Tesla’s alleged ‘saboteur’ strikes back with defamation suit

Martin Tripp, the former Tesla employee who was fired and then sued by the electric vehicle automaker, has filed a lawsuit, alleging statements made by CEO Elon Musk in recent weeks (many in tweet form) defamed him.

Tripp is asking for $1 million in damages from the electric automaker. Tripp, who has hired an Arizona-based law firm, has a GoFundMe page aiming to raise $500,000 to pay for his legal bill. Tripp has raised more than $15,000, according to the GoFundMe page.

The filing is the latest blow in a bout between Tesla, Musk and Tripp that kicked off about six weeks ago. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court in Nevada, is Tesla Inc. v. Tripp, 3:18-cv-00296.

Here’s a timeline, so saddle up and follow along.

June 20: Tesla files a lawsuit against 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.

24 hours later: A combative email exchange between Musk and Tripp unfolds.

Tesla also notifies police based on a tip to its customer service line that Tripp had allegedly told a friend he was going to attack the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, NevTripp has denied this and the Storey County Sheriff’s department, which investigated, told TechCrunch they found no credible threat.

July 6: Tripp, who has retained Meissner Associates, a whistleblower, securities, investment fraud and employment law firm, files a formal whistleblower tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the company has misled investors and put its customers at risk.

Tripp’s whistleblower tip alleges that Tesla knowingly manufactured batteries with punctured holes, possibly impacting hundreds of cars on the road; misled the investing public as to the number of Model 3s actually being produced each week by as much as 44 percent; and lowered vehicle specifications and systemically used scrap and waste material in vehicles, all so as to meet production quotas.

July 31: Tripp’s counterclaim is filed.