Fugitive's dad tells why he thinks son fled in Facebook case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — A fugitive facing charges he falsely claimed he's owed a majority ownership in Facebook fled after complaining he was being treated unfairly in courts, his father said Tuesday.

Carmine Ceglia told a Manhattan federal court judge that Paul Ceglia was "afraid for his life" that he would not get a fair shot at his upcoming trial on mail and wire fraud charges.

The younger Ceglia, his wife, two children and the family dog disappeared more than two weeks ago. Judge Vernon Broderick signed a bail forfeiture order Tuesday, letting the government pursue a half dozen properties Ceglia's family had posted to cover a $250,000 bail.

Broderick said the properties might be saved from forfeiture if the family helped persuade Ceglia to surrender.

Carmine Ceglia said his son found it "really upsetting" when he was told lawyers hired by Facebook were working with prosecutors on the criminal case against him.

"We didn't feel like we were getting a fair shot," he said. "I've lost a lot of faith in our justice system."

The father said he'd like to arrange a trip to Ireland, where he believes his son might try to contact him, but the U.S. government has threatened him with arrest if he leaves the country.

"I could talk some sense into him," he said. "I'm sure he won't call me while I'm in the U.S."

Of the U.S. Marshals Service, the father said: "They just think I know where he is and I don't."

Prosecutors say Ceglia added a page to a two-page contract he signed in 2003 with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to make it seem he was entitled to be part owner of the Menlo Park, California social media giant.

Gil D. Messina, a lawyer for Ceglia, filed papers late Monday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Ceglia is trying to have the criminal charges dismissed, saying charges were brought improperly to punish Ceglia for exercising his First Amendment right to prove through a civil lawsuit that Zuckerberg promised him part of Facebook.

He said the dismissal of his client's civil lawsuit and the persistence of the government "were disillusioning and discouraging to Ceglia and may well have led him to despair of ever receiving a fair and impartial hearing in the courts."

Outside court Tuesday, Messina continued to defend his client, citing a U.S. Secret Service forensic report that was released after Paul Ceglia disappeared. He said the report, sought by the government, concluded the toner used to print both contract pages was the same and that there was nothing to indicate the pages were forged.

The report, attached as an exhibit to Messina's court filing, said the spacing, margins and font characteristics differed between the first and second pages.

"It is not my expectation he would be convicted, not on the evidence I see," Messina said.