This morning, TMZ was high on everyone’s Google search activity. Why? Because former employee Morgan Tremaine has testified as part of the Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp defamation trial. Now, ‘Morgan Tremaine’ is a breakout search term – as well as ‘TMZ testimony’ and ‘TMZ Johnny Depp’ - as people seek to know more about his part in the trial and role at TMZ.
So, who is Morgan Tremaine?
Morgan Cliff Tremaine is a former TMZ journalist, producer and assistant manager who now works at Esports Engine – an esports company working with game publishers. According to LinkedIn, he worked at TMZ form 2014-17, first as a video producer shooting breaking TMZ videos and later as assignment manager leading field video production for breaking news.
Tremaine was called to testify as part of the Heard vs Depp trial in relation to leaked videos TMZ posted in 2016 that showed Johnny Depp throwing a wine bottle and smashing a glass in their kitchen.
TMZ had attempted to prevent Tremaine from testifying, filing an emergency motion based on ‘journalists privilege’ according to court papers. Charles Tobin, an attorney representing TMZ’s parent company, EHM Productions, told the court that TMZ was given the video by a confidential source under the promise their name would not be disclosed. In journalism, maintaining the anonymity of privileged sources is vital to a fair, free press where witnesses for news stories often fear coming forward – it is therefore legally binding that journalists do not have to disclose their sources in a court of law.
However, Judge Penney Azcarate denied TMZ’s request on the basis that they are not a party to the case and its arguments have no bearing on claims of defamation – thus Tremaine was called as a witness for Depp.
The case in fact revolves around a 2018 Washington Post op-ed Heard wrote in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Depp’s lawyers claim the article falsely implies Heard was abused while married to him – resulting in a loss of income. Heard is now counter-suing Depp claiming that he defamed her by dubbing her claims ‘fake’ and a ‘sexual violence hoax’. Both Heard and Depp have accused the other of physical violence and both deny claims. In 2020, Depp lost a libel case against The Sun after the tabloid dubbed him a ‘wifebeater’, with Judge Mr Justice Nicol ruling that the article was ‘substantially true’
What was the testimony of TMZ ex-employee Morgan Tremaine?
On the stand, Tremaine testified that he did not know the source of the video as it was transferred through the organisation’s email tip line.
Later in his testimony, Tremaine was also asked about a video captured by TMZ that showed Heard leaving a Los Angeles courthouse the day she filed for a restraining order against Depp. He says he was instructed to capture her leaving the courthouse and picture a visible bruise on her face. Heard has denied working with TMZ, with her lawyers accusing him of seeking ’15-minutes of fame’.
Tremaine accused Heard’s lawyers of the same thing – declaring ‘I’m actually putting myself kind of in the target of TMZ, a very litigious organisation. And I’m not seeking any 15-minutes here. I could say the same thing about taking Amber Heard as a client, for you.’
The trial is set to conclude tomorrow with a verdict expecting in the coming days.