Trials & Litigation
Civil fraud trial seeking independent monitor for NRA begins after CEO’s resignation, official’s $100K settlement
The National Rifle Association is a registered charitable organization with “legal obligations to use its funds for charitable purposes, not to support the lavish lifestyles of senior management and organization insiders,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a press release. Image from Shutterstock.
The civil fraud trial against the National Rifle Association and senior management was scheduled to begin in New York City on Monday, just days after NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre announced his resignation and another official reached a $100,000 settlement.
LaPierre remains a defendant in the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which alleges that officials diverted millions of dollars away from the NRA’s charitable mission. The NRA said LePierre resigned for health reasons.
The New York Times, CNN, ABC News, Reuters and Law360 are among the publications with coverage. Press releases are here and here.
James had alleged that LaPierre exploited the NRA for the benefit of himself and his inner circle, using donor money to pay for private jets, expensive meals and family vacations. James’ August 2020 lawsuit initially sought the dissolution of the NRA but dropped that remedy after a judge ruled that it could violate members’ First Amendment rights, according to Law360 and the Washington Post. She is now seeking an independent monitor.
Another defendant, Joshua Powell, former NRA chief of staff and executive director of general operations, reached a $100,000 settlement in the case Friday. According to prior coverage by the New York Times, he broke with the group after his January 2020 firing, calling for universal background checks and “red flag” laws that allow courts to order guns seizures from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.
In the press release announcing Powell’s settlement, James said the NRA is a registered charitable organization with “legal obligations to use its funds for charitable purposes, not to support the lavish lifestyles of senior management and organization insiders.”
Other defendants in the case are former NRA treasurer and chief financial officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips and general counsel John Frazer, who is the only defendant still an NRA employee, according to the Washington Post.
A lawyer representing the NRA, William A. Brewer III, told CNN in a statement that it is “a telling sign that the [New York attorney general]’s case relies so heavily on disgruntled former employees, terminated vendors and other castoffs from the NRA’s past who are no longer affiliated with the association.”
CNN also cited an NRA statement Friday that its board “has undertaken significant efforts to perform a self-evaluation; recommended termination of disgraced ‘insiders’ and vendors who allegedly abused the association; and accepted reimbursement, with interest, for alleged excess benefit transactions from LaPierre, as reported in public tax filings.”