Elon Musk could face a retrial in a defamation case, according to an attorney for British spelunker Vernon Unsworth, who sued the tech mogul over the latter's “pedo guy” tweet. Unsworth, on the advice of his legal team, originally sought 190 million dollars in damages. Mark Stephens alleges that interviews with jurors after the 6 December hearing suggest that the jury erred because they sided with Musk, who did not specifically name Unsworth in the notorious tweet.
If true, Stephens claims, it could set a dangerous precedent, as the lawyer pointed out that jurors can occasionally be mistaken.
"The jury has given leave and licence to allow anyone to make accusations of serious criminality without accountability. That is a serious problem. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a bullying billionaire or a penniless troll, that behaviour is destructive", Stephens asserted to the Mirror.
Stephens said that Unsworth's legal team intends to file new papers for a retrial by Christmas 2019.
What was the feud about?
Musk and Unsworth clashed horns in the summer of 2018 after a group of Thai schoolboys became trapped in a flooded cave underground. Musk’s team came up with a concept of a mini submarine that could have been used in a rescue operation. Unsworth, who is an experienced spelunker, recruited experts in a rescue operation and openly criticized Musk’s idea, publicly branding Musk's offer as a “PR stunt”. Unsworth told the Tesla CEO publicly to “stick his submarine where it hurts”.
Musk tweeted that Unsworth was “a pedo guy”, in reference to the age of the latter's Thai girlfriend, later deleting the post and apologizing for the remark. Buzzfeed claimed that one of its employees received a letter from Musk, in which he suggested that the British caver was a child rapist and that he had married a 12-year-old. The purported letter has not been published.
During the court hearing on 6 December, the maverick tech entrepreneur again apologized for his phrase “pedo guy”, which Musk claims is common in South Africa, where he grew up. Unsworth asserted that Musk's comment alluding to his Thai girlfriend made him feel humiliated. "From day one, I was given a life sentence without parole. It hurts to talk about it”, Unsworth complained.
The jury sided with Musk, stressing that Unsworth’s legal team was unable to prove their case because they focused too much on Unsworth's emotional state, and not enough on the evidence.