that TMZ reported on. It is expected that if the leak was connected to Heard, who we know was the one who recorded the video, it could hurt her case in that it may lend credence to the argument from Depp’s team that she orchestrated a smear campaign in the press against Depp. 

There were moments of levity amidst Azcarate’s hearing as she was quick to point out to TMZ’s lawyer that “This is not the first unusual instance in this case, I can assure you.”

Depp’s Lawyer, Ben Chew, also wanted to state for the record he meant no “snarkiness” towards another lawyer.

“Well, you’re just a snarky guy,” Azcarate quipped back.

The court battle centers on an op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post in 2018, in which she describes herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Though Depp isn’t named in the article, Heard made prior allegations of abuse against Depp in 2016, which he claims are false and are referenced in the piece.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation for allegedly false domestic abuse accusations she made against him that he said hurt his career. Heard is counter-suing Depp, also for defamation, for $100 million.

While Heard maintains she was abused by Depp, Depp claims just the opposite: he was abused by her and not the other way around.

Danny Peterson
About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'