BILLIONAIRE Elon Musk has come face to face with the hero British diver he called a “pedo guy” at their defamation trial today.
The Tesla supremo is being sued by Vernon Unsworth, who shot to fame as part of the team responsible for saving a group of 12 Thai school kids from a cave in 2018.
LA district judge Stephen Wilson said in October a jury would decide whether the Tesla CEO’s remarks about Unsworth were defamatory.
The spat spiralled when 12 boys and their footie coach were incredibly rescued from a flooded Thai cave by more than 90 divers – including seven Brits – last summer.
It turned out to be one of the most dangerous rescues in history.
Unsworth, a hero who helped with the perilous underwater rescue, annoyed the Tesla CEO after he mocked his suggestion to use a mini-sub in the rescue as a publicity stunt.
He suggested Musk, 48, should “stick his submarine where it hurts” on July 13 last year.
The billionaire then lashed out, calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet, which he later deleted.
He also labelled the cave diver a “child rapist” in a rambling email to reporters.
Pedo is an American spelling of the word paedo, short for paedophile.
These slurs prompted the diver, a 64-year-old financial broker from St Albans in Hertfordshire, to launch multiple lawsuits.
Unsworth, who denies Musk’s allegations, sued him for defamation.
On Tuesday, one of the potential jurors bowed out of the process, saying he could not be impartial because he has an interview at Musk’s SpaceX next week.
Other jurors called in for the beginning of the trial were excused for owning stock in Musk’s companies, and two avoided jury duty because they owned Teslas.
Musk’s lawyers also vetoed four potential jurors, most of whom were older women, and the two sides settled on a jury of three men and five women.
After the eight were sworn in at the Los Angeles federal court, lawyers for Musk and the diver, Vernon Unsworth, gave opening statements.
Attorney Taylor Wilson said his client suffered “shame, mortification, worry and stress” over the accusations, smearing “what should have been one of the proudest moments of his life.”
Musk’s lead attorney, Alex Spiro, told the jurors the Tesla founder’s tweets were not to be taken seriously, and were just “insults understood as insults” in an “argument between two men”.
Spiro accused Unsworth of lying saying that Musk was “asked to leave very quickly” when the billionaire arrived at the caves during the rescue mission.
He suggested that the British diver’s reputation had not been damaged by the spat, as he now has a talent agent and has been given honors by both the British and Thai governments.
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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.
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.
Divers plunged into the dark waters of the flooded cave in Thailand where 12 boys were trapped[/caption]