NY state lawyer calls NRA bankruptcy ‘sideshow’ in trial closing


By Maria Chutchian

(Reuters) -A lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James called the National Rifle Association’s bankruptcy bid “a circus sideshow” during closing arguments on Monday in a case over whether to allow the NRA to reorganize in the gun-friendly state of Texas.

The NRA filed for Chapter 11 in January, saying it planned to use the bankruptcy process to exit what it has called a corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York, where is it currently incorporated.

It is attempting to fend off a lawsuit to dismiss the Chapter 11 case by James and the group’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen.

The NRA’s lawyers will present their closing arguments later on Monday.

The case before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale in Dallas coincides with the United States reeling from another spate of mass shootings, with President Joe Biden calling for a ban on assault weapons and tighter gun control measures. The gun rights advocacy group has been influential in its opposition to such legislation in the U.S. Congress.

If the NRA is permitted to proceed with the Chapter 11 case, it could make it easier for it to fend off allegations of financial wrongdoing and corruption.

James, a Democrat, sued the NRA and Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre in New York state court in August, accusing it of financial misconduct and aiming to dissolve the organization.

She said the NRA had diverted millions of dollars to fund luxurious trips for officials, no-show contracts for associates, and other questionable expenses.

LaPierre has testified that he sought bankruptcy protection out of fear that James would try to place it into receivership.

James has said the NRA claims to be solvent and called its bankruptcy and plan to reincorporate in Texas after 150 years in New York a bad-faith effort to escape her lawsuit and oversight.

Gerrit Pronske, a lawyer for James, called the NRA’s bankruptcy “a circus sideshow” on Monday during the closing stages of the trial that began on April 5. The NRA has accused James of “weaponizing” her powers to pursue a “blatant and malicious retaliation campaign” against the group because she dislikes what it stands for.

A lawyer for the NRA’s former ad agency Ackerman on Monday attacked LaPierre’s leadership, calling him a “dictator” and arguing that the bankruptcy amounted to a “fraud on the court.”

The lawyer, Brian Mason, said LaPierre violated the NRA’s own bylaws when he put the organization into Chapter 11 without first obtaining board approval. LaPierre has rejected claims of wrongdoing, arguing that he had authority to file for Chapter 11 on behalf of the NRA.

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