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Elon Musk will go to trial over “pedo guy” tweets, judge rules

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The defamation suit moves forward

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge | Photo by Joshua Lott / Getty Images

Elon Musk’s request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by a caver was denied by a Los Angeles judge today, Bloomberg reported. The defamation suit centers on tweets where Musk called the caver, Vernon Unsworth, a “pedo guy.” Musk also sent emails to BuzzFeed journalist Ryan Mac, which are now part of the case.

A jury will decide whether those tweets and emails count as recklessly negligent, US District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled.

The debacle began during a Thai rescue operation, when a group of boys were trapped in a cave. Musk, along with some of his engineers, built a mini submarine that they sent to Thailand. Unsworth dismissed the mini sub in a CNN interview as a “PR stunt,” and said Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” In response, Musk tweeted several things, culminating in a now-deleted, “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” Musk apologized. Then, a month later, he called Unsworth a “child rapist” in an email to Mac.

“I fucking hope he sues me,” Musk wrote in an email to Mac. Unsworth did.

Apparently after his initial tweets, Musk hired a private investigator to dig into Unsworth’s past, according to court documents filed earlier this month. That private investigator, however, was a convicted felon. In an email to Mac, Musk said Unsworth had married a 12-year-old in Thailand. According to Unsworth, that isn’t even what the private investigator told Musk. Unsworth says he met his wife in London — and she was 32 at the time.