A New York state court will move forward with a case brought by the state against the National Rifle Association, following an appeals court ruling on Thursday that rejected the powerful pro-gun group’s claim that the probe violated its First Amendment rights.
A panel of five judges in the Appellate Division in Manhattan unanimously ruled that state Attorney General Letitia James has probable cause to investigate the NRA over allegations that it diverted millions of dollars to fund the lavish lifestyles of executives including Wayne LaPierre, its chief executive officer.
James sued the NRA in August 2020, saying executives also failed to obtain board approval for conflicts of interest and retaliated against whistleblowers who spoke out against allegations of financial misconduct. She is seeking an overhaul of the NRA’s leadership, including the removal of LaPierre.
The appeals court said James has provided “ample evidence of malfeasance” at the organization, and has authority to enforce state laws governing nonprofits.
The NRA has claimed James’ case against it is politically motivated. James unsuccessfully attempted to have the NRA dissolved through the court system in 2022.
The court on Thursday noted that other nonprofits have restructured their leadership, but the NRA has so far refused to do so.
The judge who ruled against dissolving the NRA, Justice Joel Cohen, will hear the corruption case on January 8.
In June, Cohen denied motions by the NRA that claimed James’ investigation was unconstitutional and politically motivated, saying the NRA could not make those claims as a defense at the upcoming trial.
The NRA, James said at the time, has “used every tool and trick to try and avoid the consequences of their bad actions.”
“I will continue to fight tirelessly,” she added, “to bring the NRA and its senior executives to justice and ensure all people, companies, and not-for-profits adhere to the rule of law in New York.”