Billionaire Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskPrince William urges focus on saving planet instead of space travel Democrats' electric vehicle push sparks intense lobbying fight Blue Origin is taking William Shatner to space — but can it distract from internal criticism? MORE on Tuesday began his trial for alleged defamation after calling a British diver involved in the Thailand cave rescue last year “pedo guy" on Twitter.
Musk attended a federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles midday after jury selection, Reuters reported. The Tesla CEO will face trial to determine if he owes British diver Vernon Unsworth punitive damages for designating him a pedophile, which the diver has denied.
The trial in front of U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson is expected to last about five days, in which Musk is expected to testify in his defense, according to Reuters. The CEO has apologized, saying “pedo guy” is a common insult in his native South Africa.
Three jurors were dismissed because one was interviewing for a job at Tesla and another two said they follow Musk’s tweets and could not remain objective, according to the newswire.
Unsworth sued Musk in September 2018, two months after he assisted in the rescue of 12 boys and a soccer coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand. Their altercation began when Musk volunteered to provide a mini-submarine from his Space X rocket company to help rescue the boys.
The diver appeared on CNN on July 13, 2018, a few days after the rescue, called the offer a “PR stunt” and said Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Musk responded to those comments in a few tweets, including one where he called Unsworth a “pedo guy.”
The judge has declared Unsworth not to be a public figure, which means the prosecution does not need to prove Musk acted in “actual malice,” Reuters reported. Instead, they just need to demonstrate that he was negligent, shared false information and that people thought the tweets meant Unsworth was a pedophile.
Musk’s defense has maintained that the tweets were opinion and that Unsworth did not know a person who mistook him as a pedophile from the tweets, according to Reuters.