U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio has sanctioned Paul Ceglia, a man that claims he owns half Facebook, and ordered him to pay $5,000 to the court. The judge also ordered Ceglia to pay for part of Facebook's attorney fees and expenses, an amount which will likely be much higher.
Foschio said Ceglia had obstructed one of the judge's orders, from August 2011. "The circumstances under which [Ceglia] attempted to avoid complying establishes a plain lack of respect for the court's order which cannot be countenanced," Foschio said in his ruling, according to Buffalo News. "For whatever reasons, [Ceglia], fully advised by his attorneys not to do so, chose to knowingly ignore the unambiguous orders of the court." The judge also described Ceglia's explanations for why he failed to follow the order as "feeble."
Two months ago, Ceglia was given 30 days to return to the US because he had not complied with the order to provide details as to what happened to missing evidence. He was living in Galway, Ireland while his lawyers continued defending him. Ceglia was ordered to hand over all electronic devices and e-mail information related to the case, but he said he could not find some of the storage devices that were requested.
Last month, Facebook said it had secured proof that Ceglia is lying and would try to file a motion to have his lawsuit thrown out of court early this year. Ceglia claims he signed a work-for-hire contract eight years ago, as did Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 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. Experts determined that the ink on the document is less than two years old, according to Facebook attorney Orin Snyder.
Four 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.
Five 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.
Six 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 insists Ceglia is a known con artist. Since he first filed suit, Ceglia has been dropped by at least three law firms. When Ceglia called ZDNet from Ireland, he maintained he has been unfairly painted as a con artist.
- Facebook: Paul Ceglia contract was forged in 2009
- Judge: Paul Ceglia must turn over more devices to Facebook
- Facebook: Paul Ceglia sent original contract to law firm in 2004
- Exclusive: Paul Ceglia says Facebook is doing the forgery
- Facebook: Ceglia's contract doesn't even mention Facebook
- Facebook: we have proof Ceglia's contract is a forgery