The second week of testimony in the New York trial of NRA, CEO Wayne LaPierre, Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer, and former Treasurer Woody Phillips wrapped up on Friday, January 19, 2024, and things are not looking good for the defendants. A fourth former executive, LaPierre’s former deputy Josh Powell, pled guilty days before the trial began.
In his resignation announcement, LaPierre said he was stepping down for health reasons. He is reported to be suffering from the debilitating effects of chronic Lyme Disease, a tick-borne bacterial infection that can cause a variety of serious health problems. Having struggled with Lyme Disease myself and had people close to me affected by the chronic form of the infection, I won’t join in the chorus that has suggested the whole thing is some ruse on LaPierre’s part.
Lapierre’s Brain Is Shrinking!?
LaPierre has been in the courtroom every day during the two weeks of the trial. Still, his attorney has now submitted doctors’ notes asking the court for special accommodations for LaPierre during his upcoming testimony. The lawyer, supported by the doctors’ notes, says that, along with headaches, vision problems, and fatigue,
LaPierre is also suffering from cognitive issues related to the loss of cerebral mass. In other words, he’s saying LaPierre’s brain is shrinking, impacting his ability to think clearly and remember things. Because of this, the attorney is asking that the judge allow LaPierre and his lawyers to call timeouts during his upcoming testimony, possibly breaking it up over several days rather than trying to grind through one or two days of uninterrupted time on the stand.
The judge seems willing to accommodate LaPierre’s physical limitations and allow other witnesses to be called when and if LaPierre is incapacitated. This raises another important question about who’s running the NRA and why LaPierre remains officially in charge.
According to the letters from his doctors, LaPierre’s health has been in decline for several years.
His current condition was reported to NRA President Charles Cotton on January 3, 2024, two days before LaPierre announced his pending resignation. So why is LaPierre still holding the Executive Vice Presidency of the NRA?
If LaPierre is unable to testify for several hours consecutively due to his illness, and considering he is attending the trial in New York instead of being at his office at NRA headquarters, why didn’t he resign immediately on January 5? This was when the NRA Board was meeting, and they could have appointed a temporary replacement then rather than waiting for a month.
The NRA Bylaws say that in the case of a vacancy in the office of Executive Vice President, the Executive Director of General Operations is to fill the position until the Board meets to name a suitable replacement. LaPierre unceremoniously fired Joe DeBergalis, the ED of General Operations, shortly before Christmas, replacing him with Andrew Arulanandam. Arulanandam has been LaPierre’s top PR flack and spokesperson for several years. While his face is familiar to some members and the media, it would be a stretch to suggest he is qualified to run General Operations, and he’s certainly not qualified to be the CEO of the NRA.
During his testimony on Thursday and Friday, former Executive Director of NRA-ILA Chris Cox voiced a similar sentiment. Cox suggested that LaPierre demonstrated poor judgment in hiring, pointing to Josh Powell and Andrew Arulanandam as examples. Powell was LaPierre’s deputy who oversaw the collapse of the NRA’s controversial CarryGuard program and has already pled guilty in the New York trial. Arulanandam, who first worked under Cox in ILA before being moved over to NRA HQ by LaPierre, did not impress Cox while he was at ILA. Cox warned LaPierre that Arulanandam had “terrible” political judgment and was “lazy in core competencies.”
LaPierre ignored Cox’s warnings and kept Arulanandam on, promoting him to higher positions, eventually setting him up to take over as EVP and CEO upon LaPierre’s resignation.
This has laid the table for a bit of a battle within the NRA Board of Directors. It has been reported that Tom King, who has been one of LaPierre’s chief supporters on the Board and a close ally of NRA President Charles Cotton, has been calling fellow Directors to urge them to support a move to put Cotton in the EVP position.
Along with his duties as President, Cotton serves as the Chairman of the NRA’s Audit Committee, as I explained in a recent article, “Charles Cotton Must Never Be Allowed to Head the NRA!”. The Audit Committee is supposed to be the Association’s watchdog tasked with ensuring that the staff and vendors always operate within applicable laws and policies and conduct business in a manner that is above reproach.
Cotton served as vice chair of the committee for several years and then switched places with then-chairman David Coy. Between the two of them, they have been Chair and Vice Chair for the past 20-plus years, and they continue in those positions now, even though they’ve been President and Vice President of the Board for the past three years. Cotton and Coy were supposed to keep the NRA on track and away from even a whisper of corruption.
They failed spectacularly in that assignment and were rewarded for their failure by being elected to the offices of President and Vice President.
The best way for the NRA Board to demonstrate that they’ve learned nothing at all from the scandals and corruption that have plagued the NRA for the past 20 years and been publicly known for the past five years would be to hand the EVP position to Charles Cotton.
The trial continues on Monday with video testimony from former NRA President Carolyn Meadows. Ms. Meadows has been excused from testifying in person – or even via live video link – due to her own health issues, so her video deposition is being played.
It’s worth noting that Ms. Meadows’ health has been a limiting factor since she was first elected in 2019. She barely attended any Board meetings as President after she was elected, meaning that First Vice President Charles Cotton filled in for her for almost all of her two terms. He then served two terms as President himself, then orchestrated a Bylaws change to allow him to serve a third (effectively fifth) term as President.
In spite of her age and poor health concerns, Ms. Meadows has been nominated for reelection to the Board in the coming election…. She and another woman from Georgia were both added to the list of nominees after Phil Journey, Rocky Marshall, Dennis Fusaro, and I (Jeff Knox) were qualified by petition as nominees. Some speculate she and her friend were added to pad the field and make it even harder for any of the four reform candidates to be elected.
Ballots should be in the March issue of NRA magazines, which will hit mailboxes around mid-February, so please be sure to vote and encourage your NRA friends to vote. “Bullet voting,” i.e. voting for just the four Outsider Candidates for NRA Board, myself included, and no one else, gives us the best chance of winning seats, so please spread the word on that, too.