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New York jury orders former NRA head Wayne LaPierre to pay $5m in corruption case

New York jury found three executives of the NRA including former CEO, Wayne LaPierre, liable for corruption

Ariana Baio
Friday 23 February 2024 23:41 GMT
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After six weeks of trial and five days of deliberations, a jury in New York has determined that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is liable for mismanagement and its former head, Wayne LaPierre, liable for corruption.

A jury of six returned a verdict on Friday afternoon declaring that Mr LaPierre violated his duties as the CEO and owes the organisation more than $5m for improperly using funds. They said there was cause for his removal.

Mr LaPierre, who resigned from his position days before the trial began, has already paid the organisation more than $1m.

The jury also concluded that former CFO Wilson “Woody” Phillips was liable for $2m. The jury found that NRA general counsel and secretary John Frazer acted inappropriately but did not find cause for his removal.

The well-known gun advocacy organisation was found liable for mismanagement.

It will now be up to New York Justice Joel Cohen to determine if Mr LaPierre should be barred from holding positions in a nonprofit organisation in New York.

The case, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2020, challenged the NRA’s law-abiding actions as a nonprofit in New York City. She accused the group and several of its current and former leaders of financial improprieties by misusing funds to benefit themselves, their confidants and certain vendors.

The jury was tasked with determining how each defendant should or should not be held responsible separately. They spent five days deliberating before handing in the verdict.

Five of the six jurors had to agree with the verdict.

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, arrives at court in New York, Jan. 8, 2024. Closing arguments are expected in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 (AP)

At the heart of those accusations is Mr LaPierre, who headed the NRA for more than three decades.

Over the six weeks of trial, attorneys for the AG’s office argued that Mr LaPierre spent millions of NRA money on private jet flights, superyacht trips and more. They claimed that Mr LaPierre maintained his power by concealing payments or reimbursements, consolidating authority, retaliating against those who questioned him and hiring underqualified individuals amongst other tactics.

During questioning, Mr LaPierre admitted that he improperly spent money but said that he began repaying the NRA more than $300,000 in April 2021.

However, Ms James’s office maintains that Mr LaPierre and the NRA only began correcting its finances because of her investigation.

Lawyers for the NRA distanced the organisation from Mr LaPierre, painting it as a victim

Another former NRA leader who was initially a co-defendant in Ms James’ lawsuit, Josh Powell, settled with the attorney general’s office before the trial. As part of the settlement, he agreed to pay the NRA $100,000, testify at trial and abstain from serving as leadership in any New York-based nonprofits.

The attorney general called the verdict “a major victory for the people of New York and our efforts to stop the corruption and greed at the NRA.”

“For years, Wayne LaPierre used charitable dollars to fund his lavish lifestyle, spending millions on luxury travel, expensive clothes, insider contracts, and other perks for himself and his family,” she said in a statement on Friday.

Mr LaPierre and senior leaders at the NRA “blatantly abused their positions and broke the law,” according to Ms James.

“After years of rampant corruption and self-dealing, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA are finally being held accountable,” she said.

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