New York Attorney General Investigation

NRA Trial Day 22: The Individual Defendants Return to the Stand

February 13, 2024

Today in Court

Wayne LaPierre’s attorney called LaPierre to the stand for direct examination during the morning session. The jury heard his testimony until the 12:30pm lunch break. In the afternoon, defendant John Frazer took the stand.

Outside the presence of the jury, Judge Cohen also made legal determinations, of some consequence. The judge rejected the NRA’s attempt to have the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (“EPTL”) claims against the NRA thrown out for “vagueness.” Further, Judge Cohen also ruled against the NRA on an issue relating to jury instructions (pertaining to whether the NRA should be described as a “charitable not-for-profit corporation”, which the Judge found that it should). On a different motion, the judge granted the individual defendants’ (LaPierre, Frazer, Phillips) motion for a directed verdict on the EPTL claims against them. This ruling was not based on whether the NYAG carried its evidentiary burden, but instead on whether – under New York law – these executives should be categorized as “trustees” of the NRA. While these claims are no longer in the case, each of these individual defendants still face causes of action under New York’s Non-for-Profit laws.

Summary of Today’s Testimony

  • LaPierre’s attorney, Kent Corell, spent most of the morning eliciting testimony regarding LaPierre’s background and general job responsibilities at the NRA. Testimony included:
    • LaPierre explained he first joined the NRA as an employee when the organization was “looking for a Democrat.” Of his ascension to Executive Vice President, LaPierre testified that he “actually didn’t want the job” and that he knew the NRA needed help at the time because it had lost “half a million members.”
    • During the examination, Correll attempted to admit photos, magazines, congressional reports, as a way to show LaPierre’s work and rising profile during his career. After a few of these were admitted, the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”) objected based on relevance (the objection was sustained). Correll became agitated that his exhibits were not being admitted, saying: “This is this man’s day in court.” 
    • LaPierre said he did not want to concede “Hollywood” “to the other side,” and that he wanted to present the NRA as “mainstream.”
      • Correll admitted into evidence a thank you note from Oprah Winfrey to LaPierre for appearing on one of her shows.
      • In speaking about the NRA’s involvement with country music, LaPierre testified that music is very influential over American culture, and “all you have to do is look at Taylor Swift.” [Note: Yes – NRA Watch notes that much of today’s testimony was a bit far afield]
    • LaPierre described that, in the past, “people didn’t all hate each other” like they do in politics today, “it was civil.” He testified the gun “issue got more antagonistic” and that he “gave up” his anonymity.
  • Of more relevance to the issues involved in the case, LaPierre testified:
    • When asked to explain previous testimony about him and other NRA executives taking helicopters to NASCAR events, LaPierre said that traveling by helicopter was the “most convenient way to get there,” but quickly added that sometimes they drove in cars to these events.
    • LaPierre explained that he had long charged his dues to a private golf club to the NRA. He said that he would occasionally entertain donors. When new CFO Craig Spray told him this was not an appropriate charge to the NRA, LaPierre testified he started paying the dues on his own. 
  • In the afternoon, Frazer returned to the stand for direct examination by his attorney. There was not a lot of new ground covered, but highlights include:
    • Regarding the Ackerman McQueen invoices discussed previously at trial, Frazer said they were usually signed off on by Woody Phillips (or his assistant), and generally Phillips’ office managed the Ackerman business relationship.
    • Frazer testified that he very clearly remembers “unfavorable” news stories about the NRA in the spring of 2019. Frazer said that when he saw “unfavorable stories about legal or governance issues,” he would look into them. He also testified that in April 2019, NRA President Charles Cotton approached him and asked Frazer to pull together a list of all the accusations detailed in the news and what investigations have happened. Frazer said he and his executive assistant built out a spreadsheet.
    • Frazer testified that NRA staff from “top to bottom” took a 20% pay reduction because of COVID.


Wayne LaPierre spent decades as the head of the NRA when the organization was a main force for coarsening American political discourse, constantly injecting the threat of violence into our politics through the embrace of a “guns anywhere” agenda and extremist rhetoric, like the lie that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for individuals to overthrow the government. Now on the stand in the trial, it is astounding to hear LaPierre complaining that, in the past, “people didn’t all hate each other” in politics and that “it was civil,” unlike today. Meanwhile, not even a month ago, the NRA published LaPierre’s (presumably) final monthly column in NRA publications, in which he wrote, in part, “The radical fringe of our country—led by President Joe Biden and his allies in Congress—is feverishly working to destroy the very foundations of our nation.”

LaPierre’s testimony that the NRA needed help at the time he took the job as Executive Vice President because it had lost “half a million members” is notable given reports that the NRA has lost a million or more members in recent years.

While the individual defendants scored a modest victory today with the Judge’s rejection of the EPTL claims against them, other claims remain for the jury to consider during deliberations.

What’s Next?

Tomorrow is the final day of testimony in the trial. LaPierre will conclude his testimony tomorrow morning, followed by the NYAG’s cross examination of Frazer.

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.