New York and DC Attorneys General Investigations

NRA Trial Day 20: NRA CFO Compares the NRA to the Titanic

February 7, 2024

Today in Court

On Wednesday, February 7th, NRA CFO Sonya Rowling concluded her testimony. Rowling was followed by NRA expert witnesses Matthew Lerner, Stacey Cullen, and Greg Plotts.

Summary of Today’s Testimony

  • Current NRA CFO Sonya Rowling continued her testimony today.
    • The NRA elicited testimony from Rowling that she headed up a 2021 review of unprocessed expense reimbursement requests from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. Rowling testified that about $12,000 was reimbursed, but approximately $200,000 in reimbursement requests were not paid out to LaPierre either because they were late or determined to be improper.
    • Rowling also testified about reviewing the NRA credit card statements of former NRA Chief of Staff Josh Powell. She found what she described as “inappropriate” expenses, which included black car service and first class air travel. She testified that when Powell refused to pay these expenses back, he was fired.
    • On cross examination, the NYAG appeared to poke holes in the notion that the “tone at the top” had improved at the NRA, getting Rowling to acknowledge many of the people currently in charge of the organization had been there for decades (namely new CEO Andrew Arulanandam, President Charles Cotton, General Counsel John Frazer, and herself as CFO).
    • Rowling acknowledged that memoranda she prepared for the NRA Audit Committee concerning excess benefits for LaPierre and credit card charges for Tyler Schropp were drafted in December 2023 – three years after the NYAG’s complaint was filed, and 1 month before the trial began. These memoranda are available on the docket and can be found here and here.
    • With respect to calculation of LaPierre’s excess benefits and how she knew certain trips had a business purpose, Rowling testified “I have to take Mr. LaPierre’s word for it.” She later testified that “Mr. LaPierre made a valiant effort” to piece together old travel records during this process.
    • Rowling testified that Schropp has not repaid anything to the NRA to date. She further said she planned to meet with him tomorrow on this issue.
    • Rowling defended the speed in which change was made at the NRA, saying to get the “Titanic turned around it takes time.”
  • Counsel for John Frazer continued his emphasis, in questioning Rowling, about an August 2016 Audit Committee meeting where related party transactions were considered for certain NRA board members.
    • Out of the presence of the jury, Judge Cohen – who was asking questions for the purposes of fashioning jury instructions – got counsel to acknowledge that this meeting was a retroactive approval of contracts and payments the NRA had already made.
  • NRA Watch was not able to observe testimony today in the afternoon, and thus does not have a summary of testimony with respect to expert witnesses Matthew Lerner, Stacey Cullen, and Greg Plotts. 

Analysis

Judge Cohen has directed the parties to divide up trial time equally between the NYAG and defense. The NYAG has used the lionshare of its allotted time and today in court, counsel from the NRA estimated that the NYAG only had 3.5 hours remaining. The bulk of this remaining time will presumably be held in abeyance for closing arguments. This creates a dynamic in the final days of fact testimony where the defense will offer witness after witness, with very little cross examination. While this may sound promising for the NRA and individual defendants, there is also the opposite risk: that the jury gets bored of just hearing direct testimony after direct testimony. The parade of accounting witnesses today speaks to this possibility.

What’s Next?

The NRA will continue its defense tomorrow morning at 9:30am. There will be no testimony on Friday.

Disclaimer: The following summaries and analysis are prepared by individuals at the courthouse listening to the testimony being offered in the New York Attorney General’s case against the NRA. These summaries do not purport to cover every fact or occurrence discussed during the trial. The posts may be updated as soon as transcripts are available from the court, including to cross-reference specific testimony.