A former TMZ staffer took the stand Wednesday in the Johnny Depp defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, and revealed stars regularly feed the celebrity gossip website tips and videos.
Morgan Tremaine, a field assignment manager, was called as a rebuttal witness in the Fairfax, Virginia courtroom by Depp’s legal team. When asked how TMZ gets its tips on celebrities, he explained: “Oftentimes it would be publicists, managers, agents or B-list celebrities, and lawyers definitely.”
He said tips are verified through “an extensive process” when they come in through TMZ‘s tipline and the person sending in the tip would need to include contact information.
Tremaine also suggested that Amber Heard helped TMZ stage a photo-op of herself with a bruised face on May 27, 2016, when she filed for a temporary restraining order against Depp.
He said TMZ was tipped off about the location and time Heard would be at a courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. He told the court he dispatched photographers to the location after receiving a tip, adding that there was an agreement that Heard would pose for the cameras.
“We were trying to capture Amber leaving the courthouse and an alleged bruise on the right side of her face,” he said. “She was going to sort of stop and turn towards the camera to display the bruise on the right side of her face, the alleged bruise.”
“Did you get the shot of Ms. Heard?” Depp’s attorney asked. “We did,” he replied.
Tremaine would not say if the tip came from Heard. Instead, he said “it came directly from a news producer.”
Heard testified earlier in the trial that she was not responsible for stories about her split from Depp that were leaked exclusively to TMZ.
During cross-examination, Heard’s attorney accused Tremaine of seeking “15-minutes of fame” by taking the stand.
“I stand to gain nothing from this. I’m actually putting myself kind of in the target of TMZ, a very litigious organization. And I’m not seeking any 15-minutes here,” Tremaine replied. “I could say the same thing about taking Amber Heard as a client, for you.”
Pirates of the Caribbean actor Depp laughed at Tremaine’s comment.
The day before Tremaine testified, TMZ filed an emergency motion in court to block him from taking the stand, but the judge in the case denied the motion.
Johnny Depp is suing Amber Heard for $50 million claiming she libeled him in the 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post. Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim for defamation after Depp’s attorney called her a “liar.”