Elon Musk to testify in own defence in 'pedo guy' defimation case

26 November 2019, 05:00

Mr Musk has apologised for his comment
Mr Musk has apologised for his comment. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The girlfriend of a British rescue diver called "pedo guy" by the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to testify in his defamation trial, a court has heard.

Elon Musk, will also testify in his own defence, Mr Musk's lawyer said on Monday in US District Court in Los Angeles.

"Evidence is going to be through Mr Musk (testifying) that in fact, Mr Musk didn't call him a paedophile. Mr Musk deleted the tweet, apologised and moved on," Alexander Spiro, Musk’s attorney, told the court.

Members of the Royal Thai Navy along with volunteers from England, the United States, Australia, and China, are pictured as they prepare to rescue 12 schoolboys, members of a local soccer team, and their coach, from the Tham Luang Caves
Members of the Royal Thai Navy along with volunteers from England, the United States, Australia, and China, are pictured as they prepare to rescue 12 schoolboys, members of a local soccer team, and their coach, from the Tham Luang Caves. Picture: PA

Vernon Unsworth is suing the co-founder of Tesla for defamation after the billionaire tweeted that he was a "pedo" following the 2018 Thai cave rescue.

The row started after Mr Unsworth, who helped with the perilous underwater mission, dismissed Mr Musk's offer of aid as a publicity stunt.

The tweet from Mr Musk's account
The tweet from Mr Musk's account. Picture: Twitter

Mr Musk later referred to him as a "child rapist" in an email to a reporter.

Lin Wood, representing Mr Unsworth, said during a pre-trial hearing in Los Angeles on Monday that his client's partner Woranan Ratrawiphukkun will testify via video at the upcoming trial in the California Central District Court.

Mr Unsworth will also testify, his attorney told the court. He will provide evidence of damages by “talking about his worries, his anxieties, his concern by being branded a paedophile,” Mr Wood told the court.

Mr Unsworth was awarded an MBE for his part in the rescue operation
Mr Unsworth was awarded an MBE for his part in the rescue operation. Picture: PA

Mr Musk said he never intended to accuse Mr Unsworth, 64, of paedophilia, arguing he was instead suggesting he was a "creepy old man".

His lawyers asked for the case do be dismissed on the basis his comments were insults rather than allegations so they did not constitute defamation.

However, Judge Stephen Wilson refused and instead ordered the case to jury trial.

Lawyers for Mr Musk had also argued Mr Unsworth is a public figure, which would have made the burden of proof for his defamation claim higher.

Again, the judge disagreed and said he is a private figure.

In accordance with US law, lawyers acting on behalf of the diver now have to prove Mr Musk acted with "actual malice", or published statements he knew to be false.

The trial is set to begin on December 3.

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