In This Episode
- A jury found that both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were liable for defamation in their lawsuits against each other. But the jury awarded significantly more in damages to Depp, and his team is treating it as a legal win.
- One contentious race in California’s primary election next Tuesday is for L.A. County Sheriff, in which incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva faces eight challengers. Although he ran as a progressive reformer in 2018, his time in office has been a huge disappointment and he has clashed with many officials, journalists and residents. Cerise Castle, host of the podcast, “A Tradition of Violence,” joins us to discuss Villanueva’s track record and the candidates looking to unseat him.
- And in headlines: the gunman accused of killing 10 Black residents in Buffalo was indicted on 25 counts, Biden’s Education Department said it would clear $5.8 billion in debt held by people who attended Corinthian Colleges, and Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down as COO of Meta.
- Sign up for Crooked Coffee’s launch on June 21st – http://go.crooked.com/coffee-wad
- The Knock LA Los Angeles Progressive Voter Guide for the June 2022 Primary Election – https://bit.ly/3Ncf8Xz
- Cerise Castle: “A Tradition of Violence: The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department” – https://bit.ly/3x9OMQr
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, June 2nd. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where Gideon and I are honoring Pride Month by admitting that our tastes in music, art, and movies is generally not as good as LGBTQ+ peoples’.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I would describe myself as having no taste in anything. So any sort of advice on taste would be well appreciated. On today’s show, the gunman in Buffalo’s mass shooting has been charged, including for domestic terrorism. Plus, we’re going to look at a local primary race with big implications: who will be LA’s next sheriff?
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, a verdict in the Johnny Depp – Amber Heard defamation case. After a weeks-long trial, a jury in Virginia found that both Depp and Heard were liable for defamation in their lawsuits against each other. But the jury awarded significantly more in damages to Depp, and his team is treating it like a legal win.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so this trial has become one of the most high-profile cases of the MeToo era. Millions of people have been streaming it, obsessively following it via social media. We haven’t really talked about it yet on WAD, so can you get us up to speed on what actually happened here?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I am going to do my best. So for some context here, Depp and Heard were married in 2015 for just over a year. When she filed for divorce, she alleged that he was verbally and physically abusive towards her. Fast forward to 2018, Heard with the help of the ACLU, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post. In it, she referred to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse and said that she witnessed how institutions protect men accused of abuse. She didn’t name Depp specifically within the op-ed, but he filed a $50 million defamation suit against her, arguing that it clearly referred to him and that it cost him his career in Hollywood. Heard then countersued him for $100 million for defamation as well, over statements that his attorney made about her abuse claims.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So a lot is spinning around here.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Gideon Resnick: The trial started in April and just wrapped up yesterday. So what were some of the key things to come out of it?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So throughout this six-week long trial, there were several allegations of abuse made by both parties, oftentimes in great detail. Depp denied Heard’s accusations that he subjected her to repeated physical and sexual abuse. He instead described her as the aggressor. Heard, on the other hand, maintained that everything in the op-ed was true, and that there was a pattern of violence in their relationship, paired with Depp’s drug and alcohol use, which at times left her afraid for her life. The trial came to a close yesterday when the jury found unanimously that Heard could not substantiate her allegations against Depp, that she knew her claims of abuse were false when she published the op-ed, and that she acted with the legal standard of actual malice when writing it. They awarded Depp $10.35 million in compensatory and punitive damages. They also found that through his lawyer’s statements, Depp had defamed Heard on one count from her countersuit, and they awarded her $2 million in damages for that.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think the other thing that was confusing about this, is that it was a very different outcome than what happened in the U.K. where Depp sued a tabloid in 2020 for calling him a, quote, “wife beater” and lost after the judge ruled that there was evidence that he had assaulted Heard.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, it’s the complete opposite outcome with the exact same people. It’s the exact same timeline, the same set of facts–they’ve just come to two completely different conclusions. But, I mean, this trial has also become a totally different spectacle here than it was over there.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Not to mention certain tweets from Republican members of Congress about this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I don’t think that was happening over there.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So, to that point, let’s talk for a minute about the larger implications of this trial.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So on the Internet, Depp has kind of emerged as a hero who’s being vindicated by this trial. There have been millions of TikToks and Memes and posts on social media calling Heard a liar and a psychopath and all kinds of awful things for weeks. We’re not the first people to say this, but the trial and the responses to it have really played into this backlash against the MeToo movement. It’s been amplified by men’s rights activists and by conservative media, which has largely been one sided about the case. Vice actually found that the right-wing site, The Daily Wire, spent nearly $50,000 promoting content about the trial, most of it was trashing Amber Heard. And Heard and Depp aren’t the only people affected by that. Experts expect to see fewer victims and survivors of domestic violence speaking up after seeing the way the media and their friends and family have attacked Heard and supported Depp through this ordeal. So much of this is also happening on TikTok, where there are a ton of young users. A third of TikTok users in the U.S. are between 10 and 19-years old, according to gender justice advocate Farrah Khan, this case and the TikTok they’re seeing about it have the potential to shape the way that they understand domestic and sexual violence.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s a lot that we are not going to fully understand about the ramifications of all of this, maybe for some time. But what were the reactions to this verdict yesterday?
Priyanka Aribindi: Depp wasn’t present in the courtroom for the verdict, but he released a statement saying that the jury, quote, “gave me my life back.” He went on to say, quote, “I also hope the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media.” Heard, on the other hand, was really upset, of course, for herself, but said in a statement, quote, “I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s a sad statement to have to read and share. It just seems like a bad situation overall.
Priyanka Aribindi: A total mess of a case for sure. But the implications that it and the way that we’ve been speaking about it–not us specifically–we, as a people, will be felt for a very long time.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. We’re going to turn our attention now to some upcoming primaries. So next Tuesday, a bunch of states are going to head to the polls, including New Jersey, Iowa, and New Mexico.
Priyanka Aribindi: But, Gideon, you are going to zero in on a local race in California, the race to be the L.A. County sheriff and unseat incumbent Alex Villanueva. What about his tenure has so many people looking to oust him? Can you kind of explain the backstory here?
Gideon Resnick: If I had many hours, we could probably get to all of it. But in short, he came to office four years ago, campaigning as a kind of progressive reformer while the department was struggling to reshape its image that had really been besmirched by corruption and scandal. But Villanueva has turned out to really not be the candidate that people had voted for back in 2018.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So tell us why not?
Gideon Resnick: Well, Villanueva has clashed with many city officials, journalists, and residents of Los Angeles. People have continuously accused him of mismanaging the sheriff’s department and the city’s jails, and rolling back reforms. And if you didn’t know much about his history, he really does just seem like more of a staunch conservative than anything else. Villanueva has been on Fox News and other broadcasts where he almost sounds like former President Donald Trump, calling critics trolls and out of touch elites. He also refused to enforce COVID vaccine and mask mandates in the county and his department, and has even attempted to increase the number of people in L.A. County permitted to carry concealed guns. And he shockingly created a special task force to harass his political enemies, like journalists.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so reading our little draft for today was the first time I learned that he campaigned as a progressive reformer. That is like, completely at odds with everything I have heard about him since then, that you have said. Tell us a little more about who is running to unseat him.
Gideon Resnick: It’s a pretty crowded field with eight challengers, but some who are running also have pretty spotty track records of their own. And it’s been tough for progressive voters to get a sense of who will actually bring about the criminal justice reform they thought they were going to get by electing Villanueva. To find out more, I spoke to Cerise Castle. She is the host of the podcast, “A Tradition of Violence”, a podcast on 50 years of deputy gangs inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I started by asking her about her own reporting that she has done about deputy gangs under Villanueva’s leadership.
Cerise Castle: The biggest thing that it’s led to is the murder of citizens of Los Angeles. It is said that in order to become a member of these deputy gangs, a deputy has to kill a civilian in order to get full membership, which includes a shiny new tattoo of, more likely than not, a skeleton in some sort of white supremacist regalia holding a weapon of some sort. We’ve seen an explosion of deputy violence under Alex Villanueva, an increase of over 100% in fatal shootings, as well as deaths in the jail. And we’ve just seen all of this increase under Sheriff Villanueva, who continues to insist that the press, myself included by name sometimes, are making this up for gain, when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Gideon Resnick: So what can you actually tell us about the people that are in this race, the challengers, and who has been able to sort of break through here, if anyone?
Cerise Castle: The interesting thing about this race is that this is probably the most challengers that we’ve seen to an incumbent. It’s also the biggest number of challengers that are involved with deputy gangs. There are currently nine candidates in the race, but at least 30% of them have been alleged to either be in a gang or invited to one.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Cerise Castle: One of them, Cecil Rambo, is self-admitted best friends with Paul Tanaka, who is, of course, the former undersheriff, self-admitted member of the white supremacist deputy gang, the Vikings. And Cecil admitted to me on the record that he was fully aware of Paul’s membership in this white supremacist gang. He continued to advocate for Paul’s promotions. He gave financial donations to Paul’s campaign for mayor of Gardena. Which he won. And he actually served as mayor of a Los Angeles County town for several years, all the way up until his federal indictment for obstruction of justice. The candidate that is garnering a lot of support in progressive circles is a man by the name of Eric Strong. He is campaigning on a platform of closing Men’s Central jail, on a platform of reallocation of sheriff’s department resources, namely money out of the department and into things like social services, homeless outreach, anti-poverty programs, things like that. He is the only candidate that actively investigated deputy gangs while he served in any capacity of law enforcement. And he hasn’t killed anyone, which I can’t say of many other candidates.
Gideon Resnick: That’s an unbelievable assessment. Wow. So our listeners know how important it is to vote in elections like this, but sometimes may find it difficult to find the best resources so they can learn about candidates and their values. Besides listening to you lay it out in that manner. What advice would you give them based on what works for people in L.A. in this particular race?
Cerise Castle: In this particular race, I definitely recommend using the Knock Voter Guide, which takes all this information that I’ve been talking about, as well as the reporting that we’ve done. I can’t, you know, synthesize it in these few minutes we have, but there’s a lot of reporting we’ve done on all these people. And the voter guide takes all that and presents it in a way that is easy to digest and helps you make a decision about who you think the best candidate is. This is the largest law enforcement police agency in the world. Polices over, I think it’s about 10 million people total every day. And even if you don’t live in Los Angeles County, this affects you. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department writes policies and creates programs that are adopted by law enforcement, not just here in the United States, but across the world.
Gideon Resnick: So Priyanka, that was my conversation with journalist and podcast host Cerise Castle. We are going to link to Knock LA’s Voter Guide in our show notes, along with a few more resources. More on all of this very soon, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted the white supremacist gunman accused of killing ten Black residents at a Buffalo supermarket last month, on 25 counts. The indictment includes ten counts of first degree murder and ten counts of second degree murder as hate crimes, as well as three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime, and a single count of criminal possession of a weapon. The final count is a domestic terrorism charge motivated by hate, which on its own carries the penalty of a life sentence without parole. The shooter is scheduled to appear in court today to be arraigned and has previously pleaded not guilty in earlier court appearances. He may still face additional federal charges as well. Meanwhile, as we went to record, there is a developing situation about a mass shooting at a medical building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to early comments from the captain of the police department there, at least five people, including the gunman, were killed, and there were other potential injuries. The gunman is believed to have taken his own life. This is a developing story, so we’re going to know more on that soon.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yesterday marked a major victory in the fight for student loan forgiveness. Biden’s Education Department said that it would clear $5.8 billion in debt held by people who attended Corinthian Colleges, which was one of the biggest for-profit college chains in the country until its closure in 2015. The move will affect an estimated 560,000 borrowers, and will be applied automatically. In a statement, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, quote, “As of today, every student received, defrauded, and driven into debt by Corinthian Colleges can rest assured that the Biden-Harris administration has their back, and will discharge their federal student loans.” Corinthian Colleges face multiple investigations and lawsuits for defrauding students out of millions in federally-backed loans and leaving them with degrees that were basically worthless. One of the lawsuits that succeeded was filed by Vice President Harris herself, back when she was attorney general in California. When the chain was driven into bankruptcy, a group of former students known as the Corinthian 15 began a debt strike and pleaded with then-President Obama’s Education Department to forgive their loans. Seven years later, their efforts have finally paid off.
Gideon Resnick: That is a slightly nice story amidst really awful story. So I’ll take it. That’s a big chunk of change.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is.
Gideon Resnick: Good for them for being persistent. Sheryl Sandberg will undergo the experimental procedure known as “Exiting the Metaverse.” The Chief Operating Officer of the company formerly known as Facebook, announced yesterday that she is stepping down after 14 years. Sandberg took the job when founder Mark Zuckerberg was just 23-years old, and as Facebook’s resident adult, she helped grow the company from a website for college kids to post pictures from foam parties into a super profitable advertising giant. Later on, she also helped it become a controversial organization that seemed to specialize in facilitating the spread of misinformation, invading users’ privacy, and giving teenagers mental illnesses. Anyway, her departure comes during a rocky period for Facebook, which has seen its stock fall by 44% since the start of 2022, and which has been spending tens of billions of dollars building up the, quote unquote, “metaverse” in hopes that it will pay off. Of what’s next for Sandberg, she said in a Facebook post yesterday that, quote, “It will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever, given how critical this moment is for women.” Meta’s Chief Growth Officer Javier Ollivant will take over as COO, while Sandberg will continue to serve on the board of directors.
Priyanka Aribindi: What I don’t understand about this story is why, in what world, did they need to release this news at the exact same time that the Depp-Heard verdict came out?
Gideon Resnick: Really, it really was simultaneous. It was strange. It was strange.
Priyanka Aribindi: It was wide. It was like, is this even like that bad? Do we need to bury this? I didn’t think so.
Gideon Resnick: I don’t know. I don’t get it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe I’m missing something.
Gideon Resnick: I want some more answers.
Priyanka Aribindi: Anyway. Today, Britain is kicking off its jubilee, also known as Monarchy Coachella. Jubilees honor the time a given British Royal has spent on the throne. Once monarchs hit 25 years, they get a silver jubilee, followed by ruby, golden, diamond, and sapphire jubilees at intervals over the next 40 years. This year’s celebration is the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth the second, marking 70 years of her doing absolute queen shit. Notably, Queen Elizabeth is the only British monarch to have ever held down the job this long. By now, her 401K must be looking pretty healthy.
Gideon Resnick: We have to hope.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Jubilees have been celebrated for hundreds of years in Britain. To give you a sense of how the event has changed over the years, King Edward, the third jubilee back in the 14th century, featured a week of jousting, which presumably would be hard to book an event space for in 2022–though it would be pretty cool.
Gideon Resnick: I would watch.
Priyanka Aribindi: Same. In place of stick wielding men on horses, attractions at this year’s events include community organized street parties and barbecues, one horse race, a church service, and of course, a night of musical performances that include a song by Ed Sheeran–who else? I’m sure there are other musical artists, but that is the only one who will be included in this headline.
Gideon Resnick: Only one that’s relevant.
Priyanka Aribindi: Many Brits will get time off from work. The first event today is called Trooping the Color. It’s a military parade in honor of the Queen’s official birthday. Which events the Queen herself will attend between today and Sunday remains unknown, since she now has the mobility issues you might expect of a 96-year old woman.
Gideon Resnick: I am wondering if she can make it to another level of jubilee.
Priyanka Aribindi: And what it would have to be named? Yeah, they’re just coming up with new levels because she keeps hitting every single benchmark.
Gideon Resnick: It’s crazy. She’s going to hit Sapphire Reserve at some point soon.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s next.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that must be next. Wow. I can’t believe it. I also do want to see some corgis. You know, if I get nothing else out of this, I’d like to see some corgis.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, I wanted to see the jousting, but I guess I could settle for corgis. That’s fine.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. With them running into each other–
Priyanka Aribindi: Does that count?
Gideon Resnick: –at full speed. It’s a form of jousting. Yeah, I would say so.
Priyanka Aribindi: How Michael Vick of you. Jeez.
Gideon Resnick: Not in that way. Not, to be clear, not in that way. No corgis are going to be harmed in the making of Jubilee fun. They are all going to be doing it at their behest.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sure, Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: I’ve spoken too much already. We love corgis here. Those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: today is your last day to take advantage of Crooked’s Memorial Day sale. That is right, we extended our biggest sale ever for quite a while to give you one last chance to score a coveted What A Day mug. Now is your shot.
Gideon Resnick: Now is your time. You can get 50% off sitewide and up to 80% off new sale items. So if you have your eye on something, now is the time to nab them before they’re gone for good. There is a WAD shirt that I think was marked down to the point where it might be free, it may be close to free. So if you would like to get that, I think it’s a cool shirt. Have at it.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a good deal. Yeah. Go for it. To shop now, head to Crooked.com/store. buyout all the WAD merch, and show the people that you love WAD.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, honk if you love jubilee, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just the program from Jubilee like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And help us work on having better taste!
Gideon Resnick: Please.
Priyanka Aribindi: Please. We need all the help we can get.
Gideon Resnick: In every department, you could say that I don’t have good taste, so there’s a lot to work with.
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t have good taste, but I think my taste is sometimes bad enough that it’s good in a different way.
Gideon Resnick: It comes back around. Comes back around.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s trash. That’s my taste.
Gideon Resnick: I like that. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.