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The Ceglia v. Facebook lawsuit seems to keep getting stranger. Paul Ceglia, the upstate New York wood pellet salesman who says he was promised half of Mark Zuckerberg’s share of Facebook back in 2004, filed new papers in court today insisting he’s not the fraudster that Facebook maintains he is.
Two weeks ago, Facebook filed a pile of evidence that it had gathered from experts and private investigators, detailing Ceglia’s past, which includes a conviction for drug possession and several accusations of fraud. Facebook also analyzed Mark Zuckerberg’s old Harvard email account, and couldn’t find any of the emails that Ceglia presented in his lawsuit-emails that Facebook says are fakes.
In papers filed today, Ceglia insists the emails are real, as is the contract that says he owns a chunk of Facebook, which Zuckerberg’s legal team has called a “cut-and-paste job.” The new documents also note that Ceglia has taken a polygraph test that found he’s telling the truth. However, Ceglia’s new filing doesn’t respond to many of Facebook’s accusations, such as the claims that Ceglia engaged in a land fraud scheme.
The immediate issue is over “discovery,” the part of litigation where the two sides exchange evidence. Facebook wants an expedited discovery schedule because it hopes to quickly prove that Ceglia is a fraud. For his part, Ceglia has agreed to speed up discovery but insists that the sped-up schedule be “mutual,” with Facebook disclosing documents and evidence at the same time that he does.
Here’s highlights of the documents Ceglia filed today:
» Ceglia insists the emails are real, but here’s the thing: they were originally web emails, that he has cut-and-pasted into three Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Word files. In a sworn declaration, Ceglia says that’s his standard practice for saving business-related emails. Those Word files are now in the hands of forensic experts who have filed declarations saying that the metadata indicates the dates of the Word files are in 2003 and 2004, the time period Ceglia says they came from.
» Ceglia’s lawyers accuse Zuckerberg or his agent have deleted emails from his Harvard email account. (That doesn’t seem particularly unusual-it’s amazing that so many emails are still around, more than seven years after the fact-and none of Ceglia’s could be found.)
» Ceglia underwent a polygraph test to indicate that he was telling the truth. In his declaration, he “respectfully suggest[s] that Mark Zuckerberg undergo the same polygraph I have in order to expose who is really telling the truth.”
» In his declaration, Ceglia also says that the tactics of Zuckerberg and Facebook have taken “a terrible toll on me, my wife, our two sons, and even our parents.” He continues:
I have been repeatedly called a liar in the press and in the papers filed by Defendants in this action. I have been accused by Mark Zuckerberg’s counsel… of committing fraud. I have been the subject of ridiculue. I have been followed and understand that declarations have been submitted by private investigators that contain inaccurate information.
» As to the drug conviction and the fraud accusations in Facebook’s evidence, Ceglia avoids the subject almost entirely. There’s one line in his declaration that says simply: “While I have made some mistakes in my life, I accept responsibility for those actions.”
» That contract that Facebook says is a “cut-and-paste” job? Ceglia’s lawyers hired their own experts who say the document looks real. For example, indentations in the second page indicate it was underneath the first one when it was signed, indicating Ceglia didn’t just add the first page later. They say that further analysis is needed to date the ink, though.
» A digital forensics company has taken charge of a bunch of Ceglia’s possessions, including 169 floppy disks, 1075 CDs, a laptop computer, and a second hard drive.
Ceglia’s lawyers said in a joint statement today: “Not only does Mr. Ceglia possess an original agreement, it has been examined by two forensic document experts, who through non-destructive techniques have found nothing to question the document’s authenticity… Mr. Ceglia’s response is supported by affidavits from four experts. Certain of those concern the emails quoted in his first amended complaint, and state that the metadata from the documents in which the emails were saved shows that the documents were saved in 2003 and 2004, contemporaneous with the dates of the emails.”
Facebook’s outside lawyer on this case, Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, said in a statement: “Ceglia’s lawsuit is a shell game, shifting and changing with every filing. This latest court filing admits that the bogus emails are, literally, a cut-and-paste job, just like the so-called contract is a fraud. There is a deafening silence in these papers: Ceglia does not dispute that he has a track record of forging documents to rip people off. And the fact that this plaintiff now has to rely on a polygraph test says it all. Everyone knows polygraph tests are easily manipulated, which is why courts routinely disregard them.”
» Read Ceglia’s Memo supporting mutual discovery [PDF]
» Read Ceglia’s Declaration [PDF]