NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and NRA executives were examined and cross-examined in open court for the first time last week as the NRA’s bankruptcy trial began in Dallas. The trial was expected to be revelatory, and has not disappointed.
The trial could decide the future of the NRA and LaPierre himself. The Judge will make a ruling on whether the entire NRA bankruptcy was filed in bad faith to simply avoid regulators, a very rare motion. If the Court allows the bankruptcy to proceed, it will then consider another extraordinary request: the appointment of an independent examiner to investigate fraud or a trustee to run the NRA.
No matter the outcome, the trial and bankruptcy itself have been an outright disaster for the NRA. The revelations stemming from this trial will factor not just this in case, but in additional litigation and trials the NRA faces from the New York Attorney General, Washington D.C. Attorney General, Ackerman McQueen, and a donor class action. The NRA will have to deal with the legal repercussions from this bankruptcy trial for months or even years to come.
What to expect this week in the NRA bankruptcy trial:
- Former NRA Chief Financial Officer Craig Spray is expected to testify today. Testimony from last week revealed that last fall, Spray refused to sign the NRA’s regulatory tax filings, and was subsequently fired by LaPierre.
- NRA Acting Chief Financial Officer Sonya Rowling is expected to continue testimony today.
- This week, the New York Attorney General’s office has indicated it intends to read or play deposition clips from NRA president Carolyn Meadows. Last week, NRA General Counsel John Frazer testified that Meadows admitted to burning and shredding NRA documents.
- Deposition testimony of LaPierre’s longtime assistant Millie Hallow may also be read in open court. Trial testimony last week indicated Hallow previously charged $40,000 for her son’s wedding, among other personal expenses, to the NRA.
- Current and former NRA board members, some of whom were sidelined after raising concerns about the NRA’s financial mismanagement, are also expected to testify. Witnesses may include: Phillip Journey, Owen “Buz” Mills, R.B. “Rocky” Marshall, Jr., and Esther Schneider.
Major takeaways from the first week of the trial include:
- LaPierre hid the bankruptcy from NRA leaders and board members. Only three members of the 70-plus person board of directors were aware of the Chapter 11 filing before it was public. The only NRA employee that knew about the bankruptcy ahead of time was the communications staffer who wrote the press release.
- LaPierre took annual “security retreats” on board a 100-plus-foot yacht, and allegedly instructed his travel consultant to omit embarrassing details from travel invoices. LaPierre said that he made several annual week-long trips to the Bahamas with his family to stay on a Hollywood producer’s yacht for what he described as “security retreats.” Deposition testimony from LaPierre’s travel agent was played at the trial in which she testified that LaPierre had instructed her to hide some of his private jet flights to places like the Bahamas on her invoices to the NRA.
- The totality of the trial has painted a picture of an anything-goes culture, where compliance is an afterthought. The NRA’s General Counsel John Frazer testified that NRA president Carolyn Meadows admitted to burning and shredding NRA documents. The NRA’s recently departed CFO Craig Spray, due to testify in the trial this week, apparently refused to sign the NRA’s 2019 IRS Form 990 tax filings, and was subsequently fired by LaPierre.
- The NRA’s legal bills are far worse, and eyebrow-raising, than previously known. Since 2018, the NRA has reported paying its legal defense — Brewer, Attorney & Counselors — more than $50 million. New admissions of the NRA’s legal defense raised significant questions, including roughly $6 million in legal fees to defend the NRA from a $2 million settlement with its former chief lobbyist Chris Cox and $1.2 million for two-weeks worth of work paid out the day before the NRA declared bankruptcy.
- Thus far, LaPierre has been the weakest witness to take the stand. In the NRA’s opening statements, they called LaPierre the NRA’s “greatest asset.” However, on the stand, LaPierre’s answers were often meandering and unresponsive, prompting the Judge to instruct him — more than a dozen times — to just listen to the question and answer. Even the NRA’s own lawyers moved to strike LaPierre’s own testimony from the record on multiple occasions.
For further, detailed information about the NRA and the consequences of this week’s trial, please email [email protected]. Everytown has also chronicled court filings and news articles about the various NRA scandals at www.nrawatch.org. A specific page dedicated to filings in the bankruptcy can be found at https://nrawatch.org/case/nra-bankruptcy-proceedings/.