Jury finds GOP Senate candidate misled investors

Posted February 18, 2014

— A Wake County jury found Tuesday that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Greg Brannon misled investors in a technology start-up.

As a result of the civil judgment, Brannon will be personally liable for repaying $250,000. If the judgment is upheld on appeal, he will also have to pay 8 percent interest from the time each of the aggrieved investors wrote their checks and could be required to pay their attorneys' fees in the case. 

Jurors determined that Brannon's co-defendant Robert Rice didn't mislead investors and isn't responsible for repaying them.

"I completely disagree with this verdict and feel that I was treated unfairly by the court. I will defend my integrity and will be appealing this decision," Brannon said in a statement emailed shortly after the verdict was read. 

Asked if the verdict would deter him from his U.S. Senate run, Brannon said, "No way," he said, adding that he would appeal the verdict.

The judgment comes less than three months before Republican voters will make their selection in the May primary. Brannon said he planned to file as a Senate candidate this week, making him one of at least five Republicans who plan to run for the chance to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Although state House Speaker Thom Tillis is the frontrunner in the race in terms of both fundraising and polling, Brannon and Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte are his two strongest rivals.

Brannon has been endorsed by FreedomWorks, a grassroots group associated with the tea party wing of the GOP. He has also gotten favorable nods from the likes of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and radio talker Glenn Beck.

The case creates an obstacle to Brannon's bid. To find Brannon liable for repaying the investors' money, jurors had to find that he either lied to those investors or should have known that the information he was passing on was false or misleading.

The finding is one ripe for campaign ads.

In 2010, Brannon, a Cary obstetrician, was a board member for the start up Neogence, which promised to create an augmented reality application called Mirascape.

During the trial, Brannon was described as a member of the board who spent five to 10 hours per week advising the company and helping to recruit more investors.

Rice, the company's co-founder, was described by one witness as "the creative genius" behind the company. Local lawyer David Kirkbride was also a member of the board and for a few months was the company's CEO. 

Two investors, Lawrence Piazza and Salvatore Lampuri, sued to recoup a total of $250,000 they invested in the company. Piazza and Lampuri allege that company officials "over-sold" the potential for the company to do business with Verizon.

Specifically, they alleged that Brannon and other company officials told them there was the potential to become part of the original equipment shipped with new Verizon Droid phones. In reality, the deal that was potentially on the table had to do with being part of an advertising campaign.

Originally, Kirkbride was part of the suit, but an earlier court ruling excused him as a defendant. It was possible for both Brannon and Rice to be found liable, but in their verdict, jurors said that Rice did not bear responsibility for misleading investors. 

Brannon never took the stand in his defense, something that the plaintiff's lawyer, Steve Epstein, pointed to in closing arguments on Monday.

"Why didn't he testify if what Larry and Sal said about him was not true," Epstein said.

Brannon's lawyer, Michael Frazier said he was "disappointed" in the jury's verdict.

Steve Epstein, a lawyer with Poyner Spruill who represented Piazza and Lampuri, said his clients were "gratified that justice was done." 


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  • Charlie Watkins Feb 21, 2014
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    What has Tillis done? As far as I know he ain't been convicted in a court case.

    That is a pretty good quality in a candidate, not being convicted in a court of law. Wouldn't you agree?

  • goldenosprey Feb 20, 2014

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    Why? What has Tillis (R- Fl.) done for NC other than preside over its descent into deep south/third world territory?

    These fringe candidates don't pose a real threat to the big-moneyed Rove republican.

    I recommend cleaning your pallet of the Weakly SubStandard with America's oldest continuously published weekly magazine- the Nation.

  • Charlie Watkins Feb 20, 2014
    user avatar

    This is a quote from Bill Kristol in a recent essay for the Weekly Standard:

    “Reading about some conservative organizations and Republican campaigns these days, one is reminded of Eric Hoffer’s remark, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    It is time for the Republicans to unite behind Thom Tillis. We need to put our differences aside and come together and work together as one Republican Party under one big tent that reaches out to all.

    Stand strong for Tillis!

  • KnowsItAll Feb 19, 2014

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    "We citizens really don't need to be beating one another up over claims and comments that may or may not be true."

    But...that's the whole purpose of coming here to comment. Please don't take away our fun.

  • aqualung Feb 19, 2014

    I get very tired of, and bored with, these accusations of who did what and why he/she is right about this/that. Folks, it's politics. What else do you expect? Just chill and let them all shoot one another down. We citizens really don't need to be beating one another up over claims and comments that may or may not be true.

  • sunshine1040 Feb 19, 2014

    And folks people get elected to office either because some are too lazy to vote and others are too lazy to read the news or ask a candidate a question. Its your money our vets did their best many even their life so you could vote. Do so wisely

  • sunshine1040 Feb 19, 2014

    And folks people get elected to office either because some are too lazy to vote and others are too lazy to read the news or ask a candidate a question. Its your money our vets did their best many even their life so you could vote. Do so wisely

  • KnowsItAll Feb 19, 2014

    View quoted thread

    thanks for bringing this hypocrite to our attention Atheist. Amazingly - or maybe not - he's running for re-election in 2014. As long as he sticks to his "conservative" principles (anti-tax, anti-environment, anti-gay, and anti-abortion for other people) he'll be a shoo-in with the "values" voters in TN.

    Here's a transcript of the phone call with his mistress:
    "You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," DesJarlais told the woman in a recorded phone conversation, according to a transcript published in October 2012 by The Associated Press. "If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let's do it."

  • KnowsItAll Feb 19, 2014

    Clay Aiken is looking better and better everyday.

    Run Clay Run!!!

  • sabsco Feb 19, 2014

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    I went back and read the Feb 12 WRAL article and here is a quote from said article:

    "The Democrat, who left office in 2010 after eight years, was indicted in January 2013 on charges he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes — money, free vacation trips and truckloads of free granite for his family business — from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects."

    ^If that is not the story you are referring to then please post a link.