Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Dec. 6 won a defamation lawsuit brought by a legal team headed by a Buckhead attorney on behalf of a cave expert whom Musk had insulted on Twitter as a “pedo guy.”

Musk’s insult about Vernon Unsworth came amid their dispute related to the dramatic rescue of a dozen boys from a flooded cave in Thailand in 2018. Unsworth provided crucial knowledge about the cave system to divers who rescued the children, while Musk offered the use of a miniature submarine.

Attorney L. Lin Wood. (Special)

Unsworth sued Musk for defamation. He was represented by a legal team headed by L. Lin Wood, a Buckhead resident and libel attorney whose previous clients have included Richard Jewell, who was falsely accused of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, and the family members of JonBenét Ramsey, the child victim of a notorious unsolved murder.

Musk prevailed in a federal court trial in Los Angeles, according to media reports, with a jury accepting his argument that “pedo guy” was a casual insult, not a factual claim.

Wood did not respond to a request for comment, but in posts on Twitter suggested that the publicity about the case had cleared Unsworth’s name.

“… The verdict in Unsworth v. Musk spoke the truth,” Wood wrote in a Dec. 9 tweet. “While written as possible libel, Elon Musk only intended an insult. Thus, no factual statements were intended. Truth removes any question marks as to Vern’s reputation. Truth wins. So do both parties.”

Wood said in an interview last year that Unsworth reminded him of Jewell, who also saved lives in a moment of crisis in his role as a security guard warning people away from the bomb at the Olympics.

“Vern is as close to Richard Jewell as I’ve seen in my practice,” Wood said at the time. “But for Vernon, I’m not sure that rescue could have happened.”

Wood recently weighed in via Twitter on the controversy over Clint Eastwood’s new movie about Richard Jewell and its portrayal of the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs, who is shown trading sex for the tip about the FBI investigating Jewell. Wood, who once unsuccessfully sued Scruggs and the AJC for defamation on Jewell’s behalf, said there was no evidence that Scruggs traded sex and blasted the portrayal as “false & damning.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.