The City University of New York scrubbed a profile of a graduate who was the youngest attorney to work on Johnny Depp’s legal team in his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard after receiving backlash from students and faculty.
Brown Rudnick LLP associate Yarelyn Mena, 29, helped the firm win a $10.35 million verdict.
The daughter of two immigrants from the Dominican Republic graduated from CUNY’s Hunter College in 2015 and went on to earn a law degree from Fordham University.
CUNY is the city’s public university system and includes more than two dozen colleges.
Mena was featured in an Aug. 3 profile published in the student-run newsletter CUNYverse under the headline, “This CUNY grad was the Youngest Lawyer to Serve on Johnny Depp’s Legal Team.”
“I worked with the team on the opening and closing and was the master of the facts of all the evidence,” she said. “If someone needed pictures or text messages, I would look them up and assist everyone as we went along.”
But by Thursday, the article had been replaced with a peculiar mea culpa.
“We understand the strong negative emotions this article elicited and apologize for publishing the item,” the message reads. “We have removed it from our CUNYverse blog.”
The statement continues, “The article was not meant to convey support for Mr. Depp, implicitly or otherwise, or to call into question any allegations that were made by Amber Heard. Domestic violence is a serious issue in our society, and we regret any pain this article may have caused.”
Outraged CUNY Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson shared screenshots on Twitter of the deleted article and the statement that replaced it after a flurry of complaints.
“Not a good look for CUNY, to put it mildly,” he tweeted.
“One line of the institution’s grovelling apology could even be read as casting doubt on the jury’s verdict in the civil case,” he wrote in another Tweet. “CUNY’s message to talented young grads who go into the law seems to be – we’ll celebrate you only if we institutionally approve of your client.”
Attorney Richard Hoeg of The Hoeg Law Firm replied, “That’s rather unbelievable.”
Another Twitter user slammed the self-censorship. “It’s especially appalling/hypocritical because the student, who helped win the defamation case, provided extensive evidence that her client was actually the victim of domestic violence,” wrote @jam2885.
After an epic six-week court battle in Fairfax, Virginia, Depp won his defamation case against Heard, scoring $10.35 million in damages.
The jury found that his ex-wife had defamed him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she referred to herself as a domestic abuse survivor.
The seven-member panel also awarded Heard $2 million in her countersuit. Both sides have said they’re appealing the verdict.
A CUNY spokesperson, Brown Rudnick LLP and Mena did not immediately return a requests for comment.