- Facebook chief is accused of breaking promise to help builder
- New lawyer representing developer gets two weeks to catch up
Mark Zuckerberg is headed toward a trial after all now that the property developer who claims the billionaire broke a promise to introduce him to Silicon Valley’s elite has a new lawyer.
The case was at risk of collapsing after developer Mircea Voskerician’s previous lawyer bowed out in October on the brink of trial and Voskerician told a judge he was having trouble finding a replacement.
Voskerician’s new attorney, Guyton Jinkerson, appeared in state court in San Jose, California, Tuesday and Judge Patricia Lucas scheduled a trial for April 25, about 5 1/2 months later than it was originally set. The judge put the litigation on hold for two weeks to give Jinkerson a chance to catch up with the case, which was filed in May 2014.
The court battle grew out of Zuckerberg’s agreement in 2012 to pay Voskerician $1.7 million for rights to buy the house behind the Facebook Inc. co-founder’s home in Palo Alto, California. The developer claims he gave Zuckerberg a 40 percent discount based on promised introductions and referrals in Silicon Valley that never materialized.
Zuckerberg says the developer’s proposal to build a 9,600-square-foot house with a view into his bedroom was just a bluff to get a payoff from the 31-year-old billionaire. Zuckerberg has contested the authenticity of a bank statement showing Voskerician had $3.9 million to support his cash offer for the property.
Patrick Gunn, a lawyer for Zuckerberg, told the judge in October he thinks Voskerician’s previous lawyer, David Draper, withdrew after being confronted with the “fraudulent” bank statement provided by his client.
In his written request to drop out of the case, Draper referred to an unspecified conflict with his client and cited California’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers. One of the rules he cited in a court filing forbids an attorney to litigate a matter “that is not warranted under existing law” or is “for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring any person.” He declined to comment on why he was leaving the case.
Jinkerson and Nate Cooper, a lawyer representing Zuckerberg, declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.
The case is Voskerician v. Zuckerberg, 114CV264667, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).