It's getting down to crunch time in the lawsuit filed by a New York man who claims to have an eight-year-old contract proving he owns one-half of Facebook.
Legal arguments are set to begin Wednesday in a New York district court, but Facebook attorneys said in court filings that evidence from the plaintiff's personal computer prove that his ownership claims are fraudulent.
From Claims Journal:
Facebook attorney Orin Snyder said Paul Ceglia hasn’t complied with a judge’s order to hand over certain electronic documents and that he’s improperly classified others as confidential.“He does not want the public to know what was discovered on his computers because it includes smoking-gun documents that conclusively establish that he fabricated the purported contract and that this entire lawsuit is a fraud and a lie,” Snyder wrote.
We'll have to wait to find out what these "smoking-gun documents" are, since such details are redacted, according to Claims Journal. Did Ceglia send emails to people bragging about how he planned to bilk Facebook? Did he download instructions on How to File a Bogus Lawsuit Against a Multibillion-Dollar Social Networking Company and Thus Become One of the World's Richest People? Hard to tell.
Meanwhile, Ceglia's newest attorneys (more on that later) say Facebook is withholding its own evidence, including 175 emails from company founder Mark Zuckerberg's former Harvard University account back in 2003-04, as well as a sample of Zuck's handwriting from his Harvard days.
Ceglia's lawsuit, filed in June 2010, hinges on a contract he claims Zuckerberg signed in April 2003 that gave Ceglia half-ownership of Facebook for $1,000, with a clause increasing his stake in the company by 1 percent for each day after Jan. 1, 2004, the date the site was supposed to launch.
The pair had met through a craigslist ad Ceglia placed looking for a developer to help with another project. Ceglia claims Zuckerberg told him about his own project -- Facebook -- and asked for financial backing.
Back in April I posted excerpts from emails Ceglia claims he and Zuckerberg exchanged. They make for entertaining reading. But the crux of this case is the alleged contract. If the court rules that it's legitimate, the world has a new billionaire (once the appeals are exhausted). If it dismisses the suit, that should be the end of it.
There also could be a settlement, but that would require enough evidence in Ceglia's favor to worry Facebook attorneys. Their dismissive assertions to date indicate they plan to fight to the end, but you never know if that's just legal bluster.
One thing I do know: When a plaintiff runs through four sets of lawyers in four months, that's arguably an indication that the case has big problems. And that's what Ceglia has done.