Elon Musk didn’t defame a British caver who helped in final yr’s rescue of trapped Thai schoolboys by calling him a “pedo man”, a US jury has discovered.
Vernon Unsworth sought $190m (£145m) in damages from the Tesla founder, arguing that the tweet broken his fame.
A public row broke out between the 2 males over the rescue of 12 boys trapped in a Thai collapse June 2018.
Mr Musk instructed the court docket this week the phrase “pedo man” was widespread in South Africa, the place he grew up.
Chatting with reporters outdoors the courtroom after the jury reached its choice, Mr Musk mentioned: “My religion in humanity is restored.”
Mr Unsworth’s lawyer Lin Wooden mentioned their facet would depart the court docket “with our heads held excessive” however that the choice was “not verdict for society”.
“This verdict sends a sign, and one sign solely – that you may make any accusation you need to, as vile as it could be and as unfaithful as it could be, and someone can get away with it,” he mentioned.
The case had been intently watched because it was seen as testing the authorized threshold within the US for defamatory materials on social media.
Showing dejected, Mr Unsworth himself added: “I respect the jury’s choice. I might similar to to say my authorized crew have been completely superior. I got here right here for a verdict, sadly it isn’t gone the best way I anticipated however I respect the jury’s choice and thank them for that.”
Jurors took lower than an hour to return their unanimous verdict, following a four-day trial at a federal court docket in Los Angeles.
Jury foreman Joshua Jones mentioned Mr Unsworth’s authorized crew have been unable to show their case and may have targeted extra on the proof.
“I feel they tried to get our feelings concerned in it,” he was quoted as saying by the Related Press information company.
What was the row about?
Mr Unsworth, an skilled 64-year-old cave explorer, splits his time between the UK and Thailand.
Through the rescue of the younger soccer crew, which captured the world’s consideration, Mr Unsworth helped recruit professional cave divers who have been instrumental in liberating the boys safely.
Mr Musk despatched Tesla engineers and a small submarine to northern Thailand to assist with the rescue effort, however the vessel was by no means used.
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Media captionHow the Thai cave boys have been rescued
As an alternative, he and Mr Unsworth obtained right into a public disagreement after the diver branded the provide of assist a “PR stunt”.
Throughout an interview with CNN, the diver prompt the billionaire “stick his submarine the place it hurts”.
Mr Musk, who now has almost 30 million followers, responded with a sequence of tweets about Mr Unsworth – together with the one calling him “pedo man”. It was later deleted.
What was mentioned at court docket?
Testifying over two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr Musk instructed the court docket he didn’t anticipate the “pedo” tweet to be taken actually.
He mentioned that on the time he thought Mr Unsworth was “just a few random creepy man” who was “unrelated to the rescue”.
Mr Musk apologised on Twitter and in court docket for his outburst.
Contesting this, Mr Wooden cited one other now-deleted tweet the billionaire despatched to his followers saying: “Wager ya a signed greenback it is true.”
He additionally cited an e mail trade that Mr Musk had with a Buzzfeed reporter who contacted him for touch upon the specter of authorized motion, the place the entrepreneur mentioned: “Cease defending baby rapists.”
Mr Wooden mentioned Mr Musk was a “billionaire bully” who had “dropped a nuclear bomb” on his shopper, and that the tweet had affected his profession and relationships.
On Thursday, Mr Unsworth instructed the court docket that Mr Musk’s tweet had left him feeling “humiliated”.
Reporters in court docket mentioned the diver appeared on the verge of tears as he instructed jurors: “It feels very uncooked. I really feel humiliated. Ashamed. Dirtied. Successfully, from day one, I used to be given a life sentence with out parole. It hurts to speak about it.”
He added: “I discover it disgusting. I discover it very arduous to even learn the phrase, by no means thoughts speak about.”
Alex Spiro, Mr Musk’s lawyer, argued that the “pedo man” tweet was an offhand remark made in the midst of an argument between the 2 males, which no-one might be anticipated to take critically.
“In arguments you insult folks,” he mentioned. “There isn’t a bomb. No bomb went off.”