By Nate Raymond
Oct 30 (Reuters) - Paul Ceglia, the onetime wood-pellet
salesman who sued for a 50 percent cut of Facebook Inc, on
Tuesday lost another lawyer, just days after federal prosecutors
charged him with forging documents central to the case.
Dean Boland, a Lakewood, Ohio, attorney who joined Ceglia's
legal team last year, has submitted papers with U.S. District
Court in Buffalo, New York, seeking to withdraw from the case.
Boland said in the filing that his decision had "nothing to
do" with any belief that Ceglia had engaged in fraud. Instead,
Boland said he was stepping aside for "personal reasons."
In charging Ceglia on Friday, prosecutors alleged he had
engineered a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Facebook and
its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
The accusations stem from a lawsuit Ceglia filed against
Facebook in 2010. In the suit, Ceglia claimed that Zuckerberg
had signed a contract in 2003 entitling him to a percentage of
the social networking site.
Zuckerberg, at the time a Harvard University student, had
been doing programming work for Ceglia and his online business,
During the two-year legal fight, Facebook has contended the
contract was fake. Prosecutors said Friday that Ceglia replaced
a page of the real contract with a new one that made it appear
Zuckerberg had given him a stake in Facebook.
A bail hearing in Ceglia's criminal case is scheduled for
Wednesday morning and will be conducted by U.S. District Judge
Colleen McMahon in Manhattan.
Even before the charges, Ceglia had gone through a number of
attorneys, some at prominent law firms, as Facebook stepped up
its claims of fraud.
Connors & Vilardo, a 14-lawyer firm, began representing
Ceglia in July 2010 but was replaced in April 2011 by two firms:
the sprawling 4,200-lawyer DLA Piper and Lippes Mathias Wexler
Friedman, the law firm of former New York State attorney general
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, a New York litigation
firm, never entered an appearance but for a time also served as
co-counsel with DLA Piper and Lippes Mathias, court records
Kasowitz Benson later advised both DLA Piper and Lippes
Mathias that it was withdrawing from the case because it had
determined Ceglia's contract was a fraud, according to an August
2012 decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio.
Prior to that ruling, in July, DLA and Lippes Mathias
dropped out, and in March 2012 Ceglia turned to the large New
York plaintiffs' law firm Milberg, which in turn withdrew two
Boland in his motion Tuesday said he had no reason to know
why any of the firms except Milberg withdrew. He did not say
what those reasons were, and Sanford Dumain, the lead Milberg
partner on the case, did not respond to a request for comment.
"Myself and prior counsel all have and had a duty to bring
to this court any evidence of fraud, even fraud by our own
client, should we have come across it," Boland wrote. "No prior
counsel and current counsel, including the undersigned, have
Boland has had his own legal problems. A day after making
his first appearance for Ceglia, on Oct. 21, 2011, Boland was
ordered by a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, to pay $300,000
to two minors whose photos Boland allegedly modified into
digital images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
The judge said Boland used the images in defending clients
against charges of child pornography.
Facebook had no comment on Boland's motion Tuesday.
On Monday, a column in The New York Times explored lawyers'
involvement in Ceglia's case and quoted a Facebook attorney
saying that the company planned to "hold accountable all of
those who assisted Ceglia in this outrageous fraud."
"Facebook will send a strong message that it does not
tolerate legal shakedowns and will take aggressive action
against all those who file abusive lawsuits against the
company," said Facebook counsel Orin Snyder of Gibson, Dunn &
The statement was made before Boland sought to withdraw.
Snyder declined comment Tuesday.
Boland's motion to withdraw from the Facebook case must
still be approved by the court.
If approved, it would leave Ceglia with just one lawyer,
Paul Argentieri, an attorney in Hornell, New York, who has been
handling the Facebook lawsuit since the beginning. He did not
respond to a request for comment.
The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, U.S. District Court,
Western District of New York, No. 10-00569.
For Ceglia: Dean Boland in Lakewood and Paul Argentieri.
For Facebook: Orin Snyder, Alexander Southwell and Thomas
Dupree of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Terrance Flynn of Harris
(Additional reporting by Basil Katz)
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