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Tesla’s Elon Musk wins defamation trial over ‘pedo guy’ tweet

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PHOTO: Christian Monterrosa/EPA

“My client went toe to toe with a billionaire bully.”

Tesla’s mercurial Elon Musk has emerged victorious after a defamation trial as a federal court jury swiftly rejected the US$190 million claim brought against him by a British cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth, who Musk branded a “pedo guy” on Twitter. The incident happened during the attempts to rescue the 13 young football players from the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai in July 2018.

The unanimous verdict by a jury of five women and three men was returned after roughly 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of Musk’s trial. The case has been closely watched by legal experts because it is believed to be the first major defamation lawsuit by a private individual to go to trial over statements made on the Twitter platform.

Musk shook hands with his lawyer after the four-day trial in LA. He didn’t address Mr. Unsworth, whose team had told the court earlier on Friday the Tesla CEO should pay at least US$190 million in damages for his tweets about the diver.

Meanwhile, 64 year old Vernon Unsworth spoke outside the courthouse saying that he was resigned to his defeat.

“I accept the jury’s verdict, take it on the chin and get on with my life.”

L. Lin Wood, a high-profile trial lawyer, leading the legal team for the plaintiff Vernon Unsworth, says the jury’s decision signals a higher legal threshold for challenging libelous material on social media.

“The challenge that was thrown down by Elon Musk was that if you don’t sue it’s true. We sued because it’s false.”

“This verdict puts everyone’s reputation at risk.”

The outcome was a triumph for Musk, whose fickle behaviour in a number of instances last year came under close scrutiny from federal regulators and shareholders of Tesla, his Silicon Valley-based electric car manufacturer.

48 year old Musk, who had testified during the first two days of the trial in his own defence and returned to court on Friday to hear closing arguments, exited the courtroom after the verdict.”

“My faith in humanity is restored.”

Unsworth’s lawyer says he nevertheless saw the lawsuit as meaningful in helping erase the stain he said his client’s reputation suffered.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World | The Guardian

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