Wayne LaPierre resigns as NRA leader, days before start of his civil trial

Wayne LaPierre resigned as leader of the National Rifle Association on Friday, ending his decadeslong reign over the prominent gun rights group, days before the start of his civil trial in New York.

In announcing his departure, LaPierre, the organization’s executive vice president, said he has been a “card-carrying member” of the NRA for most of his adult life and that he would “never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom.”

“My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever,” LaPierre said in a statement.

Fox News Digital, which first reported the resignation, said the 74-year-old cited health reasons for his exit, which will take effect Jan. 31.

He has led the NRA for more than 30 years.

LaPierre and three other current and former NRA leaders are fending off a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2020 that alleges they violated nonprofit laws and misused millions of dollars of NRA funds to finance lavish lifestyles for themselves.

LaPierre announced his resignation Friday afternoon as jury selection neared an end.

James touted his exit as “an important victory.”

“LaPierre’s resignation validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him from accountability,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our case in court.”

The lawsuit alleges that LaPierre diverted millions of dollars away from the group’s charitable mission for his personal use of private jets, expensive meals, travel consultants, private security, and trips to the Bahamas for him and his family.

The attorney general claims LaPierre spent more than $500,000 of the NRA’s assets to fly himself and his family members to the Bahamas. From May 2015 to April 2019, the NRA incurred over $1 million in expenses for private flights in which LaPierre was not a passenger, according to the lawsuit. 

LaPierre received more than $1.2 million in expense reimbursements from 2013 to 2017, the lawsuit alleges. 

The other defendants are also accused of violating nonprofit laws and internal policies as they enriched themselves, the suit says, contributing to the NRA’s loss of more than $64 million in three years. 

They are Wilson “Woody” Phillips, a former NRA treasurer and chief financial officer; Joshua Powell, a former chief of staff and executive director of general operations; and John Frazer, the corporate secretary and general counsel.

In a court filing Thursday, Powell, who is representing himself, indicated that he is attempting to settle the case against him. The attorney general’s office declined to comment on Powell.

The civil trial in Manhattan is expected to begin Monday and will last six weeks.

Six members of the jury will be tasked with determining whether the defendants violated nonprofit laws. If the jurors find the defendants liable, they will recommend the amount of money that each defendant would have to repay the NRA.

In that outcome, state Supreme Court Judge Joel Cohen would have the final say over monetary damages and remedies, including whether the defendants should be permanently barred from serving on the board of any charity in New York and whether an independent monitor should oversee the NRA’s finances.

The attorney general is seeking both remedies, which Cohen would decide on during a second phase of the trial.