By Reed Richardson / May 12, 2019

Elon Musk to Face Trial for Calling British Rescue Diver “Pedo Guy”

Billionaire claims his Twitter insults were protected by the First Amendment

File photo, Elon Musk, 2018. (Photo credit: Flickr, Daniel Oberhaus)
File photo, Elon Musk, 2018. (Photo credit: Flickr, Daniel Oberhaus)

Billionaire Elon Musk must now face trial in federal court for a lawsuit brought against him by a British rescue diver that Musk called a pedophile on Twitter last year. On Friday, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled the case could move forward set a court date of October 22.

Vern Unsworth, a professional diver who was instrumental in the international effort to rescue 12 boys trapped in Thailand’s Tham Luang caves in July 2018, had called Musk’s offer to build a mini-submarine to extract the children a “publicity stunt” on CNN. In response, an angry Musk posted a tweet calling Unsworth a “pedo guy.” The billionaire subsequently deleted that tweet and others targeting Unsworth and publicly apologized.

Nevertheless, Unsworth brought a lawsuit against Musk last September, seeking $75,000 plus punitive damages. According to the court filings by Unsworth’s lawyers, Musk made “unlawful, unsupportable and reprehensible accusations.” In addition, Unsworth wants a court order that will bar the billionaire from making any other insulting or disparaging remarks about him.

Though Musk has apologized for his comments, his lawyers have sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on First Amendment grounds, saying his incendiary comments were “imaginative” and “over-the-top” but still protected by his freedom of speech.

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