Face­book, Zucker­berg or­dered to turn over doc­u­ments


Face­book and its founder must re­lease doc­u­ments and elec­tronic cor­re­spon­dence to a de­fense lawyer whose client has fled from crim­i­nal charges that he falsely claimed a ma­jor­ity own­er­ship in the so­cial me­dia gi­ant, a fed­eral judge said.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ver­non Brod­er­ick on Fri­day or­dered Face­book and Mark Zucker­berg to re­lin­quish doc­u­ments by Mon­day that were re­quested by Paul Ceglia’s lawyer, Robert Ross Fogg.

The judge said he re­ceived a let­ter Thurs­day from lawyers for Face­book Inc. and Zucker­berg ask­ing that an or­der he is­sued ear­lier in the week to promptly turn over re­quested doc­u­ments be sus­pend- ed un­til Ceglia is caught.

Doc­u­ments re­quested in­clude all elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions Zucker­berg had about a Ceglia con­tract dur­ing an 18-month stretch be­gin­ning in 2003.

With a May 4 trial ap­proach­ing, Ceglia cut off his elec­tronic an­kle bracelet last month and fled. His wife, two chil­dren and dog also are miss­ing from their home in Wellsville, 70 miles (112 kilo­me­ters) southeast of Buf­falo.

Ceglia’s fa­ther told Brod­er­ick at a hear­ing last week that he be­lieved his son might have fled be­cause he be­lieved Face­book and Zucker­berg were work­ing to­gether with pros­e­cu­tors against him, jeop­ar­diz­ing his chance for a fair trial. The judge said he would not al­low a trial to pro­ceed un­justly.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors had urged Brod­er­ick not to force Face­book and Zucker­berg to turn over the doc­u­ments, say­ing do­ing so would “re­ward Ceglia’s flout­ing of the ju­di­cial process while un­rea­son­ably drawing on the re­sources of the gov­ern­ment and the author­ity of the court.”

The crim­i­nal case against Ceglia was brought af­ter a judge threw out his 2010 civil law­suit claim­ing that he gave Zucker­berg, a stu­dent at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity at the time, US$1,000 in startup money in ex­change for 50 per­cent of the fu­ture com­pany.

Pros­e­cu­tors said a foren­sic anal­y­sis of his com­put­ers and Har­vard’s email ar­chive determined Ceglia had al­tered an un­re­lated soft­ware devel­op­ment con­tract he signed with Zucker­berg in 2003 and fal­si­fied emails to make it ap­pear Zucker­berg had promised him a half-share of Face­book.

Zucker­berg has said he didn’t come up with the idea for Face­book un­til months af­ter he re­sponded to Ceglia’s on­line help-wanted ad and signed a con­tract agree­ing to cre­ate some soft­ware for him.

A lawyer for Face­book and Zucker­berg did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day on the judge’s or­der. Nei­ther did a spokesman for gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys nor Fogg.

Fogg said in an email Wed­nes­day that he and oth­ers “con­tinue to fight for Paul, even in his ab­sence, with the same vigor and for­ti­tude and in a sense — more determined than ever.”

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