Elon Musk was found not guilty of defaming a British rescue diver he had called a “pedo guy” on Twitter, a jury in Los Angeles ruled on Friday afternoon.
“My faith in humanity is restored,” Musk told courthouse reporters shortly afterwards.
Musk, who runs both Space X and Tesla Inc., was sued in Sept. 2018 by Vernon Unsworth, who played an instrumental role in saving 13 members of a Thai soccer club trapped in an underwater cave earlier in the year.
During the ordeal, Musk offered a backup plan to rescue the team involving a mini-submarine — a plan that ultimately went unused in the successful rescue mission.
Unsworth, during an interview with CNN, dismissed Musk’s backup idea for how to save the soccer team as a “PR stunt,” adding Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Musk then lashed out at Unsworth on Twitter, implying he was a pedophile by calling him “pedo guy.” He apologized for the comment, saying it was “spoken in anger,” before later calling Unsworth a “child rapist” in an email to BuzzFeed News. Unsworth sued him soon afterwards, saying in his initial court filing Musk had tweeted “false and heinous accusations” against him.
Unsworth and his attorney, L. Lin Wood, were seeking damages of $190 million from Musk, breaking down as $5 million for actual damages, $35 million for assumed damages, and $150 million for punitive damages.
Musk “dropped a nuclear bomb on Vernon Unsworth” when he sent his tweet, Wood said during his closing argument, according to CNBC. Wood argued Musk, who he dubbed a “billionaire bully,” had wrecked Unsworth’s life with his tweet.
Alex Spiro, Musk’s lead attorney, argued “pedo guy” was not meant as a factual statement, but simply as a harsh barb. Musk’s team argued “pedo guy” was another way of calling Unsworth a “creepy old guy,” per CNBC.
His attorney’s added Unsworth had failed to prove Musk’s comments had caused actual damages. Instead, he was merely looking for a cash grab. Spiro characterized Unsworth’s argument to the jury as: “I’ve been horribly damaged. Pay me lots of money.”
The jurors ended up siding with Musk and his attorneys.