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New York AG office, ex-NRA official reach settlement days before trial against gun advocacy group’s leadership

Former National Rifle Association official Joshua Powell admitted wrongdoing in a settlement with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office that was announced just days before Monday’s trial seeking to dissolve the gun advocacy nonprofit group.

Powell, who once served as NRA executive director of operations and chief of staff to recently resigned NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, had already turned his back on the powerful gun rights group, writing of “staggering” waste and corruption in his 2020 book “Inside the NRA,” before his $100,000 settlement with James’ office was announced on Friday.

He agreed to testify at the trial, pay the NRA $100,000 and forgo further nonprofit involvement. 

Along with Powell, James had sued LaPierre, NRA general counsel John Frazer and retired NRA finance chief Wilson Phillips in 2020, alleging they cost the organization tens of millions of dollars from questionable expenditures, including lucrative consulting contracts for ex-employees, and gifts for friends and vendors. Frazer and Phillips have denied wrongdoing.

NEW YORK AG CASE AGAINST NRA LEADER FACES TRIAL AFTER COURT AGAIN REJECTS GUN GROUP’S CLAIM OF POLITICAL PROBE

Powell’s settlement announcement was made Friday, the same day LaPierre said he was resigning from the NRA. It comes just days before the start of a civil trial over allegations that LaPierre treated himself to millions of dollars in private jet flights, yacht trips, African safaris and other extravagant perks at the powerful gun rights organization’s expense.

As part of the agreement, Powell has admitted to failing in his fiduciary responsibilities and misusing charitable funds, James’ office said.

“Joshua Powell’s admission of wrongdoing and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation confirm what we have alleged for years: the NRA and its senior leaders are financially corrupt,” James said in a statement. “More than three years ago, my office sued the NRA and its senior management for financial abuse and mismanagement. These are important victories in our case, and we look forward to ensuring the NRA and the defendants face justice for their actions.”

The NRA has long alleged the case was politically motivated, arguing that James violated the group’s First Amendment rights and executed selective enforcement of state laws governing nonprofits because she disagrees with the group’s gun advocacy.

Both while still campaigning for attorney general and after she was elected, James had notably publicly condemned the NRA as “an organ of deadly propaganda masquerading as a charity for public good,” a “terrorist organization,” and as “nothing more than a criminal enterprise.” In one September 2018 interview, she said she was “waiting to take on all of the banks that finance them, their investors,” the NRA noted to Fox News Digital last week.

LaPierre said his departure from the NRA is effective Jan. 31. The trial is scheduled to start Monday. LaPierre was in court last week for jury selection and is expected to testify at the trial. The NRA said it will continue to fight the lawsuit, which could result in a further shake-up of its leadership and the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee its finances.

WAYNE LAPIERRE ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION AS NRA CHIEF

“With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement released by the organization, which said he was leaving for health reasons. “I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever.”

James, a Democrat, confirmed that the trial will go on as scheduled. LaPierre’s exit “validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him or the NRA from accountability,” James said in a statement.

Andrew Arulanandam, a top NRA lieutenant who has served as LaPierre’s spokesperson, will assume his roles on an interim basis, the organization said.

The NRA remains a strong political force, with Republican presidential hopefuls flocking to its annual convention last year. In recent years, though, the organization has been beset by financial troubles, dwindling membership and infighting among its 76-member board, and lingering questions about LaPierre’s leadership and spending, according to the Associated Press.

After reporting a $36 million deficit in 2018, fueled mostly by misspending, the NRA cut back on longstanding programs that had been core to its mission for decades, including training and education, recreational shooting and law enforcement initiatives. In 2021, the organization filed for bankruptcy and sought to incorporate in Texas instead of New York – where it was founded as a nonprofit charity in 1871 – but a judge rejected the move, saying it was a transparent attempt to duck James’ lawsuit.

LaPierre, 74, has led the NRA’s day-to-day operations since 1991, acting as the face and vehement voice of its gun rights agenda and becoming one of the most influential figures in shaping U.S. gun policy. He once warned of “jack-booted government thugs” seizing guns, brought in movie star Charlton Heston to serve as the organization’s president, and condemned gun control advocates as “opportunists” who “exploit tragedy for gain.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

   

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