World News

Elon Musk's defense argues caver not harmed by 'pedo guy' tweet

Caver sues Musk for defamation over tweet

LOS ANGELES - There is a photo in which Vernon Unsworth is standing next to Theresa May in front of 10 Downing Street, where the former British prime minister gave a hero's welcome to the divers who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.

That probably wouldn't have happened if May thought Unsworth was a pedophile — at least that's what Elon Musk's attorney argued on Thursday in the third day of the "pedo guy" defamation trial.

"Usually elected officials don't want to stand next to someone who is a pedophile," said William Price, one of Musk's lawyers.

The photo with May was among several shown on Thursday as evidence to undermine Unsworth's claim that he has been harmed by Musk's "pedo guy" tweet sent July 15, 2018. British caver Unsworth was part of the rescue team last summer when their mission to save the boys and their coach gained international attention. Unsworth sued Musk in September 2018 for defamation, seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

Unsworth's lawyers argued that not everything about a person can be told through one picture.

"Does that picture depict all the things going on in your mind when it was taken?" Unsworth's attorney L. Lin Wood asked in reference to the photo with May.

"Absolutely not," Unsworth said.

Unsworth refused to apologize to Musk for the comments he made in a CNN interview that sparked Musk's tweet. In the interview, Unsworth called Musk's effort to make a submarine to assist with the rescue a "PR stunt."

"My insult was to the tube and not to Elon Musk personally," Unsworth said. "My opinion is it was a PR stunt."

On Wednesday, Unsworth testified that he felt "humiliated, ashamed, dirty" after Musk tweeted "pedo guy" in reference to him.

The defense alleged Unsworth's feelings were not actually hurt since he did not text about it with his friends.

"You would expect if you were having good days or bad days there would be those types of conversations," Price said.

"Not necessarily," Unsworth said. "I would not necessarily talk about these situations in a text message with anybody."

Musk's attorney named several accolades Unsworth has received following the Thai cave rescue. In October 2018, he received an award from the British Chamber of Commerce of Thailand. He was made a member of the British Empire (MBE) by Prince William in a June 2019 ceremony. He was also compensated financially for his participation in two documentaries about the rescue efforts. He has assisted in three books about the rescue, one of which is a children's book.

When Musk's attorney asked if anyone had called Unsworth a pedophile, the plaintiff said, "Not to my face, but I don't know what people are thinking."

The defense presented text messages and emails between Unsworth and his friend Thanet Natisri, which showed Unsworth expressing the desire to be compensated for this help. Unsworth told Thanet he regretted participating in some projects for free.

"I am the KEY. I am the big piece in the jigsaw," Unsworth wrote in one message. "They need to make a BIG offer on the table."

Unsworth is not seeking damages for lost wages, which the defense argued is because Unsworth has not faced lost wages, and in fact, he now has more income-earning opportunities. Unsworth said on Thursday this was true at the time of the deposition in August, but when asked again on the witness stand whether he has more "income earnings opportunities" since the rescue, he said "no."

Unsworth testified on Wednesday that he was concerned about the impact Musk's tweet had on his wife and daughter. On Thursday, the defense tried to show that Unsworth does not have a close relationship with his family. Unsworth testified he has only seen his wife, who he is still married to, once over the last six years and that their marriage was essentially over in 2006 or 2007. Unsworth also has not spoken to his daughter in years.

Unsworth testified on Thursday that he has not seen a doctor or taken medication since Musk's "pedo guy" tweet.

"As I've said, I've dealt with this myself. I bottled it up. I dealt with it on my own terms," Unsworth said.

But according to a video deposition given by the plaintiff's estranged wife Vanessa Unsworth, the caver did see a doctor during a stressful period in his life when he was working two jobs and having trouble sleeping — a detail that the defense was quick to point out to show that Unsworth was not injured or stressed about Musk's tweet.

Unsworth's lawyers called on Bernard "Jim" Jansen, a professor and researcher in web analytics, to testify on the reach of Musk's "pedo guy" tweet. Jansen said he identified 490 articles from 361 sites in 33 countries that referenced the tweet, not including articles about the litigation and only ones in English.

The evidence portion of the case closed on Thursday. The jury will hear final arguments and receive instructions on Friday.


Editor Notes

This Just In