A private investigator hired by Elon Musk to look into Vernon Unsworth’s background was offered a bonus of $10,000 if he could come up with evidence of ‘nefarious behavior’ in the British diver’s lifestyle in Thailand, a court heard Wednesday.
After Unsworth filed a defamation suit against Musk over his ‘pedo guy’ tweet, the world famous entrepreneur’s family office manager, Jared Birchall, hired PI James Howard – who claimed to have been in UK Special Forces and to have worked for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – to look into Unsworth’s past.
Birchall – who admitted in court that he did not verify Howard’s credentials before hiring him – said he used a pseudonym, James Brickhouse, in his emails with Howard to provide distance between the investigator and Musk.
Elon Musk arrives in court for the second day of his defamation trial against a British diver who he called a ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter
Howard – who was paid a fee of $52,000 to come up with a profile of Unsworth’s life in Thailand – reported back to Birchall who told him that he should leak information to the British press based on the following bullet points that Brit journalists could investigate further:
Thailand is the world capital of pedophilia.
Unsworth had frequented Thailand since the 1980s, leading to his divorce from his wife in the UK.
He went to Thailand frequently under the ‘guise’ of caving expeditions.
His second wife is 30 years is junior and when he met her she was a minor.
She was not the first teenager he interacted with.
Telling Howard, ‘That should be enough for a story’ Birchall confirmed under cross examination at the Federal Court in downtown Los Angeles, that he told Howard he would get a bonus of $10,000 ‘upon successful confirmation of nefarious behavior on the part of Mr. Unsworth.’
And when Howard couldn’t produce such information, Birchall said he told him, ‘You have given us just about nothing.’
Earlier, Musk told the court that he acted out of retaliation after Unsworth mocked him for trying to help rescue 12 Thai boys from a cave they were trapped in last summer.
‘He insulted me so I insulted him back,’ he said.
Musk made his ‘pedo guy’ comment on Twitter after Unsworth, 63, criticized the tycoon’s offer of the use of a miniature submarine he’d invented to help in the rescue.
And in court Musk – wearing a dark suit and tie – told the jury of three men and five women: ‘I would like to make it clear that I was not calling Mr. Unsworth a pedophile… pedo guy is just a flippant, off-the-cuff insult that just means creepy old man.’
Divers didn’t use Musk’s submarine in saving the boys’ lives and Unsworth told CNN that the outspoken tycoon’s offer was just a ‘publicity stunt’ and Musk should ‘stick his submarine where it hurts.’
Musk took the stand for six hours on Tuesday. He was expected to testify again on Wednesday
British diver Vernon Unsworth arrives in court in L.A. on Wednesday for the second day of their trial
A court sketch shows the billionaire Tesla founder being cross-examined Tuesday by an attorney for British diver Vernon Unsworth, who sued him after Musk called him a ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter
But Musk insisted in court that the leader of the rescue, Rick Stanton, took his design of a cigar-shaped mini submarine – big enough to hold one boy – very seriously and encouraged him to finish building it in case it could be used to help save the youngsters.
So he was upset by Unsworth’s criticism of the sub – which he named the Wild Boar after the boys’ soccer team – and his lawyers showed a video in court of the vessel being tested in a swimming pool.
He denigrated the efforts of my team (who built the sub) in a way that was totally inappropriate.
Musk told U.S. Federal Court in downtown LA. ‘A lot of people worked day and night to be helpful – they left their families to help.
‘He (Unsworth) said it wouldn’t work and he also said we were thrown out of the cave, which was a lie. He was extremely rude and contentious.’
While Musk, 48, conceded that his angry ‘pedo guy’ tweet was ‘regrettable’, he also said he deleted the tweet within hours of posting it and later apologized on Twitter, in a deposition and again during his court testimony Tuesday.
When Unsworth’s lawyer Lin Wood questioned how Unsworth could have seen the tweeted apology when he doesn’t have a Twitter account, Musk said: ‘Most of what I say on Twitter generally gets reported elsewhere.’
Among those on Musk’s witness list are the British diver’s first wife, Vanessa – who Musk and his lawyers claim he abandoned to go to Thailand – and his current wife, the Thai women he was falsely accused of marrying when she was a child.
Unsworth’s lawyers have called the Tesla billionaire ‘thin-skinned’ and a ‘bully’.
He is seeking unspecified damages that are to be determined by a jury.
The judge, Stephen V Wilson, told the jury the case would last approximately one week
On Tuesday, Musk said he did not know that Unsworth was deeply involved in the cave rescue of 12 Thai boys when he insulted him on Twitter.
‘I just thought he was some random creepy guy the media were interviewing,’ Musk said. ‘I thought at the time he was unrelated to the rescue.’
‘It’s just what I said,’ Musk told the court, referring to his tweet. ‘He said he was going to sue me. He hadn’t filed… it was odd.’
TIMELINE OF THE THAI RESCUE AND MUSK AND UNSWORTH’S DISPUTE
June 23 2018: The boys and their soccer coach become trapped in the caves
July 8: Musk tweets that he is using Tesla engineers to build a ‘kid size’ submarine to try to get them out
The Thai soccer team got lost in caves while exploring and became stuck for days. Musk offered to help and sent a team of Tesla engineers to build a submarine to get them out
July 8 – 10: The boys were rescued gradually in a complex mission involving hundreds of people
July 13: Vernon Unsworth gives a CNN interview where he is asked about Musk’s plan. He calls it a ‘PR stunt’ and says: ‘He can stick it where it hurts’ in reference to the submarine
July 15: Musk tweets calling him a ‘pedo guy’
July 17: Musk apologizes
August 15: Musk hires private investigator James Howard after he got in touch with him saying, in an email: ‘Dear Elon, you may wish to dig deep and look into Mr. Unsworth’s past… no smoke without fire!’
They set about launching their ‘investigation’ but go to great lengths to keep Musk separate from it. In emails, Musk’s associate Jared Birchall carried out their dealings and Musk was referred to as ‘the principle’. He and Birchall never discussed it in writing.
August 28: Musk tweets in response to a follower who accused him of lying about Unsworth: ‘You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me yet?
August 30: BuzzFeed reporter emails Musk for a comment. He replies saying, among other things, that Unsworth married a ‘child bride’ and inferring that he is a rapist
September 4: BuzzFeed publishes the story
September 5: Private Investigator emails Birchall, Musk’s associate, saying: ‘At no time have have I reported that the target is a child rapist.’
September 17: Unsworth files a lawsuit against Musk