#NCSEN: And NOW for THE REST of the story …

judgeBinky, The Shih-tzu, and the rest of their knucklehead mainstream media pals have been piling on Greg Brannon these past few days — amid giggling from Brannon’s political foes — since that finding from the jury in that civil case was announced.

Pete Kaliner, an Asheville talk radio host who used to do some serious reporting in Charlotte, decided to dig a little deeper into Brannon’s courtroom experience.  On Friday, Kaliner devoted an hour to Robert Rice, the CEO of the tech company at the center of the lawsuit in question. I encourage every one of you to listen to the full interview (about 40 minutes).   I did, and I learned a few things that I never would have known if I had relied on Binky and his friends:

  • There were 15 investors — including Brannon and the two plaintiffs —  in Rice’s company.  The two plaintiffs — Sam Lampuri and Larry Piazza — were the only two of the fifteen to file suit against the failed tech firm and its representatives.
  • Rice paints a picture of an attempted hostile takeover of his firm purportedly initiated by the plaintiff Piazza.  Rice says Piazza was aggressively trying to have him removed from the CEO post, and to take control of the company and its intellectual property.  Rice said that — during the time he was trying to raise desperately needed cash from venture capitalists to move the struggling company to the next level —  Piazza was running around making loud noises about a lawsuit.  Rice said that was the kiss of death — the beginning of the end for his firm.  Who in his right mind would invest in a company with a download (32)threat of a lawsuit hanging around? 
  • THREATS?  Rice said Piazza regularly threatened to bankrupt him and ruin his reputation in the tech industry.  Rice said Piazza also reportedly threatened to bankrupt Brannon and “ruin” his Senate campaign.
  • Brannon reportedly felt so bad that Piazza and Lampuri had lost money in the deal that he offered to liquidate his 401K to try and reimburse them.  According to Rice, Piazza refused Brannon’s offer.
  • There were four defendants in this case.  Rice said — of the four — Brannon was the least involved in the company.  He expressed amazement to Kaliner that the guy who was the least involved in the company would be the only one popped by the court.
  • A CONFUSED JURY?  Rice suggested to Kaliner that Brannon’s fate may have been sealed thanks to the manner in which the judge answered some jury questions.  Rice pointed to the fact that the judge refused the jury’s request to review the transcript of defendant John Cummings’ testimony.  Cummings was the one who reportedly met with Verizon and passed information to Brannon and Rice, who then relayed it to the other investors.  The jurors also came back with another cryptic question: “Does not testifying mean omission?”  The judge and the lawyers for both parties appeared taken aback. Did they mean “admission”? Was the jury suggesting that not testifying was equivalent to admitting that you are guilty?  The judge responded by reading the dictionary definition of “omission.”  Rice said the jurors did not appear to be happy with that.  Rice said the jurors returned a short time later with a verdict form that showed them first voting to find Brannon not liable.  That was crossed out, and replaced with a finding of liability.    (A post-trial interview with one juror found that Brannon not testifying was key to their decision.) 
  • Kaliner asked why Brannon did not take the stand to testify.  Rice said there were a number of factors at play. First, the plaintiffs didn’t bother to call Brannon.   The judge had pretty seriously limited the scope of discussion in the case.  Brannon had been deposed prior to the trial. So, the plaintiffs were well-aware of what Brannon had to offer.   Rice said Brannon was not really opposed to testifying during the trial. Rice said the shared feeling among the defendants was that the whole case was a joke, and would be quickly disposed of.
  • Rice said the deal with Verizon was not dead.  He said there was an opportunity to re-pitch the idea the following summer.  However, he said, Piazza’s lawsuit threats scared off potential investors and put the kibosh on that effort.
  • Kaliner raised a point I thought was very valid:  The plaintiffs determined that all four defendants said the same thing.  HOW do you find ONLY ONE of them liable for providing misleading information? 

Regardless of how you stand in the Senate race, the results of this case set a chilling precedent.  If you pass along information that you believe to be accurate to someone that encourages them to invest in something, which later turns out to not meet their expectations,  can you be dragged into court?

24 comments for “#NCSEN: And NOW for THE REST of the story …

  1. Raphael
    February 25, 2014 at 1:27 am

    The N&O and WRAL seem to want to rival Pravda of the Breshnev era on biased leftist political content. I would take anything you read or hear from them with a huge grain of salt. This story is just one example of many of their distorted reporting, just like their many distortions when they attack the GOP legislature.

    Big media’s game in political campaigns is to try to get the most vulnerable Republican nominated, so they can skewer him / her in the general election. They have done that in the last two presidential races, and the NC big media is trying to do it in the US Senate race. They won’t server up the negatives on Tilli$ now. They will try to get him nominated so that they can fire up on those in the general election. At this point, they are running interference for Tilli$ for the primary. But like the media did with McCain and Romney, they plan to turn on him after they have helped him get the nomination.

    The information you posted is really eye opening. Anyone with a brain would have seen that by ”omission” the jury really meant ”admission”. I wonder how much Brannon’s lawyers raised objections at the time to the way the judge handled it, and whether a post trial motion might succeed in attacking the verdict. I suspect that this will give a good grounds for appeal. It also raises a real question as to judicial bias in the way the judge mishandled his response to the jury question.

    Not putting a client on the stand is often a tactic of trial lawyers when they perceive the opposing case to be weak, but in this case, it seems to have blown up in Brannon’s face, due to jurors incorrectly thinking that a failure to testify was an ”admission” which it is not.

    • Kathy
      February 25, 2014 at 2:10 am

      It’s hard to believe the judge would not have asked for clarification on “omission” vs admission” or just gone ahead and made the clarification either way.

      The other thing that’s strange is the statement by Piazza that he wanted to ruin Brannon and his campaign, yet hasn’t this suit been in the works for several years, before Brannon decided to run?

  2. jr cooper
    February 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Quoting from above:

    “If you pass along information that you believe to be accurate to someone that encourages them to invest in something, which later turns out to not meet their expectations, can you be dragged into court?”

    And the obvious answer is “YES.”

    Your best defense is to tell your side of the story and trust in the wisdom of the jury.

    It did not work for Rep. LaRoque because the jury ruled against him. However, I understand that LaRoque is getting another opportunity to tell his side of the story.

    You never know with juries.

  3. jr cooper
    February 26, 2014 at 11:40 am

    The rest of the story? It is so hard to get the real story out. People hear the headline and imagine all sorts of stuff.

    Might this be how some would view it down on the farm? Let us take a look at this imaginary conversation between Momma and Ben:

    Momma: Ben, did you hear about Brannon?

    Ben: About him being held liable for misleading investors?

    Momma: Yes, darling, I am so sad. So hurt.

    Ben: Yes, Momma, it is sad indeed.

    Momma: Ben, is that the same charge they got that Bernie Madoff on?

    Ben: No mother, Bernie was sent down on criminal charges. Brannon’s is a civil action only. I think it is just about money.

    Momma: I saw on TV that Bernie is in North Carolina.

    Ben: Yeah, I think at Butner.

    Momma: They said on TV that Bernie loved the prison macaroni & cheese.

    Ben: Yuck!

    Momma: Your daddy loved mac & cheese. I used the real cheese and sliced it off in half-inch chunks. He would like the bowl clean.

    Ben: I miss Daddy.

    Momma: Losing his 401 killed him. They told him to invest in a start-up airline down there in Georgia. He was so depressed after the company went bust.

    Ben: I told him not to do it.

    Momma: It killed him.

    Ben: All that mac & cheese didn’t help either.

    Momma: Do you think Brannon can recover from the jury verdict?

    Ben: I don’t know Momma, I just don’t know.

    Momma: Ben, you want some mac & cheese.

    • Raphael
      February 26, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      A more likely conversation about a topic to more likely to be of real interest to real people in North Carolina:

      Ben: Momma, I am sorry to keep living at home, but I just can’t find a job.

      Momma: I know, but the economy is bad. So are always welcome to stay here.

      Ben: I thought those construction skills courses I took at the community college would get me a decent job in the construction industry, but I have been everywhere nearby and keep getting turned down.

      Momma: I see houses being built and buildings being repaired around town, but all the workers seem to be Mexican.

      Ben: That is exactly what I have been running into. The illegal immigrants depress construction wages, and now the contractors do not even want to hire Americans. Those used to be good jobs for those of us without a college education. I don’t know what I am going to do now.

      Momma. If only we had politicians who would do something about illegal immigration.

      Ben: That would be the day! I could get me a construction job, then, and take care of myself instead of living at home.

      Momma: I have always voted Republican but I see that some think the Republicans might nominate Thom Tillis, who supports amnesty for illegal aliens, and even wants to give them drivers licenses. That would make things even worse than they are now.

      Ben: Oh, no! What is the world coming to when a Republican does not stand up for Americans?

      Momma: Well, I read that some of the special interests who want cheap foreign labor are bankrolling Tillis’ campaign.

      Ben: Don’t we have other choices?

      Momma: Yes, there are others. The leading ones are guys named Brannon and Harris, both of whom are against amnesty.

      Ben: Didn’t I see Brannon’s name in the paper lately?

      Momma: Yes, it was about some business dispute, that I really didn’t understand.

      Ben: Who cares about business disputes. We need a Senator who will get rid of the illegal Mexicans so I can get a job.

  4. jr cooper
    February 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Do you really think that Brannon can “get rid of illegal Mexicans?” Do you truly believe that Brannon can do that?

    I can hear the campaign cry: “Vote for me and I will get rid of illegal Mexicans.”

    Whoa! That is scary even to a nutcase like me.

    • Raphael
      February 26, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Obviously, grassroots people do not get into the details of policy, so I used what grassroots people would say. The policy aspects include securing the border (the border fences / walls of Israel and Morrocco, for example, have been quite effective) and then working to identify and expel the illegals already in the country, both of which will take time. The most economical approach will be to crack down on them so that they self-deport. We need to make it difficult for them to get jobs or housing. Requiring e-Verify to help weed out illegals in jobs is one way do start. Penalizing those who hire illegals or rent to them is another. We certainly need to give states the powers to crack down on illegals as this puts more boots on the ground.

      In the Senate race, TIlli$ is the only candidate who has said he favors a ”pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens, and the only one who has advocated giving them drivers licenses. He also rammed through a bill to gut e-Verify in North Carolina. Tilli$ has sold out to the interests of Mexico and LaRaza while the other GOP Senate candidates want to take steps to alleviate the problem of the invaision of our country by the illegals.

  5. bobby poon
    February 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    In complex business cases you might as well be talking to donkeys as 12 jurors..That is why NC has Business Court where this case should have been.It is obvious this was a travesty of Justice by anyone knowledgeable but try picking 12 at random.Now try explaing the outcome of the case and watch the eyes glaze over.In any event its not a serious problem for his campaign but what is serious is his campaign teams lack of experience and effectiveness.They are just not competent.No match for Rove and Co.The last 2 weeks of the campaign Rove will bury them and they will not be prepared and not know what hit them and a good candidate and man will never run again and the state and country will have lost.

  6. jr cooper
    February 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Or it may have gone like this:

    Ben: Didn’t I see Brannon’s name in the paper lately?

    Momma: Yes, it was about some business dispute, that I really didn’t understand.

    Ben: Well, from what I gather a jury of 12 citizens of the great state of North Carolina heard all the evidence and then ruled that Brannon mislead investors. I think the amount was somewhere in the range of $250,000.00.

    Momma: A jury did that?

    Ben: Yeah they did.

    Momma: I served on a jury once.

    Ben: So did I.

    Momma: We had a case where a mobile home dealer was falsifying titles.

    Ben: Did you find him guilty?

    Momma: You bet your sweet mac & cheese we did!

    Ben: We had a young girl up on shoplifting charges.

    Momma: Did you find her guilty?

    Ben: No, she plead out while we were in the jury room. The judge came in and told us to go home.

    Momma: You certainly get to see a lot of things serving on a jury.

    Ben: It really opens your eyes.

    • Raphael
      February 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Here is another one that is indeed more likely to concern everyday citizens:

      Momma: Wow, this electric bill is awful. It is really putting a strain on our family budget.

      Ben: Don’t look now, Mom, but it might get worse. I was looking on the internet yesterday and read that North Carolina has a law to force utilities to buy solar and wind energy, which costs a lot more than regular electricity, and they then pass that extra cost on by raising the electric rates to customers like us.

      Momma: Oh no! We pay too much as it is and just cannot afford any more. We just got a Republican legislature elected. Can’t they do something about this law?

      Ben: From what I read, they tried, but the House Speaker, Thom Tillis stopped the bill to repeal that law.

      Momma: Why in the world would a Republican want us to have to pay more for our electricity? I have always been a Republican and that does not sound like Republican thought.

      Ben: It seems that Tillis is part owner of a small bank that has a lot of its money tied up in wind and solar projects, so he is looking out for his own personal financial interests instead of ours.

      Momma: How corrupt! I never expected to hear of a member of my own party sinking so low.

  7. jr cooper
    February 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Or maybe the conversation went”

    “Momma: How corrupt! I never expected to hear of a member of my own party sinking so low.”

    Ben: Well Momma, the jury heard the evidence and made their ruling. What else can we do but put our faith in 12 of our fellow citizens. I’m sure they did their best to deliver a fair and impartial verdict. After all, Momma, they are the ones who sat their and heard both sides of the story. We must trust in their judgement, Momma, we must.

    Momma: I saw on the internet that our electric rates are going up.

    Ben: Have you ever known them to come down?

    Momma: Not really. Every candidate says they will lower electric rates but I have never seen a drop.

    Ben: Is the mac & cheese ready yet?

    • Raphael
      February 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Get real. Real North Carolinians care a heck of a lot more about jobs, illegal immigration and electric rates than they do about the nitty gritty of some business dispute. Jobs, illegal immigration, and electric rates impact them. Someone else’s business dispute does NOT.

      • jr cooper
        February 26, 2014 at 4:50 pm

        Getting real I could see a conversation going this way:

        Momma: Ben, you been to see any good movies lately?

        Ben: Yeah, I went to see that new movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

        Momma: They’ve made a movie about Brannon already ! ! ! That was fast.

        Ben: No Momma, this is about some investment deals gone bad back in the 1990’s.

        Momma: Well, I didn’t think they could have made a movie about it that fast.

        Ben: But I imagine there will be a few TV ads about it. Probably already in production.

        Momma: I wouldn’t bet against it.

        Ben: Politics is a tough business.

        Momma: You got that right.

        • Raphael
          February 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm

          The ads probably already in production, and probably from national conservative groups, are the ones that will barbeque Tillis on selling out to Mexico and LaRaza on illegal immigration and Tillis trying to set up a state Obamacare exchange in North Carolina in 2011. To the GOP primary voter, Obamacare and amnesty for illegals are going to get a lot more traction than the Rovian ads you mention. Stick with your personal attacks if you want, but the real issues that matter to real people are what will make or break the candidates in this race.

        • Raphael
          February 26, 2014 at 5:37 pm

          Or lets take another conversation on real world issues that is much more likely than any of yours:

          Sam: Gee, this new Obamacare is awful. I have some medical expenses coming up and my new Obamacare plan is only going to pay 60% of my expenses, and that after a deductible that is triple what I had.

          Bill: Tell me about it. I liked my old plan that they cancelled, but now I am paying 50% more for a plan with higher deductibles and covering only 70% of my medical costs after that.

          Sam: Yeah, the Democrats really screwed us on Obamacare. We are having to pay a lot more and getting a lot less.

          Bill: But it wasn’t just the Democrats. A few Republicans have tried to work with Obamacare to help make Obamacare happen.

          Sam: Really? I thought Republicans were totally opposed to Obamacare.

          Bill: Not all of them. Take Thom Tillis, for example. He pushed a bill through the State House to set up an Obamacare exchange in North Carolina. It was fortunate that there were real Republicans in the State Senate who defeated that bill.

          Sam: That is really eye opening. We almost had Obama/Tilliscare.

          Bill: Tillis is one Republican I will never vote for. He is more like a Democrat.

          • jr cooper
            February 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm

            Or maybe:

            Elwood: What do you think of our pool of Republican Senate hopefuls?

            Leon: To tell you the truth the only one I ever heard of is Tillis.

            Elwood: What do you think the main issues will be?

            Leon: Electing the one who has the best chance of beating Kay Hagan.

            Elwood: Yeah, that is about the only issue that matters.

            Leon: Is pragmatic the word I’m looking for?

            Elwood. Maybe. Is commonsensical a word?

  8. James
    February 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Tillis beating Kay Hagan would only be exchanging one problem for another which would be more damaging. The goal is not to just beat Hagan. The goal is not to just beat Hagan. The idea is to actually implement change and take congress in another direction. Tillis would exacerbate and contribute to the problems. Remember he won’t show to meet and talk with people unless he knows he’s going to be paid big money for the appearance. If Tillis is the nominee why show up and vote in the general. Same results either way you’ll get a politician that values money more than people.

    • Mary Jo Phillips
      February 26, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Thats a good point. If he doesn’t even care enough to show up now when he needs something from us like our vote and he’s only a few miles away here in the state, does anyone think that an arrogant politician like Thom Tillis would be there for us when he’s in DC hundreds of miles away. No. Thom Tillis’ actions show that he does not care about us. His arrogance is so evident that he feels he cannot even be seen with his opponents and his constituents. I would never vote for him. The sooner he leaves office the better. Go home to Florida or Massachusetts Mr. Tillis, North Carolina needs someone who cares about her people and will at least show up.

    • jr cooper
      February 26, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      I would settle for the Republican candidate, whomever he or she may be, to defeat Kay Hagan. It might not be ideal but it would be a start. If you cannot be with the one you love then love the one you are with.

      • James
        February 26, 2014 at 8:29 pm

        To quote jr cooper – I would settle for the Republican candidate, whomever he or she may be, to defeat Kay Hagan…but it would be a start.

        Therein lies the problem.Tillis is as equally damaging and as bad as Kay Hagan. It wouldn’t be a start to anything but a continuation of business as usual, people are sick of the Thom Tillis’s of the political world. Lindsay Graham was going to be a start, Richard Burr was going to be a start, and on and on. I will give Thom Tillis credit for one accomplishment though, he’s fractured and damaged the party and shows that it matters not whether the Republicans or Democrats are in charge the same slick politicians are there to serve themselves at the trough.

    • Atnor
      February 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I agree – “beating Hagan” is not “my” goal… I want Senators, in part, that I think can/will share and advance principles I think are important… and for unforeseeable issues, that I can likely approve of the reasoning and judgments they’d employ to reach a political position.

      Neither Hagan nor Tillis meet that threshold, and neither deserve my support.

  9. RIC S.
    February 27, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    While talking to Dr Brannon at the Oath keepers meeting in Salisbury recently i understood that the judge in his civil case is a big time democrat. If this is true then this corrupt judge evidently had an agenda. Could someone please look into this poor excuse of a judge’s background?

    • Raphael
      February 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Something really does smell about the way the judge handled that jury question about ”omission / admission”. He could not have been that stupid. It was likely a politically motivated ploy against Brannon.

      • jr cooper
        February 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        Those politically motivated court decisions are something else. Probably what happened to poor Stephen LaRoque as well.

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