Wayne LaPierre illegally failed to disclose being treated to vacations on posh 108-foot-yachts in the Bahamas while he ran the National Rifle Association, lawyers for New York state claimed at the start of his corruption trial on Monday.
During his three-decade-long stint as the powerful head of the gun-rights group, LaPierre allegedly spent time aboard two yachts — known as “Illusions” and “Grand Illusion” — in trips paid for by David and Laura McKenzie, who owned an ad agency that the NRA spent hundreds of millions of dollars on.
But LaPierre, 74, did not mention the excursions on the nonprofit organization’s annual filings — which require the disclosure of any gift from a vendor worth more than $250, Attorney General Letitia James’ office claimed.
“The NRA allowed Wayne LaPierre and his group of NRA insiders… to operate the NRA as ‘Wayne’s World’ for decades,” state prosecutor Monica Connell argued in opening statements at what’s expected to be a six-week-trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.
LaPierre, who announced Friday that he’d be resigning from his post at the end of the month, also showered loyalists on the group’s board with bonuses and awarded former NRA brass cushy speaking and “consulting” gigs — in exchange for them looking the other way on his shady spending, the AG’s office alleged.
James’ office is seeking an order barring LaPierre from returning to the NRA and for an independent monitor to be appointed to oversee the gun rights group’s finances.
He could also be ordered to pay millions in damages.
LaPierre sat calmly in a black suit and blue tie in the first row of the courtroom’s gallery as Connell spoke for more than an hour.
His defense attorney plans to make his opening statement to the six jurors and six alternates in the case on Tuesday morning.
Another National Rifle Association executive, Joshua Powell, reached a last-minute-deal with James’ office on the eve of trial and has agreed to pay $100,000 and admitted to misusing charitable funds.
The case is unfolding in New York because the NRA — whose original goal, according to one of its founders, was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis” — was founded in the Empire State in 1871.
The group has been registered in the state as a non-profit organization ever since, even as its scope has grown to argue against gun control at the national level.
The NRA has advocated against assault weapon bans even after killers used semi-automatic guns to murder people in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, high schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Parkland, Florida, a concert in Las Vegas, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and elsewhere around the country.