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Lawyer wants out of Facebook case

BUFFALO — The latest lawyer to represent a New York man in what authorities now say is a fraudulent lawsuit against Facebook is seeking to withdraw from the case.

Dean Boland, in a motion filed Tuesday in US District Court in Buffalo, did not publicly say why he wants off Paul Ceglia’s case, instead providing the reason in a private document to the judge.

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The Lakewood, Ohio, lawyer did say it has nothing to do with any belief that Ceglia engaged in fraud.

Given media coverage of the case, Boland wrote, ‘‘it is important to emphasize in the strongest terms possible, that the reasons underlying this request, provided to the court for its review, have nothing to do with any belief by the undersigned that plaintiff is engaged in now or has been engaged in during the past, fraud regarding this case.’’

Boland is among more than a half-dozen lawyers and law firms to have signed on and then withdrawn from Ceglia’s 2010 lawsuit. Ceglia claims he’s entitled to half-ownership of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook, based on a 2003 contract with founder Mark Zuckerberg, made when he was still at Harvard University.

The reasons for the other attorney withdrawals have not been made public.

Ceglia, 39, was arrested last week on charges of mail and wire fraud after an investigation by the Postal Inspection Service. The criminal complaint alleged Ceglia had doctored, fabricated, and destroyed evidence to support the claims in his civil lawsuit.

He has pleaded not guilty.

In his lawsuit, Ceglia said he and Zuckerberg in 2003 signed a software development contract that included a provision entitling Ceglia to half ownership of Facebook in exchange for $1,000 in start-up money for the company.

Zuckerberg has acknowledged signing a contract but said it had nothing to do with Facebook. In charging Ceglia, investigators concluded what Facebook lawyers have said since the suit was filed: Ceglia replaced the first page of the real contract he signed with Zuckerberg with another page that was ‘‘doctored’’ to include Facebook references.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

Boland’s filing said he had not been able to talk with Ceglia about the request because Ceglia is in custody.

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