An aide to Elon Musk hired a private investigator to research Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who sued the Tesla CEO after he called him a "pedo guy" in a July 2018 tweet.
The tweet came after Unsworth said the miniature submarine Musk sent to Thailand to help with the rescue of a youth soccer team and its coach would have been ineffective and was merely a publicity stunt. Musk later apologized to Unsworth and deleted the tweet.
Unsworth sued Musk alleging defamation in September 2018.
In a court filing from Monday, Musk said one of his aides hired James Howard, the president of the investigation firm Jupiter Military & Tactical Systems, after Howard reached out to the Tesla CEO in July 2018 offering his services in case Musk wanted to investigate Unsworth.
Musk alleged that Jared Birchall, the president of Musk's family office, told him Howard found that Unsworth had entered into a relationship with a 12-year-old girl, and that other people who worked on the Thai cave rescue thought Unsworth was "creepy."
L. Lin Wood, an attorney representing Unsworth, told Business Insider that Howard's alleged findings are false. Wood added that the decision by Musk's aide to hire Howard suggests that when Musk called Unsworth a "pedo guy" on Twitter, he meant the descriptor as a statement of fact, rather than a personal opinion.
Musk said in the filing that the term "pedo guy" meant "creepy old man" rather than "pedophile" in South Africa, where Musk grew up.
"I did not intend to accuse Mr. Unsworth of engaging in acts of pedophilia. In response to his insults in the CNN interview, I meant to insult him back by expressing my opinion that he seemed like a creepy old man," Musk said in the filing.
Musk did not provide further explanation for a later tweet in which he said he would bet a dollar that Unsworth was a "pedo."
"Oh, sorry, he's calling the guy who found the children a pedo. Real classy," a Twitter user said to Musk last July.
"Bet ya a signed dollar it's true," Musk replied.
Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Musk, declined Business Insider's request for comment.
James Howard, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company did not immediately respond to Business Insider's requests for comment.
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