Elon Musk did not defame man he called ‘pedo guy’, court finds

Billionaire says his ‘faith in humanity’ has been restored by Los Angeles jury’s verdict

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 06 December 2019 18:48
Comments
Elon Musk leaves a court in Los Angeles after testifying in a lawsuit brought by British diver Vernon Unsworth
Elon Musk leaves a court in Los Angeles after testifying in a lawsuit brought by British diver Vernon Unsworth

A jury has found that Elon Musk‘s statements calling a British cave diver who assisted in the rescue of 13 people in Thailand a “pedo guy” do not constitute defamation.

A Los Angeles court heard testimony in the defamation case this week, which followed a public dispute between the Tesla founder and diver Vernon Unsworth amid an international rescue mission last year.

Mr Musk left the court on Friday telling reporters that his “faith in humanity” has been restored.

In 2018, the diver had assisted in rescue efforts after heavy rains trapped a Thai soccer team and their coach in a cave system in Thailand, a rescue mission that caught the world’s attention as thousands of people had offered help.

Mr Musk had summoned engineers to construct a miniature “kid-sized” submarine that, ultimately, was not used by Thai authorities.

Mr Unsworth called the billionaire’s attempt a “PR stunt” with “no chance of working.” He told Mr Musk to “stick the submarine where it hurts”.

In return, Mr Musk lashed out, calling the diver a “pedo guy” on Twitter, broadcast to his millions of followers.

Fellow diver Richard Stanton helped Mr Unsworth locate the group and being their dramatic rescue from a small pocket of the cave over several days.

Mr Musk had deleted his post moments later, but Mr Unsworth told the court that he felt it had “effectively given a life sentence without parole”.

On the witness stand, Mr Musk apologised for his comments, admitting he should have just congratulated the diver on a successful rescue.

In court, Mr Musk’s attorneys argued that his statements were not accusations but insults, ones that didn’t cause significant damage to merit a defamation ruling.

Mr Unsworth's lawyer Lin Wood said the verdict sends a message that people can get away with making accusations. "Everyone who hears about this verdict should be very, very concerned about their own reputations," he said.

Mr Unsworth had sued Mr Musk last September, seeking $190m in damages for defamation from Mr Musk, whose net worth is roughly $20bn.

The verdict was delivered on the trial’s fourth day.

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