Actor Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty on Monday to providing a false immigration documents amid allegations she smuggled the couple’s dogs into Australia.
Prosecutors dropped two more serious charges that Heard illegally imported the Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into the country last year, when Depp was filming the fifth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. A conviction on the illegal importation counts could have sent Heard to prison for up to 10 years. The false documents charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of more than 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,650).
The hearing in Southport Magistrates Court on Queensland state’s Gold Coast was temporarily adjourned on Monday to allow the judge time to review documents.
The debacle over the dogs began last May, when Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce accused Depp of smuggling the tiny terriers aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia to resume filming the Pirates movie.
Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies from spreading to its shores. Bringing pets into the country involves applying for a permit and quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days.
“If we start letting movie stars - even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice - to come into our nation (with pets), then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody?” Joyce said at the time. “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States.”
Depp and Heard were given 72 hours to send Pistol and Boo back to the US, with officials warning that the dogs would otherwise be euthanized. The pooches boarded a flight home just hours before the deadline ran out.
The comments by Joyce, who is now the deputy prime minister of Australia, elevated what might otherwise have been a local spat into a global delight for comedians and broadcasters. One newspaper ran a doggie death countdown ticker on its website that marked the hours remaining before the dogs had to flee the country, and comedian John Oliver dedicated a more than 6-minute segment to lampooning the ordeal.
Watch John Oliver’s segment here
Depp himself poked fun at the drama during a press conference in Venice last year where he was asked if he planned to take the dogs for a gondola ride. “No,” he replied. “I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.”
The couple was swarmed by reporters when they arrived at court Monday. They said little apart from Depp responding “Fine, thank you,” to reporters shouting questions about how they - and Pistol and Boo - were doing.
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