September 15, 2014 / 9:51 PM / 6 years ago

Fraud trial of NY man who claimed Facebook stake delayed to May

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The trial of an upstate New York man accused of attempting to defraud Facebook Inc and billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg of half of the company was delayed by six months on Monday after the defendant hired a new lawyer.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, speaks during his conference at the Seminar "Mexico Siglo XXI", organized by Telmex foundation, in Mexico City, September 5, 2014. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Paul Ceglia, 41, had been scheduled to go to trial in Manhattan federal court on Nov. 17 after prosecutors accused him of forging a 2003 contract with Zuckerberg, who is expected to testify as the government’s star witness.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter delayed the trial to May 4 when Ceglia, who had been represented by a court-appointed attorney, obtained a bond modification that enabled him to hire a new lawyer, Robert Fogg.

Janis Echenberg, an assistant U.S. attorney, objected to the request, noting that Fogg had been involved in related litigation, calling his hiring a “delay tactic.”

Carter noted the “voluminous” amount of evidence in the case in granting the delay, although he warned that he was “not going to keep doing this willy-nilly.”

The charges flowed from a 2010 civil lawsuit Ceglia filed against Zuckerberg and Facebook in Buffalo, New York.

The lawsuit contended the two men signed a contract when Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard University that gave Ceglia half of a planned social networking website.

Zuckerberg had previously done some programming work for Ceglia’s company,, and Facebook has said the only valid contract between them related to that company.

Prosecutors in Manhattan charged Ceglia in 2012 with forging documents as part of the Buffalo litigation, including the contract and email correspondence with Zuckerberg.

In March, a Buffalo federal judge dismissed Ceglia’s lawsuit, finding the purported contract for an ownership stake in Facebook was doctored. Ceglia is appealing.

The case is U.S. v. Ceglia, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-cr-00876.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon

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