N.R.A. Civil Corruption Trial to Begin in New York

Just days after the resignation of its longtime leader, the National Rifle Association was headed to court on Monday in a long-awaited civil showdown with New York prosecutors.

The arguments anticipated in a Manhattan courtroom stem from a 2020 lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, who has argued that there is pervasive corruption inside the prominent gun-rights organization. Those allegations — including a charge that the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, misused funds for personal vacations and a lavish wardrobe — came after a lengthy investigation of the group, which is chartered as a nonprofit in New York and thus under Ms. James’s jurisdiction.

Jury selection began last week before Justice Joel M. Cohen in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, with Mr. LaPierre sitting in the courtroom for some of that process. He is one of several defendants in the suit, including John Frazer, the N.R.A.’s general counsel, and Wilson Phillips, a former finance chief.

Ms. James had sought to oust Mr. LaPierre, who announced his resignation on Friday after leading the organization for more than three decades, and she is still trying to bar him and the other defendants from serving on nonprofit boards in New York. She is also seeking financial penalties.

A fourth defendant, Joshua Powell, was the organization’s second-in-command for a time, but later turned against the group, calling for universal background checks for gun purchases and supporting so-called red flag laws that allow the courts to seize firearms from people judged dangerous to themselves or others.

Last week, Mr. Powell reached a $100,000 settlement with Ms. James’s office, agreeing to admit to misusing funds, according to a statement released by her office.

N.R.A. leaders have argued that New York officials are persecuting the group, part of what they describe as a concerted effort by Ms. James — a Democrat — to attack their conservative beliefs, which include an unwavering defense of the Second Amendment.

Long among the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, the N.R.A. has seen its influence dimmed by the corruption case, infighting and a steep drop in membership. According to its internal audits, revenue is down more than 40 percent since 2016, with legal costs running into the tens of millions a year.

For all those challenges, gun rights remain a fundamental pillar of Republican politics, with right-wing candidates at all levels speaking out against gun control measures, despite a steady series of mass shootings in schools, malls and other public spaces.

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