Judge in Facebook lawsuit orders Ceglia to return from Ireland

Summary:The court has ordered Paul Ceglia to return from Ireland so that he can provide evidence as part of his legal battle against Facebook.

Facebook saw another win in court yesterday after a three-hour hearing. Paul Ceglia, a man that claims he owns half of Facebook, has been ordered to return from Ireland to look for USB devices considered to be evidence in the case. Ceglia, who has been living in Galway, Ireland while the case continues, has 30 days to comply with the court's order.

US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio said Ceglia has failed to comply in providing details as to what happened to the missing evidence and so he must come home to the US to do so. Although he does not have to appear in court, Ceglia does have to look for the missing evidence and submit a declaration about what he's done to find it. If he cannot find the missing evidence he must explain in detail and under oath what happened to it.

Two months ago, Ceglia claimed 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.

Three 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.

Four 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. He has also claimed Zuckerberg deleted e-mails related to the case.

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.

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. Ceglia, who called ZDNet from Ireland, maintains that he has been unfairly painted as a con artist.

See also:

Topics: Legal, Social Enterprise

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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