Paul Ceglia may have done the unthinkable: made you feel really, really bad for Mark Zuckerberg. Less than a day after a judge dismissed the Winklevii's settlement lawsuit — and less than half a day after the twins' lawyer said they'll file for a rehearing anyway — Ceglia's suit claiming to own 50 percent of Facebook has resurfaced. When Ceglia first filed the suit last July, the business press looked at him like he was a loon. Possibly because he waited seven years to file it, and definitely because he was also charged with criminal fraud in connection with a wood-pellet start-up he operated. (In fact, it was during the course of the wood-pellet case that Ceglia found a contract from Mark Zuckerberg from 2003 in his filing cabinet.) But now that Ceglia, who lives upstate, has refiled the suit — with a bigger law firm and e-mails as evidence — no one's making "cuckoo" hand gestures behind his back anymore.
In fact, Henry Blodget, never one to pass up a superlative, called the evidence "breathtaking." Facebook's lawyers have a much different take, calling them fake and the work of a "scam artist" and "convicted felon," which may or may not be a reference to Ceglia's guilty plea for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Texas in 1997.
The e-mails allegedly show Zuckerberg and Ceglia discussing the "face book" project — how they will fund it, proof of payment, some upperclassmen Zuckerberg met who were pursuing something similar and how he's stalling them. (Details Ceglia could only know if he was one of the few who contributed to The Social Network's $224 million box-office gross.) Unfortunately, the e-mails also claim to show Zuckerberg telling Ceglia the site isn't doing that well — right around the time the hoodied one dropped out of Harvard and moved to Palo Alto to catapult Facebook's phenomenal growth. As restitution for the failed project, Zuckerberg offers to pay him back the $2,000 "for your trouble, more if it will repair our business relationship."
Whether or not Ceglia's claims have any veracity, we're sure the secondary markets, where private shares of Facebook are currently trading at upwards of a $55 billion valuation, are making a few calls upstate to express their sympathies. You know, just in case.