Mark Zuckerberg (Brian Solis)
With a potential fraud conviction in his future, Paul Ceglia is digging into the past to fight criminal charges that he fabricated a contract and other evidence in his failed suit claiming to own 50 percent of Facebook Inc.
Ceglia, who is facing a November jury trial, is seeking volumes of evidence from Facebook, including many of Mark Zuckerberg’s emails from his undergraduate years. According to a brief filed on Monday by the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office, Ceglia has asked the court to issue subpoenas to both Facebook and Harvard University for electronic and hard copy records.
Ceglia is seeking the contents of Zuckerberg’s email accounts, hard drives and cellphones from 2003 and 2004, when he was launching Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. Ceglia is also seeking academic disciplinary records and bank records for all of Zuckerberg’s accounts during that time.
Prosecutors countered in Monday’s brief that Ceglia isn’t entitled to any of it. “The government believes that Ceglia’s theory … is that Zuckerberg somehow ‘hacked’ into Ceglia’s computer to plant a copy of what the government alleges is the legitimate contract,” the brief asserted. “At best, Ceglia will only be able to present this baseless argument through cross-examination of Zuckerberg.”
Ceglia emerged from obscurity in 2010, claiming a college-age Zuckerberg promised him an ownership stake in Facebook years earlier. Ceglia supported his claim with emails Zuckerberg purportedly sent from his Harvard email account. Facebook’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher accused Ceglia of fabricating the emails and doctoring a contract from an unrelated project he undertook with Zuckerberg.
The U.S. attorney’s office brought criminal fraud charges against Ceglia in November 2012. A U.S. magistrate judge in Buffalo recommended dismissal of Ceglia’s lawsuit a few months later. The case was finally dismissed in March.
The criminal case has been assigned to Southern District Judge Andrew Carter Jr. Ceglia is represented by David Patton, the chief attorney at the Federal Defenders of New York and a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate.
If convicted, Ceglia faces up to 20 years in prison.
Patton asked the judge to issue the subpoenas on Facebook and Harvard back on June 9, according to court filings. He declined to comment this week on why the documents from 2003 and 2004 were relevant but said he would lay out his argument in a brief due Tuesday.
Facebook’s lawyers, Orin Snyder and Alexander Southwell of Gibson Dunn, wrote in a June 27 letter to the court that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act afforded Zuckerberg the right to voice his opposition to Ceglia’s subpoena requests. The Facebook lawyers asked for permission to respond to Ceglia by Monday. As of Wednesday, no such response had been added to the court docket.
Snyder didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
@|Jan Wolfe is a reporter for Law Journal affiliate Litigation Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.