Mark Zuckerberg won a chance in the legal battle over his backyard privacy to pry further into the past of the developer suing him to try to show that his adversary was engaged in a fraud.
The Facebook Inc. co-founder is investigating developer Mircea Voskerician’s testimony that he once had a side business under a different name on EBay selling medical equipment made by his then-employer.
Voskerician said in a deposition that he took discarded components from trash cans and recycling bins while he worked at Stryker Corp. He acknowledged he did so without the company’s permission and said he used the proceeds for a down payment on the rights to the property behind Zuckerberg’s home that led to their dispute.
Voskerician’s lawyer agreed Thursday not to fight an effort by Zuckerberg’s attorneys to get records about the developer from Stryker after the billionaire’s legal team sought a court order for access to the documents. The 2014 lawsuit is set for trial in April in state court in San Jose, California.
Voskerician’s lawyers have long contended the online sales are irrelevant to his complaint: Zuckerberg is accused of breaking a promise to introduce the developer to Silicon Valley’s elite as part of a deal to kill plans for a mansion to be built with a view into his bedroom.
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Zuckerberg’s pursuit of the Stryker records is part of his continuing bid to discredit Voskerician. Lawyers for the Facebook co-founder already have tried to raise doubts about the sources of the developer’s funding to purchase the property, including hiring a private detective to learn details about a partner in the deal and a competing offer from an unidentified African Prince. Zuckerberg’s team also claims a bank statement filed by Voskerician was falsified to inflate his balance by more than $3.8 million.
Voskerician’s lawyer, Guy Jinkerson, and Zuckerberg’s lawyer, Patrick Gunn, both declined to comment on the Stryker records after Thursday’s hearing.
Zuckerberg is pursing the information in the “hope of publicly harassing and embarrassing” Voskerician in an attempt to “smear” him, the developer argued in a court filing. Voskerician already has disclosed a 2012 Stryker document that he says shows there was “a mutual agreement to part ways, not a hostile termination.”
Voskerician told Zuckerberg’s lawyers in an October deposition that for one or two of the six years he worked at Stryker as a quality engineer, he had a “business on the side” selling the company’s outdated, recycled and discarded equipment manufactured for use in operating rooms. He named it Medical Auctions.
“I wanted to incorporate that company, actually, and have -- have an LLC made, since I thought it -- you know, if somebody is trashing something, that it’s more valuable to me, then why not use it,” Voskerician said, according to a transcript of the deposition.
Asked why he sold the equipment under the alias Mark Neumann, Voskerician said he doesn’t like to use his own name online because there are “a lot of breaches on the EBay site.” He said that after he left Stryker, the company was upset to learn of his side business. He recalled being told “there were some equipment inventory issues.”
Jo Hawk, a spokeswoman for Stryker, declined to comment on Voskerician’s employment history.
Under an agreement made in court Thursday before Superior Court Judge Beth McGowen, the Stryker records will remain sealed from public view. She directed attorneys on both sides to reach an agreement over how the information will be used at trial, if at all.
The case was near collapse last month after Voskerician’s previous lawyers bowed out in October. Jinkerson stepped in, and the trial is scheduled for April 25, about 5 1/2 months later than it was originally set.
The case is Voskerician v. Zuckerberg, 114CV264667, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).