DALLAS – Wayne LaPierre, the beleaguered leader of the National Rifle Association, said on Wednesday he had turned the powerful gun rights group up without first notifying most of its board members and members of the public. senior officials.
LaPierre has taken the witness stand in the NRA’s high-stakes bankruptcy lawsuit over whether she should be allowed to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, where a state lawsuit is trying to put the group in. bankruptcy.
LaPierre said he consulted the NRA board’s special litigation committee before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. But the notoriously secretive executive admitted it had failed to brief most of the 76 board members and other senior NRA leaders.
LaPierre did not explain the secrecy, and a New York state attorney did not ask about it during his first questions. However, he prompted LaPierre to explain the bankruptcy.
“We filed this bankruptcy to seek a level legal playing field where the NRA could thrive and develop in a fair legal environment,” LaPierre said, “as opposed to what we thought had become a toxic, politicized and armed government. in New York State. “
The testimony came on the third day of the trial, which is being held virtually in federal court in Dallas.
NRA lawyers have presented the bankruptcy as a legitimate effort to move to a more friendly political environment and avoid a legal death blow; New York attorneys argued that this was an effort by LaPierre and other leaders to shirk responsibility for using the most politically influential gun rights group in the country. country like piggy bank.
As the hearing on New York’s request to dismiss the case resumed Wednesday morning, Judge Harlin Hale called it “the most important motion I have ever heard as a judge.”
The NRA declared bankruptcy five months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit demanding the group’s disbandment. The Democratic official alleged that top NRA leaders illegally embezzled tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal travel, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenses. The bankruptcy process freezes pending litigation.
Among the allegations, LaPierre sailed to the Bahamas on Hollywood producer David McKenzie’s yacht, whose company did business with the NRA. But LaPierre did not pay for the trips or mention them in financial disclosures as NRA policy requires, according to the lawsuit.
LaPierre acknowledges in a deposition that he used McKenzie’s yacht during the summers following a 2012 school shooting in Connecticut and a 2018 massacre in Florida, and on other occasions. He said he didn’t think the trips should be disclosed because his family was on the yacht as a “safety retreat.”
The New York state attorney asked LaPierre if McKenzie, who he says is also called Stanton, was a friend.
“In my job, if I’m the quarterback, he’s one of the people out there who can hit, block and tackle, can help us win that and build NRA interest,” LaPierre replied.
New York, the NRA and the organization’s largest creditor – its former advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen – have argued in court over the legitimacy of bankruptcy and LaPierre’s role. But they seem to largely agree that the group is financially strong.
The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $ 100 million and $ 500 million in assets and put its liabilities in the same range. Although headquartered in Virginia, the group was established as a nonprofit organization in New York City in 1871 and is incorporated there.
On the witness stand, LaPierre was questioned persistently about his handling of the NRA tax records and other documents. At one point, the New York attorney asked him if he had attended a mandatory “compliance session” for NRA leaders on the group’s rules and regulations.
“Maybe I was out of town. I just know I didn’t attend. I read the material, ”LaPierre said. “Come to think of it, I wish I could have seen it.”
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