Elon Musk‘s defamation trial against a British diver he called a ‘pedo guy’ began on Tuesday with jury selection, but there was no sign of the Tesla billionaire as proceedings got underway.
The Tesla CEO is being sued by Vernon Unsworth, who was part of the team responsible for saving a group of 12 Thai soccer players from a cave in 2018 but who Musk called a ‘pedo guy’ after he criticized him.
Musk, 48, had sent a team of Tesla engineers to Thailand to assist in the rescue mission and offered a miniature submarine as a way to get the boys out alive – an idea Unsworth found laughable and amounted to a publicity stunt.
After calling him a ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter, Musk then hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on the British national and subsequently emailed BuzzFeed claiming to have been told that Unsworth married his wife when she was a child.
BuzzFeed published the email, despite Musk’s insistence the correspondence was ‘off the record’.
Musk will testify at the trial but he was not seen on Tuesday morning. Unsworth did attend. He entered the court flanked by his attorney.
Vernon Unsworth arrived outside US District Court in L.A. on Tuesday. There was no sign of Musk but he is expected to testify. Musk, pictured in November, did not attend jury selection
Unsworth filed a lawsuit against him in California in September 2018 and for the last year, the two sides have fought viciously in court filings.
Musk’s team has said in the past that he refuses to settle the case.
Among his defenses so far have been that the term ‘pedo guy’ does not mean pedophile in South Africa, where Musk is from; that it was not him who suggested Unsworth was a pedophile, it was his private investigator, and that he did not expect BuzzFeed to publish what he put in the email without verifying it themselves.
He has also accused Unsworth of being fame-hungry and money-grabbing, saying he has tried to squeeze book and movie deals out of the entire saga along with filing multiple lawsuits to try to win damages.
Among those on Musk’s witness list are the British diver’s first wife, Vanessa – who Musk and his lawyers claim he abandoned to go to Thailand – and his current wife, the Thai women he was falsely accused of marrying when she was a child.
Unsworth’s lawyers have called the Tesla billionaire ‘thin-skinned’ and a ‘bully’.
He is seeking unspecified damages that are to be determined by a jury.
TIMELINE OF THE THAI RESCUE AND MUSK AND UNSWORTH’S DISPUTE
June 23 2018: The boys and their soccer coach become trapped in the caves
July 8: Musk tweets that he is using Tesla engineers to build a ‘kid size’ submarine to try to get them out
The Thai soccer team got lost in caves while exploring and became stuck for days. Musk offered to help and sent a team of Tesla engineers to build a submarine to get them out
July 8 – 10: The boys were rescued gradually in a complex mission involving hundreds of people
July 13: Vernon Unsworth gives a CNN interview where he is asked about Musk’s plan. He calls it a ‘PR stunt’ and says: ‘He can stick it where it hurts’ in reference to the submarine
July 15: Musk tweets calling him a ‘pedo guy’
July 17: Musk apologizes
August 15: Musk hires private investigator James Howard after he got in touch with him saying, in an email: ‘Dear Elon, you may wish to dig deep and look into Mr. Unsworth’s past… no smoke without fire!’
They set about launching their ‘investigation’ but go to great lengths to keep Musk separate from it. In emails, Musk’s associate Jared Birchall carried out their dealings and Musk was referred to as ‘the principle’. He and Birchall never discussed it in writing.
August 28: Musk tweets in response to a follower who accused him of lying about Unsworth: ‘You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me yet?
August 30: BuzzFeed reporter emails Musk for a comment. He replies saying, among other things, that Unsworth married a ‘child bride’ and inferring that he is a rapist
September 4: BuzzFeed publishes the story
September 5: Private Investigator emails Birchall, Musk’s associate, saying: ‘At no time have have I reported that the target is a child rapist.’
September 17: Unsworth files a lawsuit against Musk