Jury begins deliberations in civil trial against NRA and its top officials

During the closing arguments of the civil corruption trial, the New York attorney general’s office accused the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its top executives of widespread corruption. The office asserted that the NRA should reimburse the organization for millions of dollars that were spent on personal expenses.

The jury started their deliberations on Friday morning in a case that brings attention to a prominent lobbying organization in a country where there are more civilian guns than people.

In her closing arguments on Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Monica Connell accused the defendants, including the NRA, former CEO Wayne LaPierre, former CFO Wilson “Woody” Philips, and general counsel John Frazer, of being caught “with their hands in the cookie jar.” She stated that they denied, deflected, and blamed each other for their failure to effectively manage charitable funds and for violating non-profit laws, thereby breaching their fiduciary duties.

“What happens when someone is caught in the act?” Connell inquired. “What will they do? Our common sense and life experience can give us some insight into their likely course of action.”

Connell emphasized that simply ceasing illegal activities after being caught does not erase the wrongdoing.

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LaPierre, who recently resigned from his position at the NRA due to health reasons, stated during his testimony that his motivations were not driven by monetary gain. Rather, he explained that the expenses incurred were aimed at enhancing the organization’s influence and significance.

According to Connell, LaPierre has a track record of engaging in corrupt activities such as using funds for personal expenses like private planes, luxury cars, and lavish accommodations at five-star hotels. He also allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing, made million-dollar deals with insiders, and made payments to loyal board members.

According to Connell, the NRA spent $600,000 on private flights to the Bahamas for LaPierre. Additionally, approximately $41,000 was spent on hair and makeup expenses.

According to her, the contract between the NRA and its former advertising firm, MMP, saw an increase in value whenever LaPierre or his wife spent time on the yacht belonging to the owners of Ackerman McQueen, a subsidiary of MMP.

Between 2015 and 2022, the NRA has paid MMP entities a total of $109 million. According to Connell, this sum should be distributed as damages among LaPierre, Philips, and Frazer.

Connell emphasized the importance of trust among NRA donors and members who have generously contributed their hard-earned money to charity.

Connell pointed out that the hiring and subsequent firing of Oliver North, a former NRA president who had previously testified against the organization, serves as a blatant illustration of LaPierre’s corrupt practices.

According to the testimony, LaPierre appointed North to a top position without seeking approval and even offered him a lucrative contract. However, when North raised concerns, LaPierre allegedly silenced him and eventually removed him from his role.

Connell also claimed that LaPierre maintained a faction of loyalists within the NRA board who were dedicated to protecting his interests and maintaining his power.

In a surprising turn of events, former leaders of the NRA could face consequences that may indirectly benefit the members of the organization. However, it is important to note that the state would not receive any monetary compensation as a result of the verdict.

The attorney general’s office is urging the jury to rule against LaPierre and the others, and to order them to reimburse and pay penalties to the organization.

Connell emphasized that the investigation was not a witch hunt, but rather an effort by the attorney general to rightfully return the money that was taken from the NRA back to the organization.

During the closing arguments on Thursday morning, LaPierre’s attorney, Kent Correll, emphasized that his client had no intention of amassing a fortune for himself or seeking financial gain through illicit means within the organization.

According to Correll, the state had implied that every private flight taken by LaPierre was for personal reasons. However, Correll clarified that these flights were actually in the interest of the NRA.

“They don’t want you to see the heroism and the freedom he has fought for. They don’t want you to acknowledge the 4 million members,” he expressed.

According to Correll, the New York attorney general had a clear intention to dismantle the organization, and she understood that the most effective way to achieve that goal was to target LaPierre.

According to him, Letitia James had a political motive behind her desire to dismantle the organization.

Sarah Rodgers, an attorney for the NRA, asserted that the organization was kept in the dark about the wrongdoings and the fact that damages are owed to the group rather than the state speaks volumes about the case.

LaPierre testified that he wanted to repay any benefits or advantages he received by paying them back with interest.

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