Local Man Finally Hit With Libel Suit

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

A Silicon Valley resident had a big day yesterday. After finally revealing the real, live, human being he plans to stuff on top of a rocket for a journey around the moon, this same resident also received notice of a lawsuit filed against him. Big, big day.

What’s amazing about Vernon Unsworth’s libel suit is how completely avoidable it was. However, as we’re dealing with the mind of Tesla CEO Elon Musk here, the suit — which accuses Musk of libel, assault, and slander — seemed from the outset to be unavoidable. This is a man who goaded the litigant to sue even after apologizing for calling a man he’s never met a “pedo” on Twitter. Musk then forgot all about the apologies and doubled down on the unsubstantiated claim, even as Unsworth secured legal representation.

And why? Unsworth helped rescue a Thai soccer team from a flooded cave but had the nerve to criticise Musk’s homemade submarine, which rescuers never employed in the cave extraction. It’s enough to make one believe that only a certain type of personality makes it big in Silicon Valley.

According to the lawsuit, filed Monday in a United States District Court in California, Unsworth began caving in 1971, later finding himself involved in several cave rescues in the UK due to his knowledge of local cave systems. The British resident co-owns a house in Thailand with his “significant other,” a 40-year-old nail salon owner named Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, the suit claims. After first visiting the country in 2011, Unsworth’s years-long mapping and exploration of the cave system at the site of the rescue led Thai authorities to seek out his expertise.

The details of the rescue make for an interesting read. However, after Unsworth and other members of the rescue team coordinated an extraction with the help of navy divers, the Brit told a news outlet that Musk’s offer of a homemade, child-carrying submarine was useless for its intended purpose. Not mincing words, Unsworth called it a PR stunt and said Musk could stick his sub “where it hurts.”

It was then that Musk took to Twitter, and, in response to another tweet, called Unsworth a “pedo.” During an angry Twitter exchange with a BuzzFeed reporter weeks later, Musk again alluded to the real reasons for Unsworth’s trips to Thailand, questioning why the threatened lawsuit hadn’t landed on his doorstep. In an angry email sent to the reporter, Musk called Unsworth a “child rapist” and suggested his involvement in human trafficking.

The suit refutes each of Musk’s accusations. Citing Musk’s wealth, status, and vast social media reach, the lawsuit states, “As the direct and proximate result of Musk’s false and defamatory accusations, Mr. Unsworth suffered damage to his reputation in the State of California, as well as on a national and international basis.” The suit seeks $75,000 in damages, adding that another suit filed in a British court will seek to repair Unsworth’s reputation on home soil.

One wonders how Howard Hughes would have handled criticism of his Spruce Goose, had Twitter existed in the 1940s.

[Image: JRE/ YouTube]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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