Elon Musk is a “thin-skinned billionaire” who “vindictively ignores truth” according to court documents filed against him by the Thai cave rescuer he called a “pedo”.
Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue a Thai football team and their coach from a cave in July last year, is suing the Tesla founder, who suggested he was a “child rapist” and accused him of having a 12-year-old bride.
Court documents released online say Mr Unsworth will have to spend his life “with the asterisk of paedophilia attached to his name” because of the accusations levelled against him online by Musk, who called him “pedo guy” in a tweet.
Mr Unsworth claims the billionaire only made the accusations because he was insulted when the cave diver said Musk’s child submarine would not work and was a PR stunt.
The document adds: “Like the bully that he is, Musk chose to lash out publicly at the criticism only by falsely attacking Unsworth, a relatively unknown individual, and publicly challenging him to sue for libel.
“Unsworth accepted Musk’s challenge in order to redress the false attacks on his reputation and in doing so, has developed a factual record that demands that his case against Musk be resolved by a jury.”
Mr Unsworth is seeking $75,000 (£61,000) in compensation as well as an unspecified amount in punitive damages, according to Buzzfeed.
The bizarre battle between the pair has been bubbling on for several months, with Musk calling himself a “f****** idiot” after sending a Buzzfeed reporter “off the record” comments that suggested Mr Unsworth should be investigated over his choice of holiday destination in Thailand, which Musk said “had a reputation for child prostitution”.
Musk has previously admitted under oath that his accusations were false, but said that he was relying on an investigation by James Howard-Higgins, who he now describes as a “con man”.
Mr Howard-Higgins has said he never made an allegation that Mr Unsworth was a paedophile and said he did not know how anyone could come to that conclusion.
In the documents, Mr Unsworth, 64, says he met his long-term girlfriend Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, known as Tik, in a coffee shop in London in 2011, when she was 32.
He says Musk’s attempts to get the private investigator to pass on information about his “nefarious behaviour” were unsuccessful, because “no such behaviour exists”.
Despite receiving reports that Mr Unsworth had met his partner when she was 18 or 19 years old and married her some years later, Musk told a news reporter that the cave rescuer was a child rapist who married a 12-year-old.
Musk later said of the email to the reporter: “I’m a f****** idiot”, and also said he didn’t expect the reporter to publish his email, calling it “one of the dumbest things I have ever done”.
In a statement, Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro said: “This case is nothing but a money-grab in which Unsworth has pursued profit and self-promotion at every turn.”
In May, a federal judge in Los Angeles rejected the billionaire’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Mr Unsworth and set a trial date of 22 October.
Mr Unsworth was part of the team of international divers who successfully rescued all 12 youngsters and their football coach when they became trapped for two weeks by rising waters in a Thai cave complex.
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