A Tesla telenovela

Tesla’s lawsuit against a former employee was filed just 24 hours ago and it’s already ripe fodder for Hollywood. As CEO Elon Musk has noted in the past, Tesla is a real drama magnet. Get ready, it’s exhausting.

Tesla filed the lawsuit against former employee Martin Tripp for $1 million, alleging the man, who worked as a process technician at the massive battery factory near Reno, hacked the company’s confidential and trade secret information and transferred that information to third parties, according to court documents. The lawsuit also claims the employee leaked false information to the media.

Within hours, The Washington Post had an interview with Tripp, who said he did not tamper with internal systems and is instead a whistleblower who was compelled to act. Tripp admitted to speaking to the media, but only because he saw “some really scary things” inside the company. Post reporter Drew Harwell later tweeted that Tripp told him Musk emailed him shortly after the lawsuit today to say he was a “horrible person.”

An email exchange obtained by TechCrunch, and confirmed by Tesla, suggests otherwise, and shows Tripp lobbing the first written attack. To be clear, the emails viewed by TechCrunch could have been edited or show an incomplete exchange. We’ll update the story as we learn more.

Here’s the email exchange, which kicks off rather suddenly:

From: Marty Tripp
Date: June 20, 2018 at 8:57:29 AM PDT
To: Elon Musk
Subject: Termination/Lawsuit

Don’t worry, you have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors.

On Jun 20, 2018, at 9:42 AM, Elon Musk wrote:

Threatening me only makes it worse for you

On Jun 20, 2018, at 9:59 AM, Marty Tripp wrote:

I never made a threat.  I simply told you that you have what’s coming.

Thank you for this gift!!!!

On Jun 20, 2018, at 10:00 AM, Elon Musk wrote:

You should ashamed of yourself for framing other people. You’re a horrible human being.

On Jun 20, 2018, at 10:03 AM, Marty Tripp wrote:

I NEVER ‘framed’ anyone else or even insinuated anyone else as being involved in my production of documents of your MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF WASTE, Safety concerns, lying to investors/the WORLD.

Putting cars on the road with safety issues is being a horrible human being!

On Jun 20, 2018, at 5:16 PM, Elon Musk wrote:

Begin forwarded message:
From: Elon Musk
Date: June 20, 2018 at 10:28:06 AM PDT
To: Marty Tripp

Subject: Re: Termination/Lawsuit

There are literally injuries with Model 3. It is by far the safest car in the world for any midsize vehicle. And of course a company with billions of dollars in product is going to have millions of dollars in scrap. This is not news.

However, betraying your word of honor, breaking the deal you had when Tesla gave you a job and framing your colleagues are wrong and some come with legal penalties. So it goes. Be well.

From: Elon Musk
Date: 6/20/18 5:17 PM (GMT-08:00)
To: Todd Maron, Sarah O’Brien
Cc: EMDesk
Subject: Re: Termination/Lawsuit

Meant to say “no injuries”

After Musk and Tripp battled it out via email, the former employee allegedly told a friend he was going to attack the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, NevadaThe friend then called Tesla’s customer service line, according to a source. Tesla notified the police. It’s not clear why this friend turned first to Tesla and not the police. But there you go.

And since TechCrunch has been unable to reach Tripp, it’s worth noting that this is one side — Tesla’s side — of a developing and complex story.

Tesla confirmed receiving a call.

“Yesterday afternoon, we received a phone call from a friend of Mr. Tripp telling us that Mr. Tripp would be coming to the Gigafactory to ‘shoot the place up,’ ” a Tesla spokesman said. “Police have been notified and actions are being taken to enhance security at the Gigafactory.”

TechCrunch reached out to Storey County Sheriff’s department, which confirmed they sent deputies to investigate the threat. The deputies found no credible threat.

“After several hours of investigation deputies were able to determine there was no credible threat,” Sheriff Gerald Antinoro said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Further investigation in the origins of the threat continues.”