Tesla has filed a case against a prominent salesman and critic of the company, an alleged beating an employee with his car, according to paperwork filed Friday night with Alameda County Superior Court. The company's decision to drop the case comes two weeks after the judge asked Tesla to convert evidence to back up his claim.
Tesla says it has video and audio evidence that would only do so. But in a letter to the court on Friday night, a copy of which Tesla gave The Verge the company's lawyers disagreed with the judge's order to submit the evidence.
Tesla's legal team argued that the production of the evidence would reveal information about employees involved in the case "never intended for public consumption." The company's lawyers also claim that employees have been exposed to "unwanted publicity and online harassment" by original complaint.
The company refused to comment further and instead referred The Verge to the Friday list.
In April, Tesla asked the court for (and was awarded) a temporary arrest warrant against a prominent critic previously known only to Twitter handles @kabooshka. By requesting the restraining order, Tesla revealed to the court that the man who ran that account was a California resident named Randeep Hothi.
Earlier that month, Hothi tweeted pictures he took by a company owned model 3 that Tesla seemed to be filming for his subsequent "Autonomy investor day." Hothi claimed that he saw the driver pause local speed limits and implied that Tesla might misrepresent the footage during the event.
Tesla told the court that Hothi "stalked, harassed and threatened" the employees in this model 3. The company claimed that he "pursued these employees on the public highway for about 35 minutes, which otherwise drove in front, next door, and behind them and swinging dangerously near the vehicle. "
Hothi also violated Teslas Fremont, California plant a number of times before the April introduction, the company claimed in its original filing. (Most docking station branches can be seen here.) In August 2018, Tesla said it found an Arlo security camera attached to a tool bar outside the factory, and an Arlo customer service representative showed that the camera belonged to Hothi. In January 2019, Tesla said it found another security camera hidden in a supply box at one of the factory's parking lots, which the company's own security cameras eventually took off Hothi.
In February 2019, Tesla found Hothi in his car at one of the factory's parking lots. Two security officers approached him, with one to take photos, and told him to leave. Tesla said Hothi did not roll down the window, and instead he drove the car quickly and ruthlessly out of the parking lot. The company also said Hothi hit one of the employees with his car.
Hothi is one of many people who are short Tesla shares, which means that he has basically focused on the company's share price going down on a certain date. He has posted photos and videos of Tesla's employee parking spaces previously as a way of estimating whether the company operates at full production.
Hothi and other short-sellers have also photographed parking spaces where Tesla stashes inventory, which they see as an indicator of demand (or lack thereof) for the company's cars.
Tesla's CEO Elon Musk has spent many years scaring the people who briefly Tesla's warehouse, often promising to "burn" their positions by announcing good news. But the society seems to grow, the more Musk antagonizes, and it was especially after last year's "funding secured" debacle, which some of the more prominent shorts have said was the reason they started following Tesla closely.
They organize by using Twitter "cashtag" $ TSLAQ, and investigate for a site of the same name. The community quickly rallied around Hothi when the restriction order hit, and a former pseudonym poster even started a GoFundMe for Hothi who has now obscured $ 100,000. (That poster was @MontanaSkeptic, aka Lawrence Fossi, whose identity was revealed after Musk called his boss to complain.)
In response to Tesla's allegations, Hothi lawyers wrote in a May case that he is "a state's journalist whose research and data have revealed discrepancies in claims Tesla and CEO have made about the company's manufacturing business, its technological capabilities, financial health and employee and customer care. "They claimed Hothi's research" informed public discussion of technology in Silicon Valley and won for him a broad public follow-up. "
Hothi's lawyers told Tesla" painted a lurid picture "by the client, claiming that the company" has a story of using the justice system to silence its critics. "They say the example of Martin Tripp, a former Tesla employee-weak whistleblower who was sued by Tesla for allegedly hacking company systems and stealing trade secrets. (Tripp has since declined, allegedly told.) They also pointed out the harassment that Hothi experienced as a result of the restriction order, including being called a terrorist. Musk sent e-mail to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess about Hothi in 2018 after finding out that his brother is working for the German car manufacturer.
. Hothi's lawyers also claimed that Tesla Security Officers provided conflicting accounts for the February incident and that none of his actions during the April 3 meeting of Model 3 qualified as stalking or violence.
In May, Hothi's legal team asked Tesla to provide all its evidence for the court. On July 1, the court made that request in part, and ordered Tesla to submit "limited and focused" photographic, audio or video factors related specifically to the events of February and April.
Tesla attempted to combat this by claiming that it was "confidential business information" in the footage. Hothi's legal team responded by offering to let Tesla exclude sensitive information. But last Friday, Tesla's legal team told the court that it would not produce that evidence because the company completely dropped the case. Submitting the evidence to the court would have risked the security and privacy of the employees involved in the case, the lawyers said.
Tesla also said it believes it has given Hothi "clear notice not to enter the property and that Tesla will take appropriate action to protect its employees" and that it will "reinforce its efforts to protect his employees through other means. "
Gill Sperlein, Hothi's lawyer, said in an email to The Verge that" Tesla did not make this lawsuit to protect their employees, but rather to discredit Mr. Hothi. "Sperlein also said that" [w] what was on the audio tapes they refused to produce would have shown the first point. " Sperlein told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend that he sent a letter to Tesla, and informed the company that Hothi is planning to file a "malicious defendant" and requires Tesla to retain all the evidence in the case against him.
Correction: Musk called the Lawrence Fossi boss, but Fossi was not fired. The post has been updated.