Johnny Depp criticized journalists in conversation with influencers before the trial

  • Johnny Depp had a phone call with Instagram influencer Jessica Reed Kraus prior to his slander case against Amber Heard, Kraus said.
  • Kraus has gained hundreds of thousands of followers while writing about the trial, and often criticized Heard.
  • She told Insider that known friends of Depp checked in with him throughout the trial.

Through Johnny Depp’s lawsuit against her ex-wife Amber Heard, Jessica Reed Kraus diligently wrote about it on Instagram.

After seeing testimony from the courtroom in Fairfax County, Virginia, Kraus released daily updates with a rude pro-Depp perspective to his hundreds of thousands of followers. Her support for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actress has become a boon for her account, @houseinhabit, which now has just under 1 million followers. That number was roughly doubled during the trial, according to Socialblade’s statistics tracker on social media.

On Tuesday, Kraus revealed that she had spoken to Depp at the start of the trial. During an hour-and-a-half-long conversation, he had shared his “musings on the death of journalistic integrity” and told her he appreciated her work, Kraus wrote in a Substack post.

“‘I do not know you,’ he says, ‘but I know, just by the words you use and the aesthetics of your work, that I trust you,’ Kraus wrote, quoting Depp. “He briefly touches on the Rolling Stone article that ruined his reputation and ruined his trust in the media. A betrayal he has yet to recover from.” The much-read 2018 profile that Depp was interviewed for covered the actor’s legal and financial difficulties.

They also talked about Depp’s “tendency to trust the wrong people and the problems it has caused him at various times throughout his life,” according to Kraus’ report.

Kraus wrote on Substack that she was connected to Depp through “an old friend of Johnny’s” whom she met through Instagram. Kraus and the girlfriend, whom she did not want to name, later met in person and spent time together during the trial, she told Insider. Sometimes she got to overhear FaceTime calls between Depp and his friends.

During the trial, Kraus stayed at the same hotel as Depp’s legal team. At one point, she posted photos on Instagram of Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew in the hotel elevator wearing shorts and a Hollywood Vampires T-shirt.

She met Depp, Kraus told Insider, at a cocktail party held at the hotel after he testified, and took a picture of him. A source close to Depp confirmed the accuracy of Kraus’ picture.

The slander case lasted six weeks, and details of Depp’s and Heard’s turbulent relationship and Hollywood lifestyle dominated the Internet. As Depp and Heard came and went from the courthouse, crowds of Depp fans stood along the street, holding up signs and shouting supportive and encouraging words.

Kraus said Depp did not understand the amount of attention the lawsuit received.

“He’s so naive,” Kraus said. “He did not even understand, on the phone calls, how viral all parts of the trial were, because he is not really on social media.”

Celebrities called Depp to check in with him during the trial, Kraus said

Depp has so far not conducted any interviews with media organizations following the jury’s ruling in early June, although Chew and another of his lawyers, Camille Vasquez, have spoken to several businesses. Heard sat down for an interview with NBC News’ “Today” show co-star Savannah Guthrie, in which she said she believes more evidence could have led the jury to reach a verdict more in her favor.

In their 90-minute conversation at the start of the trial, Kraus and Depp talked about their mutual love of books and discussed Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace, she wrote in her Substack post. He also told her that he uses a typewriter to write and outlined “a revolution that would involve burying our cell phones and laptops for [sever] our obsessive addiction to them, “she wrote.

Johnny Depp Amber heard the trial in the courtroom

Spectators arrive to sit in the courtroom during Johnny Depp’s defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, on April 26, 2022.

Brendan Smialowski / Pool via REUTERS

“Contrary to the accusations that will later hold me back as a Die hard Depp fan, I do not know much about him, so these revelations, however small they may be, are news to me,” Kraus wrote.

She also said Depp was “bathed in slow southern charm.”

“In conversation, he encounters smart, curious, funny and polite,” Kraus wrote. “Prone to switch to character voices, just as one would expect from the Johnny Depp we know on screen. But other than that, he’s humble, down to earth and incredibly attentive.”

During the trial, Kraus spent time with Depp’s “old friend,” she told Insider. She said she saw Depp take calls from celebrities expressing their support as the case progressed.

“I hang out with his friend for six weeks, so I listen to FaceTimes between them,” Kraus said. “Basically all these phone calls with celebrities calling in to check in on him, which became a very cool kind of angle because it kind of just made him an ordinary guy. All these people talking about him as if he just be their friend. “

After their first conversation over the phone, Kraus and Depp did not talk to each other again until she met him in person at the cocktail party after the trial’s closing arguments, Kraus said. She wrote that Depp did not “try to shape the direction of a story or influence the way it is told.” He thanked her “for being caring enough to cut it on purpose,” as opposed to media organizations that have “failed him so many times before,” Kraus wrote. Kraus declined to share details about her conversations with Depp beyond what she wrote in her Substack post.

This is not the first time that people close to Depp have contacted online personalities who have supported his version of events.

Adam Waldman, a lawyer who has represented Depp, testified in a statement to the trial that he has communicated with “Internet journalists” such as ThatUmbrellaGuy, an online personality who has made numerous videos and posts on social media that are critical of Heard. (Waldman made the comments that slandered Heard, a jury found, by acting as Depp’s “agent” when she called some of her allegations a “hoax.”)

Depp v. Heard is not the first lawsuit Kraus has covered

Kraus has created himself a prominent position on social media and created extensive Instagram stories about news events. She attended Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial in New York in November and December – woke up early in the morning to stand first in the queue and secure a seat in the courtroom every day – and gave updates to her followers on social media. She has also offered detailed coverage of Britney Spears’ conservatism battle, Gabby Petito’s death and drama surrounding the British royal family.

Nor is she pale in sharing her perspective, which in the Johnny Depp case has been rude pro-Depp. In her Instagram posts, she has called Heard a liar who “undermines sexual and domestic abuse on a global scale” and “makes fun of the Me Too movement” with a “false rape of wine bottles”. New York magazine described her as “a mainstay of anti-Heard history.”

Jury members eventually came to similar conclusions as Kraus, handing down a verdict that found Depp and Heard slandered each other but tipped sharply in Depp’s favor.

Ghislaine Maxwell Courthouse line outside

People line up in court before the Ghislaine Maxwell case in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, USA, on December 10, 2021.

REUTERS / Carlo Allegri

Kraus told Insider that she does not consider herself a journalist, but merely a “writer.” Her Substack account describes her as part of “a movement embracing a new wave of independent journalism” where members of the public can directly support writers who can “be as creative and uncensored and controversial” as they want, away from the “unbridled censorship” of traditional media.

“I just see it as an alternative approach to reporting. Going against traditional journalistic rules – in that I lean on gossip and anonymous sources and humor and emotion, but the basic search for truth, paired with a flexible narrative, I think I speak to people in a real way, “Kraus told Insider. “My goal in these stories is simple: to humanize the people and the circumstances involved. Offer a more personal connection in the coverage.”

Her approach is to be as transparent as possible with her followers and take them through her information gathering process, she said. Kraus said much of the information she shared came from testimony about lawsuits and interesting things that came to her through her Instagram DMs. Sometimes she heard from people who, based on the pictures or texts they included, were directly involved in the events covered by the trial. Other material was “just unconfirmed gossip.”

“Nothing was calculated. The beauty of this whole story is that it happened very organically because I opened my site,” Kraus said. “But the gossip that came in eventually supported all the evidence that came through. So it was from people who know them directly that shaped my whole angle.”

After the trial, both Kraus and Depp ended up in London. For Kraus, it was a pre-planned trip to attend the Queen’s Platinum Anniversary. When the verdict fell, she was sitting in a pub with friends.

She later attended Depp’s concert in London, where he performed with Jeff Beck. The invitation had come from one of Depp’s friends.

Kraus watched him from the audience, but was not given the opportunity to speak to him again.

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