Potential jurors with strong feelings against billionaires might be excused in Elon Musk’s defamation case, a US District Judge in Los Angeles hinted at a pretrial hearing on December 2. The list of queries to be posed against the prospective jurors will include whether they have strong opinions of people who visit or live in Thailand.
The SpaceX CEO is set to face trial in a defamation suit filed by a British caver Vernon Unsworth, hailed as a hero in the rescue operation in Thailand that saved 12 members of a junior soccer team, for calling the latter a “pedo guy”. In June 2018, the twelve members of the junior soccer team entered the Tham Luang cave along with their coach but got trapped due to monsoon flooding. A massive search operation started after the incident and they were finally located by British divers on an elevated rock, about 4 kilometres from the mouth of the cave.
During the rescue operation, Musk had offered Unsworth a mini-submarine from his SpaceX company but the latter rejected the offer calling it a “PR stunt”. He went on to say that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Musk lambasted the British expatriate in a series of tweets and ended up calling him a “pedo guy”, widely interpreted as a reference to a paedophile. The SpaceX CEO later deleted the tweet and apologised for the comment but disputed its meaning.
In a court declaration, Musk said that the term “pedo guy” was a common insult in South Africa while growing up and was synonymous to ‘creepy old man’. “It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanour.” Though Musk had filed a petition to throw out the case, US District Judge Stephen Wilson rejected it and cleared the way for the trial which begins from December 3.