Elon Musk will take the stand at his defamation trial against a British diver who he called a ‘pedo guy’ next month.
The Tesla billionaire is being sued by Vernon Unsworth in a California court. In 2018, Musk tweeted that he was a ‘pedo guy’ after Unsworth criticized his efforts to rescue 12 boys from a cave in Thailand using a miniature submarine.
Musk has been trying to have the case dismissed for months and last week, a judge denied his most recent attempt to have it thrown out.
Both sides have now submitted witness and evidence lists which reveals how the trial will take shape.
Musk plans to not only testify himself, but his lawyers will also call on Unsworth’s Thai wife, Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, and his first wife, Vanessa.
He will also call Unsworth and former Tesla senior director of global communications Dave Arnold.
Musk’s lawyers say they will use texts, emails and photographs as evidence exhibits.
A federal judge rejected Tesla chief Elon Musk’s argument that ‘pedo guy’ is a common insult
Musk made critical comments about diver Vernon Unsworth, who helped with the rescue, after the diver ridiculed Musk’s proposal to build a mini-submarine to save the Thai boys, calling it a ‘PR stunt.’
In one of his various attempts to stop the case, Musk tried to suggest that ‘pedo guy’ was a common insult in South Africa, where he is from.
Judge Stephen Wilson rejected that argument.
He accepted aspects of Musk’s argument that Unsworth was a ‘limited public figure’ who had voluntarily injected himself into the public debate about how to save the boys – meaning he would have to prove actual malice from Musk.
Vernon: Musk referred to the British expat diver (above) who was involved in the rescue mission to save a group of Thai boys in 2018 as a ‘pedo’
To win a defamation case in US courts, public figures like celebrities must show actual malice on the part of the person making a false statement, as opposed to the lower standard of negligence.
But Wilson ruled Musk should not be shielded from a defamation lawsuit because the allegation of pedophilia was not connected to the debate about how to save the boys.
Judge Wilson wrote in a decision earlier this week: ‘To allow criticism into every aspect of a plaintiff’s life simply because he chose to get involved in a limited issue would render him an all-purpose public figure.
‘For defendant’s comments to relate to Plaintiff’s participation in public controversies, there must be some relationship between pedophilia and the rescue or the subs – there is simply no credible connection here.’
Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Musk, said in an email that ‘we look forward to the trial.’
Rescue mission: The Thai cave boys Unsworth helped save are pictured during their ordeal
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
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’
Musk tweeted this last July after Unsworth told CNN the Tesla CEO’s plan to rescue the boys with a submarine would not work
July 17: Musk apologizes
August 15: Musk hires 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 24: Birchall emailed Howard asking for ‘confirmation that Unsworth met his wife when she was a minor’
August 25: Birchall emailed Howard saying: ‘For successful confirmation of nefarious behavior there is an additional $10k bonus’
August 27: Howard is instructed to launch a media ‘leak’
‘Priority is to divert the story away from the principal and let the UK tabloids develp there [sic] story,’ he said.
He goes on to say UK readers are ‘familiar’ with Thailand ‘& its culture to welcome and protect sex tourist.
‘We call it Yellow Fever where older men leave there [sic] wives for a young Thai friend.’
Howard then told him in one text that he was the ‘only link on the chain who knows who the beneficiary is’.
‘The Thai team and Richard all believe that this is for a children’s charity in the UK,’ he said.
Despite trying to get journalists to print the unsubstantiated claims, none do.
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