NRA Slips Gun Rhetoric Into Openings in NY Corruption Trial

Second Amendment

  • In opening statements, an NRA lawyer defended the gun lobby against NY’s massive corruption case.
  • “One night walking home, I was attacked by two men in the dark,” on a NY street, she told jurors.
  • “It’s your choice in America,” she said of “the right to own a firearm,” prompting objections.

The case is about corruption, not gun rights, jurors in New York’s NRA civil trial have been instructed by the judge — but that didn’t stop a lawyer for the gun lobby from dropping some pretty blatant Second Amendment-rights propaganda into her opening statements Tuesday.

“I never owned a gun,” NRA lawyer Sarah B. Rogers told six jurors and six alternates Tuesday in a Manhattan courtroom, as she neared the end of her openings.

“I never thought I needed one,” she told them.

“And before working on this case, I didn’t really agree with the NRA and the Second Amendment,” she said.

“Then one night walking home,” somewhere in New York City, she said, “I was attacked by two men in the dark.”

At this point — with the opening statement veering into personal opinion — Monica Connell, special counsel for the trial’s plaintiffs, the New York attorney general’s office, objected.

Attorney General Letitia James has sued the NRA, its outgoing longtime leader Wayne LaPierre, and three other veteran officers of the gun lobby, alleging that they violated state not-for-profit laws for years by squandering millions of dollars on lavish personal perks and gifts for vendors.

After hearing Connell’s objection, New York Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen gave a small, dismissive wave from the bench, and allowed Rogers to continue.

“It didn’t matter that I had taken a kickboxing class at a gym,” Rogers told the jurors of the attack she implied has changed her mind about guns.

“It didn’t help,” she said, her voice wavering with apparent emotion.

“Not everyone who has been the victim of a crime or has a concern about personal safety chooses to have a gun,” she told the predominately female jury. The jury is comprised of eight women and four men who won’t learn if they are jurors or alternates until just before deliberations, sometime in mid-February.

“But depending on your specific situation, it might make you feel safer,” she said. “That’s the thing — it’s your choice in America.”

“The choice to own a firearm does not just belong to the king or the militia or the cops in America,” she added. “It’s yours.”

The propriety of the lawyer’s unusual opening statement finale — which sounded as if it were ripped from a testimonial in an NRA brochure — was raised again by state lawyers once the jury was excused for a break.

Connell, the AG’s special counsel, rose from her seat to ask the judge to give a “curative instruction” reminding them that the case is not about gun rights.

“These jurors have all been told multiple times that this case is not about gun rights,” the judge said, denying her request.

The AG alleges the NRA’s top leadership considered LaPierre to be its “king,” and allowed him to spend millions in donor dollars on luxury travel, designer clothing, and gifts for favored vendors.

In fighting that allegation — and the AG’s demand that a monitor be installed at the NRA to fight future corruption — Rogers further used Tuesday’s opening statements to portray the gun lobby as a victim of rogue former officers, LaPierre included.

She told jurors that LaPierre has paid the NRA back — with interest — and that fraud-auditing software and other safeguards are now in place to prevent new violations.

The lawsuit seeks yet-stated monetary penalties and a permanent ban on LaPierre running a New York nonprofit. A bid by the state to have the NRA disbanded entirely was lost on appeal.

In openings for LaPierre, attorney Kent Correll told jurors that the NRA leader served the group “well and honorably,” up until the point “his health made it impossible,” a reference that was also objected to by the AG’s side.

Correll called LaPierre a civil rights activist who fought tirelessly for the Constitutional rights of members.

He also argued that LaPierre had to fly private, instead of commercial, because of the numerous death threats he’s received, and had to go on yachts to network with pro-gun celebrities like Montel Williams, and Bond actor Roger Moore.

LaPierre was assured by outside auditors that all was well with the company books, Correll added.

“Wayne is not an accountant,” the lawyer noted. “He’s not a lawyer. He’s a policy person. He reads the Constitution. He reads legislation. That’s what he’s good at.”

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