Off campaign trail, GOP candidate Greg Brannon sits in a courtroom

jfrank@newsobserver.comFebruary 11, 2014 

— U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon is off the campaign trail this week as he stands trial in a civil lawsuit.

The Republican is one of two defendants in a Wake County case that alleges he misled two investors who put $250,000 into a startup tech company he helped launch.

Attorneys selected a 12-person jury Monday, and the trial is expected to begin Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins said he expects the trial to take about four days, and possibly extend into next week if bad weather delays the proceedings.

The trial puts Brannon in an unusual position 12 weeks before the Republican primary. Instead of working for votes and filing his candidacy papers, he’s defending his integrity and fighting a claim seeking financial damages.

The tea party candidate is running an underdog campaign to challenge early front-runner Thom Tillis, the House speaker, for the chance to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan in November. Brannon is vying with Charlotte pastor Mark Harris to represent the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party.

Brannon’s campaign manager Reilly O’Neal sat at the back of the courtroom Monday along with Brannon’s wife, Jodie.

Steven Epstein, the attorney for the investors, Larry Piazza and Sam Lampuri, outlined the case during jury selection, suggesting his clients were given misleading or false information that prompted them to invest in 2010. “They lost the entirety of their investments,” Epstein said.

Brannon argued in court documents that the “angel” investors knew the risks associated with the startup company, Neogence Enterprises, which sought to make an “augmented reality” application for mobile devices.

The investors’ attorney repeatedly asked potential jurors whether they knew Brannon, either from his OB-GYN practice in Cary or his Senate campaign. All 12 jury candidates said no.

“I was aware there were candidates but not of anybody’s name other than the major candidate,” one man in the jury pool replied.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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