Binky, 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 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?