Ceglia loses main lawyer in Facebook lawsuit, for the third time

Summary:Paul Ceglia has lost his main lawyer in his legal battle against Facebook, for the third time. Jeffrey Lake said his client told him not to comply with a court order. Some time after that, Lake quit.

Paul Ceglia, a man that claims he owns half of Facebook, is replacing his main lawyer Jeffrey Lake, according to an October 7 court filing. This is the third legal team to resign from Ceglia's case.

In August, US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio previously told Ceglia to hand over all his e-mail accounts and passwords, but Lake said "Mr. Ceglia instructed me not to comply with this provision." Although Lake did not give this as his official reason for resigning, it likely played a part.

Lake has since filed to request a delay in the proceedings so that a new legal team will be able to familiarize itself with the details of the case. Paul Argentieri, another one of Ceglia's lawyers, will remain on the legal team.

"Paul Ceglia is currently in discussions with several attorneys concerning substitution of new counsel in this case," Lake said in an affidavit filed with the court, according to Bloomberg. "It is my understanding that these attorneys are diligently coming up to speed with the facts and proceedings in an effort to effectively represent Paul Ceglia in future proceedings."

Ceglia was likely wary of handing over all of his e-mail credentials because of what happened last month. The man claimed that Facebook violated his privacy by exposing passwords to his Web-based e-mail accounts in a court document filed on September 1 in federal court in Buffalo, New York.

The papers were removed from the public file the next day, meaning the login credentials were visible to the public for 12 hours. Court documents showed, however, that Ceglia gave the passwords to Facebook in his own declaration, which he himself did not designate as confidential. Facebook countered by saying that Ceglia and his lawyers are to blame, since the document was not properly labeled.

Two months ago, Facebook charged that Ceglia has been withholding electronic devices from the court. The company asked Foschio to force Ceglia to turn computers, files, and e-mails.

Three months ago, Facebook said it found "smoking-gun evidence that the purported contract at the heart of this case is a fabrication." When Facebook's lawyers asked for a resubmittal of a document to the court due to improper redaction, it turned out the blacked out text referred to an "authentic contract" and "storage devices" that Facebook says Ceglia is intentionally hiding from the company, in violation of a court order.

Facebook said it found the original "authentic contract" between Mark Zuckerberg and Paul Ceglia. Facebook then produced said contract, noting it doesn't even mention Facebook at all. Not only did the social networking giant reportedly find this allegedly genuine contract on Ceglia's computer but on the e-mail servers of a Chicago-based law firm, Sidley Austin as well. Facebook alleges that Ceglia e-mailed the original contract to Sidely Austin back in 2004.

Originally, Ceglia's lawyers said the "authentic contract" is shielded from use in the lawsuit because it is designated as "confidential" under the rules of an agreement between the two parties. As a result, Facebook asked Foschio to overrule that designation; he agreed and ordered Ceglia to hand over documents Facebook says proves he forged the 2003 contract.

As for the "storage devices," Facebook said that forensic data shows evidence of six USB devices, which it argues were likely used to modify the authentic contract. The company's lawyers say at least one of those devices includes a folder called "Facebook Files" and an image called "Zuckerberg Contract page1.tif." Facebook believes that image is the page of the contract that was forged to include mention of an investment in the social network.

In an exclusive interview with ZDNet, Ceglia told me the original "authentic contract" Facebook says it found is really just a Photoshopped image the company planted on his computer. He says he and his lawyers reportedly knew about it for some time and willingly handed it over to Facebook. He told ZDNet that his team will prove the image in question "has no authenticating properties whatsoever."

Ceglia speculates it could have been Zuckerberg himself, or the US law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe that may have done the alleged dirty work. Ceglia called Zuckerberg "an admitted forger and an admitted hacker" and explained that Zuckerberg, or someone representing him, carelessly wrote his home address on the allegedly forged document that he didn't know about or move to until more than a year after the document was supposedly written.

Last but certainly not least, Ceglia says he has conclusive proof that Zuckerberg is lying. He said that anyone with some legal expertise or technical expertise willing to help "nail him down for good" is welcome to join at PaulsCase.com, which requires registration. Via the PaulsCase wiki, Ceglia is trying to open source his lawsuit. His current lawyer is on an interim basis and Ceglia is looking for a more "collaborative" law firm to work with him.

Facebook acknowledges that Ceglia hired Zuckerberg to work for his StreetFax company in April 2003 while Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. Ceglia first legally attacked Facebook in July 2010, saying the contract also included $1,000 initial funding for Facebook, and that he's entitled to more than half of the social networking giant. That last part Facebook is obviously disputing.

Facebook insists Ceglia is a known con artist. Since he first filed suit, Ceglia has been dropped by at least three law firms. He is now living in Galway, Ireland, but the lawsuit is continuing. Ceglia, who called ZDNet from Ireland, maintains that he has been unfairly painted as a con artist.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Legal

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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