Facebook claims ‘smoking gun’ in NY man’s lawsuit

Posted Aug. 14, 2011, at 7:55 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Attorneys for Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, say they’ve found “smoking gun” evidence on a New York man’s computer proving he made up his claim that a contract he signed with Zuckerberg in 2003 makes him part owner of the social network.

Facebook’s statements, the strongest yet in what’s been a testy case, are contained in court filings in advance of legal arguments scheduled for Wednesday. Each side has accused the other of withholding materials.

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.

Details of the documents are redacted in court filings. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes declined to comment.

Ceglia’s attorneys, meanwhile, complain the Facebook lawyers haven’t given them 175 relevant emails from Zuckerberg’s old Harvard University account or a court-ordered sampling of his handwriting from 2003.

Zuckerberg’s “willing refusal to comply with the obligations imposed on him by the court’s order can only be characterized as an obstructive delay tactic,” attorneys Jeffrey Lake and Paul Argentieri wrote.

Ceglia, of Wellsville, says he and Zuckerberg met and signed a two-page agreement in the lobby of a Boston hotel on April 28, 2003. Zuckerberg, then a Harvard student, had responded to a Craigslist help-wanted ad for work on a street-mapping database called StreetFax that Ceglia was creating.

According to the lawsuit, the contract shows that Ceglia paid Zuckerberg $1,000 to work on the project and gave him another $1,000 after Zuckerberg told him about his idea to create a kind of online yearbook. Ceglia was to get half of the business if it got off the ground. Ceglia attached a series of email exchanges in which he said he and Zuckerberg discussed the arrangement.

Lawyers for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook have accused Ceglia of altering the original street-mapping agreement to insert references to Facebook and fabricating the emails altogether. They’ve countered with emails pulled from Harvard’s server that they say show Zuckerberg and Ceglia discussing StreetFax but never Facebook.

Ceglia first filed his lawsuit in 2010, six years after Facebook’s launch. The social network now claims 750 million users and has an estimated net worth of $50 billion.

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