Facebook's 'smoking gun': 2003 Ceglia, Zuckerberg contract
The "smoking gun" Facebook says it has to end the ownership dispute among the social network, Mark Zuckerberg and claimant Paul Ceglia has been submitted in court documents: a 2003 contract that makes no mention of Facebook.
Facebook, in Monday court documents filed in a Buffalo, N.Y., federal court, says that the contract is authentic and was found during its court ordered forensic examination of Ceglia's computers and hard drives.
Ceglia has argued in court that he is entitled to half of Zuckerberg's stake in Facebook, the world's most popular social networking site. Facebook has said that although Zuckerberg did some work for Ceglia in college, the western New York man's ownership claims are lies.
The contract between Ceglia and Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, was presented in court filings in a blurry scan that Facebook said was embedded in electronic data from 2004.
Ceglia's lawyer, San Diego attorney Jeffrey Lake, was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Facebook said in its filings that the contract proves its argument that Zuckerberg never promised Ceglia any ownership stake in Facebook.
"This smoking-gun evidence confirms what Defendants have said all along: the purported contract attached to the complaint is an outright fabrication," Facebook said in a court filing.
"The forensic analysis also revealed that Ceglia has been willfully concealing six USB or other removable storage devices containing highly relevant documents such as 'Zuckerberg Contract page1.tif' and a folder entitled 'Facebook Files.' Ceglia now claims -- incredibly and outrageously -- that he is 'unable to locate these devices.'"
Facebook said that it believes that Ceglia "used these removable devices to manipulate and store documents, including the purported 'Facebook contract,' in the belief that this evidence would not be discovered -- or that the devices could easily be discarded if necessary, as Ceglia has now apparently done."
In the filings, Facebook alleges that Ceglia tried to hide the Street Fax contract and is unwilling to fork over other documents he says he's lost.
The Palo Alto company says it believes Ceglia has taken action that is "the digital equivalent of throwing critical evidence into Lake Erie. Ceglia's willful and bad-faith spoliation warrants severe sanctions, up to and including dismissal." In other words, Facebook wants the suit thrown out, unsurprisingly.
Facebook officials declined to comment on the court documents beyond what was said in the documents. Next up for the court, it would seem: determining whether the contract is real.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A contract allegedly between Paul Cegila and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, that Facebook says it found on Ceglia's computer for work between the two men on a company called Street Fax. Credit: Facebook / U.S. District Court, Western District of New York