How ill is the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre? His NY corruption-trial judge asks his doctors to swear to it.
- LaPierre wants permission to stop and start his upcoming testimony depending on how he’s feeling.
- Early Monday, the judge asked to see doctors’ affidavits before approving such an arrangement.
- LaPierre then watched and took notes as Oliver North testified against him all day Monday.
A dispute over NRA leader Wayne LaPierre’s health spilled over into his New York corruption trial Monday, when the judge asked that his doctors provide sworn statements attesting, as his lawyers contend, that he’s too ill to withstand daylong testimony.
Become an Insider
and start reading now.
Have an account? .
“I do think there should be affidavits,” the judge, state Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen, said in court, before the civil jury was bought in for the day.
LaPierre announced three days before the trial’s January 8 start that after 30 years at the gun-lobby’s helm, he will resign at the end of the month for health reasons. His lawyers later revealed he has chronic Lyme disease.
LaPierre is expected to testify before the end of the week in the trial, at which the New York attorney general’s office is alleging top executives diverted tens of millions of donor dollars into their own pockets and those of favored vendors, and that the nonprofit enabled the corruption.
Last week, LaPierre’s lawyers filed a pair of three-week-old letters from his doctors as proof that he “struggles extensively with even the most basic tasks,” as an infectious disease specialist wrote, and has suffered “significant cerebral volume loss,” his internist wrote.
The letters, dated January 3 and addressed from the doctors to NRA president Charles Cotton, were submitted as proof that LaPierre is too ill to commit to all-day testimony.
The defense asked that the gun-lobby leader have the option to basically start and stop his testimony over the course of days, depending on how he feels.
Lawyers for Attorney General Letitia James countered in a filing on Sunday that LaPierre is asking for “broad and undefined relief that could be highly disruptive” to the state’s case.
Despite his condition, LaPierre has attended the trial regularly and continued on as NRA’s chief executive, the AG’s filing noted.
“What is more, Mr. LaPierre requests this relief without providing the Court and Plaintiff with satisfactory evidence,” or enough warning to plan in advance for making additional witnesses available to fill in any gaps in testimony, the AG’s filing added.
The judge agreed Monday morning that, as he put it, “I’m not terribly impressed by the timing.” He also noted that “none of the doctors’ notes are signed or verified.”
LaPierre has attended nearly every day of the two-week trial, missing only two out of four days of jury selection.
After Monday’s discussion of his health, the gun lobby leader sat in the courtroom’s front row and listened to testimony against him by friend-turned-whistleblower Oliver North, the retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel who served as president of the NRA in 2018 and 2019.
LaPierre, 74, watched closely, taking notes on a small yellow legal pad.
North, 80, who played a central role in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, told the jury that he and LaPierre had been “close friends,” and that he attended the NRA-leader’s 1998 wedding.
LaPierre OK’d a massive pay package for North — $5 million over three years — without getting the required NRA audit committee -pre-approval, North said.
But when North began asking questions about rampant spending, including millions a year to a single favored law firm, Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, LaPierre pushed him out, he testified.
“Multiple times I would tell Wayne LaPierre ‘Brewer’s bills are astronomical,'” North testified. “He would say things like, ‘Brewer is the reason why I am not going to spend the rest of my life in an orange jumpsuit.'”
North likened the in-fighting over alleged financial improprieties to a “circular firing squad.”
“I was not trying to pull a coup,” North said. “I was doing nothing to get Mr. LaPierre fired,” he said.
In demanding an outside audit of the NRA’s books in early 2019, he merely wanted “to stop this circular firing squad,” North added. “It was incredibly damaging to us.”
“I did not want to harm the NRA,” North said from the witness stand. At this point, LaPierre, still take notes, began writing energetically, underlining something three or four times in his notepad as his former friend spoke.
“What I was trying to do is protect Wayne LaPierre,” North said.
The judge has not said when he will set ground rules for LaPierre’s testimony, which could begin as early as Wednesday.