By on December 7, 2019

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Sometimes the little guy wins.

Elon Musk, founder of a rocket ship company and CEO of a rising automobile company/cult, left a federal courtroom on Friday more emboldened than ever to say whatever he wants. A unanimous verdict handed down by the jury declared that calling an unknown British diver “pedo guy” on Twitter did not constitute defamation, thus allowing Musk, who has 30 million followers on the social media platform, to sidestep $190 million in damages.

“My faith in humanity is restored,” said Musk, who also called diver Vernon Unsworth a “child rapist” with no corroborating evidence in an email to a Buzzfeed reporter, upon leaving the courthouse.

Musk’s defence team, headed up by attorney Alex Spiro, argued successfully that their client was merely lashing out in anger at a man who helped orchestrate the successful rescue of a trapped children’s soccer team from a flooded Thai cave. Calling someone you’ve never met “pedo guy” on a public stage was just a meaningless slur, they claimed, rather than an accusation.

The jury agreed that Musk, who uttered the slur after Unsworth told him to stick his home-built submarine — deemed wholly insufficient for the task of rescuing the kids — up his own ass, did not deserve to face punishment for his actions.

Unsworth’s attorney, L. Lin Wood, called Musk a “billionaire bully” in his closing statement, claiming the tech guru “dropped a nuclear bomb” on his client. During this week’s legal process, Musk apologised to Unsworth and stated that he did not believe the man, whom he hired a grifter ex-con to dig up dirt on, was a pedophile.

In return, Spiro claimed Unsworth was not damaged by the accusations, adding, “You wanna award damages? How about one dollar?”

“This verdict puts everyone’s reputation at risk,” Wood later told reporters.

“I accept the jury’s verdict, take it on the chin and get on with my life,” Unsworth commented after court adjourned. “It’s not the verdict we wanted. But it’s the end of the road and we now close this chapter.”

It’s quite possible the jury realized this trial-by-Twitter would indeed set a precedent, preferring, in the end, to ensure that accusations of defamation on social media must require a greater degree of scrutiny.

Confident in their hero’s unsullied purity, Musk’s disciples followers then spent the rest of their Friday harassing Ford spokesman Mike Levine on Twitter.

[Sources: CNBC, Reuters] [Image: Tesla]

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50 Comments on “Hardscrabble Car Salesman Wins Defamation Trial...”


  • avatar

    To say someone “sidestepped” $190 Million in damages implies that the author thinks Musk is guilty but got off scot free?

    If musk is innocent he wasn’t about to get fined anyway right?

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      That Musk tweeted what he did was not in dispute… so yes, of that he was guilty, regardless of how this jury interpreted ‘what he meant.’

      However you interpret this decision, it’s clear to most that this isn’t justice. It’s the first O.J. trial.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        The term “guilty” does not apply in civil cases. Also, in order to prevail, the plaintiff must prove that the defendants actions caused actual harm.

        In the end, this was a case about name-calling and little else. Was Musk’s comment the height of Dickishness? Yes. was the plaintiff looking to cash in? I would say yes to that too.

        Those who compare this case the that of O.J. could use a better understanding of the differences between criminal and civil proceedings as well as the vast difference in harm between being violently stabbed to death and being the recipient of an obviously baseless insult.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

          I am well aware of those differences. It should be obvious to all I was referring to a jury decision that blatantly runs counter to public perception and (arguably) common sense.

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        without the 2 people slashed and murdered.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      It says it right there: “A unanimous verdict handed down by the jury declared that calling an unknown British diver “pedo guy” on Twitter did not constitute defamation, thus allowing Musk, who has 30 million followers on the social media platform, to sidestep $190 million in damages.”

      The (crazy) verdict was in Musk’s favor. Thus allowing Musk to sidestep the payment. It’s not that complicated.

      And yes, everyone knows that really Musk is ‘guilty’, that he should in fact pay (not $190mil but a large enough amount to really hurt Elon) Unsworth for his despicable defamation.

      • 0 avatar

        It seems to me akin to a 6 year old friend calling me a “stupid head” because I did something he/she did not like nor approve. Did s/he say it? Yes, of course. Was I damaged? Possibly enough to return the “compliment”. 30 minutes later life would go on as usual and we’d be playing a game with the other neighbor kids. Pretty much what happened here with the exception that the “neighborhood” is now a quite large congregation compared to my neighborhood of 15 kids. Too many people too ready to pull the proverbial trigger. One can make the choice to ignore rather than retaliate.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    This was not the expected outcome.

    Read about who sat on the jury and how many of them own Teslas.

    I thought Mr. Musk was going to defend himself, but he shows up with
    several attorneys.

    In his defense, not that he needs the likes of me, I did not care for
    the diver’s impish “stick it” remark. And I thought he was asking for
    WAY too much money.

    A bad outcome for an interesting case.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Thanks for free Tesla advertising. Keep them coming!

    When I call someone “pedorast” in Russia, formally I am calling them a child molester. But in reality I mean “f****ing ba$tard” — it’s a very commonly used generic insult. And what about the good old freedom of speech?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I’m not disagreeing with your general comment, just stating that freedom of speech doesn’t free you from the consequences of your speech. No one is going to jail for calling someone a pedo, but civil repercussions are another thing.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “When I call someone “pedorast” in Russia, formally I am calling them a child molester.”

      No, you don’t. This means homo who only receives. Learn your Russian, dude.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I know the knives will come out for me saying this, but with the US becoming more insular I wonder if part of this is circling the wagons to protect one of their own from a foreigner?

    I could see the jury balking at the requested amount of damages as that amount would be difficult to justify, but calling someone a pedophile could have had life altering ramifications had the circumstances been different.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I suppose that since nobody believed the insult in the first place, the jury decided that Mr Unsworth wasn’t actually defamed.

    There is a fine line between being a jerk and being guilty of a crime. The US Congress faces a similar question about the President.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      This – the things that this country’s president says about those he does not like is boundless. Our “Office of the President” has literally become a worldwide joke. I’m no Musk fanboi but this was a correct decision. If it is ok for the leader of the free world to call those he does not like human scum, or to ask the world to find some dirt on them, which to date have come up with zero credible finds on the Bidens, Musk calling who is essentially a stranger is really just background noise.

      • 0 avatar
        Noble713

        “which to date have come up with zero credible finds on the Bidens”

        https://checkyourfact.com/2019/10/17/fact-check-hunter-biden-ukraine-burisma-payments/

        https://dailycaller.com/2019/10/17/hunter-biden-burisma-ukraine-china/

        How else do you get on the board of directors of an energy company, or get a $700k payout from a China-connected firm, when your most salient professional experience is getting kicked out of the Navy for drugs, because you’re a crackhead?

        https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/10/17/hunter-biden-drug-test/17427857/

        https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/hunter-biden-tackles-cocaine-diamonds-alleged-business-conflicts/story?id=64064060

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Noble713. I will apologize for the thread hijack.

          1. Burisma – yep, he was given a position for having the Biden last name. Perhaps not prudent but not illegal. If you want to talk about using your last name, how about Ivanka’s exclusive deal with China and her products? Still not illegal but clearly she used the Trump name and presidency for her personal gain. There are dozens of examples of this. The president himself does gain personally from his role through all the use of his real estate empire for all these political meetings with world leaders who flock to his properties. That is clearly illegal (You know that “phony” emoluments clause in that little paper called the Constitution).

          2. Getting kicked out of the Navy may be correct but it has zero bearing on Joe Biden. None.

          3. Hunter has a history of drug abuse. Addiction is a disease. One would think people would be more aware of this with the corporate-sponsored opioid epidemic that has ravaged much of America.

          Regardless of whatever Hunter may have done or not done, he is not running for president. And frankly, even if Joe Biden WAS a crook, that still does not give the President of the US the right to use his office to extort foreign governments to dig up dirt on political rivals in order to help his campaign. Period. No gaslighting will change that fact.

          • 0 avatar
            Noble713

            g2h:

            I’m totally ok with putting Jared Kushner in a jail cell next to Hunter Biden, and Ivanka in one next to Hillary.

            Did you have the same level of indignation when the DNC & Clinton campaign financed the Steele report on their political rival?

            “2. Getting kicked out of the Navy may be correct but it has zero bearing on Joe Biden. None.”

            If that has zero bearing, then…why all the fuss about the Burisma phonecall to Ukraine? Shouldn’t Hunter & friends being investigated illicit a response of “Hey that’s totally separate from Joe Biden’s campaign and his son being thrown under the jail should have no bearing on Joe’s future presidency. We’ll just look forward to Joe pardoning his son in 2021.”

            The only conclusion a cynic and or sociopath would draw from your position is that the best way to commit crimes is to run for office, especially on an opposition party ticket, because apparently that makes you and everyone connected to you immune to criminal investigations. Heaven forbid the head of state liaises with another head of state to facilitate information-gathering on potentially EXTREMELY high-profile criminal activity.

            Back on topic, I dunno why the scuba guy thought he would get $160mil in damages. How did he come up with that number anyway?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        “ which to date have come up with zero credible finds on the Bidens,”

        Have you been living under a rock?

      • 0 avatar
        How_Embarrassing_4You

        Nothing like out and out lies and then abandoning thread in order to continue the lie spreading. Yeesh. The fun part is, the more impeachment we get, the more his approval goes up. Toodles!

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        Why would it be illegal to critisize others as Trump has? But then it’s perfectly ok for the opposition to use coordinated mass misinformation, propaganda and psy-ops campaigns against him, critisizing him incredibly viciously?

        Why would it be wrong for Trump to ask “the world to find some dirt on them” when it specifically means asking for a LEGAL INVESTIGATION done by official prosecutors and investigators? Did you not realise where those crimes (mostly) took place? Why would Trump ask for some other country’s legal system to pursue those crimes? As opposed to Biden not just asking actually severely interfering in a legal investigation, blocking the judicial system from operating. Where was the outcry and condeknation of Hillary, Biden and our then sitting president for them actually using foreing agents to dig up dirt on Trump, and the media participating in falsifying the story even further?

        I seriously have wondered from the beginning why people think that their crazy and wildly illogical claims would fly.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      If you think that a figurehead/Messiah like Musk reporting to millions of people that this old dude in Thailand is a paedophile has no ill effects, that it doesn’t cast a massive cloud over that man’s life and reputation, you are very very wrong.

      Musk went on to provide a rationale to the press as to why it is very clear that he is a paedophile. We know that he hired investigators, etc., and you show me any case without a clear aquittal that doesn’t have some proportion of people just thinking that the accused only got away with it. Hell, lots of people will hold people guilty even with a very clear aquittal!

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    Elon Musk blows goats. Frequently, and for nickels.

    Sorry, just lashing out in anger over the court’s verdict.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Musk is a disgusting, lying, fraud who essentially got away with verbal murder.

    I’m sure we will find out down the road the little weasel paid the jury off. No reasonable person would look at his tweet and think anything other than musk called him a pedophile.

    He said he was in Thailand because of child trafficking. He absolutely meant to call him a pedophile in his tantrum tweet after his stupid tinfoil “submarine” idea was properly dismissed.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      Yes, he repeated and clarified his disgusting claims multiple times TO THE PRESS.

      They should start gathering a case of racketeering on Musk. We all know he is a fraud, but that’s a lot harder to prosecute on.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    So a guy worth 20-something billion lawyered up enough to take down someone pulling in a cool $30K a year.

    Yeah I know, it’s absolutely shocking.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      So, you really think that Musk must pay 190 mil for calling names?

      • 0 avatar
        thejohnnycanuck

        No, I’m just saying the result of this trial was a foregone conclusion.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Yes. Actually maybe 190 million is too little.

        The fraud Musk used his bully pulpit to call someone a pedophile, the doubled down and said the only reason he is in Thailand is because they’re known for child trafficking, then, doubled down further by hiring a private investigator to dig up dirt on Unsworth in an attempt to defame and slander him even more.

        Musk is a disgusting adult child who threw a tantrum because someone didn’t like his idiotic tin foil submarine.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          “Musk is a disgusting adult child who threw a tantrum because someone didn’t like his idiotic tin foil submarine.”

          Sure, but a finding of defamation with accompanying reward means that you have to prove you were actually defamed (as evidenced by other’s reactions and/or loss of income), and the fine would need to be commensurate with the loss the man experienced.

          Neither was true – nobody believed the insult, and the man apparently could not link the $190 mm claim with actual loss, so no deal.

          This case says much more about Twitter than it does about Musk.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        That’s not how it works. He can ask for $190 mil or more, it’s up to the court to come up with the final sum that will be sufficient to cover the damages he caused and to scare him enough to not repeat such despicable actions.

        $190mil or $50mil, Musk should have to pay.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Ugh. That whole exchange of taunts was gross. Clearly the capsule Musk’s team built would have been effective if they had rescued the children by bore hole. And just as clearly it was an impossible ask for a man to tow it submerged, mile after mile through the cracks and crevices, one being only 18 inches wide and all pitch black (because of silt-up lights no use) with unpredictable pressures leeching tank reserves. The diver was under incredible duress at the time and I think spoke from exasperation. Musk was under duress at the time for his own reasons and I think he reacted very poorly, inappropriately and discourteously, under the circumstances.

    There probably was a dollar figure that was deserved because Elon took the highlight of that man’s life and degraded it. He saved those childrens’ lives. There’s nothing worse than being called a pedo, especially if one has a bit of a perv-nerd look anyway. I read that the diver originally was asking for less than 80 thousand pounds and I think an award like that might have been granted. The poor man was, however, undone by a greedy lawyer bucking for percent, and demanding a stupid plaid amount for damages that could not be substantiated.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    …..

    -Nate

  • avatar

    190 mils for comment on twitter. What an idiot. Yeah right thats what we all need – set the precedent to sues someone for mils for unfavorable comments on twitter.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I see that Stockholm syndrome is alive and well on TTAC. (Personally, I can’t wait for my next ‘stress position’ at the Ford dealership. Ford has such disregard for me, I just can’t help loving them. And reflexively defending them against all threats, both real and imagined.)

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Money…deciding court cases since 1995!

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Musk is guilty. Of this there is no doubt.
    Liable for damages. Nope.
    When your opponent is worth 21.6 billion you are going to lose.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Personally I think our slander laws need to be beefed up. People think nothing of calling their fellow citizens racists, bigots, etc. on social media with no evidence whatsoever. Calls for civility seem to accomplish nothing.

  • avatar

    This is probably the non-story of the year. Why was it even covered?

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    The guy told him to stick a submarine up his kiester. He had to expect some reaction? I’m getting really tired of everybody being offended by everything and suing for anything. Musk seems like an arrogant tool but I’m glad this guy got nothing. Thumbs up!

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yeah, because a reasonable and proportionate response to “stick it” is “hey everyone, this guy went to Thailand to screw children. Bet money it’s true. Hey Buzzfeed, I found out he has a child bride he married when she was 12. and I paid a PI for this information, even though it was all false.”

      Keep licking the boots of billionaires if you want, they’re not going to let you be one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Oh well, looks like a jury saw it differently huh? Due process is rough sometimes. I don’t think your socialist heroes are any more likely to let you be one of them as a billionaire is to let me be one of them LOL!

  • avatar
    incautious

    with over 750 other lawsuits, It going to be a busy year for the godking

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    “My faith in humanity is restored,” said Musk, who also called diver Vernon Unsworth a “child rapist” with no corroborating evidence in an email to a Buzzfeed reporter, upon leaving the courthouse.

    Musk will take care of himself at some point, unless one of his cars does.

  • avatar
    BeerMe45

    Your new “Read all Comments” button will stop me from idly scrolling down. Now I have to make a choice. I’m trying to be entertained, and you are making me work. So far, I’ve clicked the button 50% of the time. So if you are going for more metrics on comments you can take heart in knowing people USED to read the comments more before the button appeared.

    FYI the End of Comments link is now broken. Clicking it before all the comments are loaded makes the browser reset to top of page.

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