SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The attorney for a now-indicted man who lost his bid for one-half of Facebook claims in court that Mark Zuckerberg’s lawyers defamed him as a bullying tactic to discourage litigation against Facebook.
Paul Argentieri claims in Superior Court that Zuckerberg and Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch tarnished his legal reputation “to intimidate him and others from pursuing valid legal claims against Zuckerberg and Facebook in the future.”
Argentieri was the first of many attorneys to take on Paul Ceglia’s claim that Zuckerberg owed him half of Facebook under a deal struck in 2003 for work on Ceglia’s now-defunct website. Zuckerberg was paid $1,000 for programming work for Ceglia.
Represented by Argentieri, Ceglia sued in 2010, but Zuckerberg produced evidence that Ceglia had forged documents to support his case.
Federal prosecutors indicted Ceglia in November 2012, charging him with running a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme. Ceglia’s civil suit against Facebook and Zuckerberg crumbled shortly after his indictment.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio called it “highly probable and reasonably certain that the Work for Hire Document and the supporting e-mails were fabricated for the express purpose of filing the instant action.”
Facebook and Zuckerberg then sued Argentieri and the DLA Piper law firm in October 2014, alleging malicious prosecution . They claimed Ceglia’s attorneys knew or should have known that Ceglia’s lawsuit was based on an “obvious forgery.”
Stretch said at the time: “We said from the beginning that Paul Ceglia’s claim was a fraud and that we would seek to hold those responsible accountable. DLA Piper and the other named law firms knew the case was based on forged documents yet they pursued it anyway, and they should be held to account.”
Argentieri’s new lawsuit, filed Monday, takes aim at that comment.
“It clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it attacks plaintiff’s integrity, honesty and professionalism as a lawyer and falsely accuses plaintiff of committing a crime and of knowingly perpetrating a fraud on the court in the Ceglia action,” the complaint states. It claims that Stretch made the statement though he knew that Argentieri “had produced valid, competent evidence to support a prima facie case against defendants Zuckerberg and Facebook.”
Argentieri claims in the lawsuit that “multiple opinions by highly qualified experts” support his claim that Ceglia’s contract with Zuckerberg is authentic.
A Facebook spokeswoman called Argentieri’s new lawsuit “patently frivolous.”
Todd Parker, with Moskowitz & Book in New York, which represents Facebook in the malicious prosecution lawsuit against Argentieri and DLA Piper, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Joseph Alioto, Argentieri’s attorney in San Francisco, said that “a legion of experts with impeccable credentials” have shown that “the contract between Ceglia and Zuckerberg is authentic and true, and Zuckerberg knows it.”
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