Wayne LaPierre, the longtime CEO of the National Rifle Association, is facing the most serious threat to his leadership of the pro-gun lobbyist organization as a corruption case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James is set to get underway in Manhattan, according to a report.
James’ lawsuit seeks to remove LaPierre, 75, one of four defendants in the suit that alleges top officials at the organization violated state and federal laws and diverted millions of dollars in funds from the NRA for flights, travel, clothing and hotels, the New York Times reported.
The trial is scheduled to start Jan. 8 in New York State Supreme Court and is expected to last about two months.
Jury selection began Tuesday.
Last week, a New York state appeals court in a unanimous decision turned down the NRA‘s bid to end James’ probe, arguing that it was politically motivated and that James violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.
But the five judges on the panel said the attorney general’s office showed it had “probably cause” to investigate the NRA, and “the NYAG’s own investigation uncovered ample evidence of malfeasance, as evidenced by the lengthy, detailed complaint.”
William Brewer, the lead lawyer for the NRA, said James has had her sights on the gun rights group even before she was elected.
“It’s a matter of faith among members, based on credible external evidence, that the NRA was facing these adverse actions by government officials if not entirely, then in large part, because of their antipathy toward the NRA and its Second Amendment advocacy,” Brewer told the New York Times in an interview.
He said the group, which was established in New York in 1871, has taken steps to correct corporate practices, and claimed that many of the witnesses James intends to call are no longer affiliated with the NRA.
“This phase of the case is about tales from the crypt,” Brewer said, noting that the mindset now is “if you made a mistake, you’re going to pay it back with interest, and if you do it again, you’re gone.”