Attorneys for tech tycoon Elon Musk are seeking to have a Los Angeles judge dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by a British diver who helped rescue a dozen boys from a flooded cave in Thailand, according to court papers obtained Thursday.
Vernon Unsworth sued Musk in September, alleging that the eccentric billionaire had used Twitter to publish “false and heinous accusations of criminality against (Unsworth) to the public,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
In a motion to dismiss filed Wednesday, Musk’s attorneys claim their client’s series of “barbs” — in which Unsworth was called a “pedo guy” and a “child rapist” — were “gratuitous” and not intended to be taken seriously.
Musk apologized on Twitter to Unsworth in July as part of a reply to somebody else. At the time, Musk wrote that his accusations against the diver “were spoken in anger,” adding that “his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages and a judge’s order stopping Musk from making further allegations. An April 1 hearing is set in the case.
Musk’s comments were sparked by an interview Unsworth gave to CNN about the rescue in which he criticized Musk’s efforts to help. Musk’s Hawthorne-based rocket company, SpaceX, had built a small submarine which was shipped to Thailand to help with the rescue.
Unsworth said the sub — which was not used by rescuers — was merely a “p.r. stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working” to free the members of the Thai youth soccer team. The diver also told CNN that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
In a series of tweets to his 22.6 million followers, Musk responded by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” and a “child rapist.”
Unsworth’s lawsuit states that Unsworth “is not a pedophile. Mr. Unsworth has never engaged in an act of pedophilia. Mr. Unsworth is not a child rapist.”
A team of divers and rescue workers brought the boys to the surface on July 10.
Last week, Musk’s Boring Company unveiled its 1.14-mile-long test tunnel in Hawthorne, a prototype of an underground transportation system Musk has been touting as a way to avoid the Southland’s “soul-destroying traffic.”
Musk said he planned to build an approximately 3.6-mile Dugout Loop underground tunnel that could run from Dodger Stadium to property owned by The Boring Co. near the Vermont/Sunset, Vermont/Santa Monica or Vermont/Beverly Metro Red Line stations.
Musk’s company recently scrapped plans for a tunnel beneath Sepulveda Boulevard in West Los Angeles amid a legal challenge over the project’s environmental review.
Over the summer, Tesla experienced mass layoffs, the loss of several top executives and a slowdown in production. In response to a customer complaint about slow delivery of the electric cars, Musk tweeted that “we’ve gone from production hell to delivery logistics hell,” but the company was “making rapid progress.”
In an interview with the comedian Joe Rogan in September, Musk appeared to smoke marijuana and wield a samurai sword.
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