The attorney general of New York State issued a subpoena last week to Susan LaPierre — the wife of National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre — in connection with its lawsuit that seeks to dissolve the NRA for an alleged pattern of self-dealing.
The subpoena, dated January 5th, is lengthy and wide-ranging, and covers revelations first reported in The Trace’s 2021 investigation into the LaPierres, published in partnership with The New Yorker. The development shows that the attorney general, Letitia James, is following evidence into new areas, despite indications that the judge may be skeptical of her bid to dismantle the NRA.
Two of The Trace’s stories concerned a 2013 hunting trip in Botswana, where LaPierre was captured on video repeatedly shooting an elephant at close range and failing to kill it, forcing the contractor whose company paid for the excursion — Tony Makris — to step in and fire the fatal shot. The footage, which had been hidden from public view for eight years until it was obtained by The Trace, also showed Susan shooting an elephant. After killing the creature, she cut off its tail, held it in the air, and shouted, “Victory!”
Later, the LaPierres secretly shipped the elephants’ front feet, along with other animal parts, back to the United States. A taxidermist converted the trophies into decorations for the couple’s home, including leather-topped stools made from the feet. The articles showed that the costs associated with the shipping and taxidermy were covered by Makris’s company, Under Wild Skies, Inc., in seeming violation of the NRA’s rules regarding conflicts of interest and gifts from contractors.
The final installment of the series focused on misleading and possibly false statements LaPierre made under oath during the NRA’s bankruptcy proceedings last year. LaPierre testified that, in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he had used a vendor’s yacht, for free, as a “security retreat” in the Bahamas — a place to be safe when he was facing threats to his life. The Trace revealed that the first of six such trips, in July 2013, coincided with the wedding of Wayne and Susan’s niece, Colleen Sterner. The LaPierres attended the wedding, held at the Atlantis Resort, on Paradise Island, and they traveled the Caribbean on the boat with Sterner and her husband.
Two years later, the NRA hired Sterner to work under Susan at the Women’s Leadership Forum, a program within the NRA that cultivates wealthy female donors. She received expensive travel perks that were not available to her colleagues. In testimony, Wayne LaPierre said Sterner was an integral employee and that the costs carried a legitimate business purpose. But former staffers, who worked on WLF events and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the niece occasionally performed menial tasks, but was otherwise not around.
In its subpoena, the Attorney General’s Office demanded all documents concerning the owner of the yacht, David McKenzie, and his wife, Laura Stanton, who, The Trace’s series showed, both have stakes in multiple entities that do business with the NRA. Moreover, James has requested all records “relating to safaris or international trips” taken by the LaPierres that were paid for in full or in part by, among others, the McKenzies, Makris, or Under Wild Skies, Inc.
Additionally, James wants all “documents relating to the NRA’s decision to hire and use the services of Colleen Sterner,” as well as all “documents and communications relating to the business purposes and actual activities undertaken by you, Wayne LaPierre, Colleen Sterner, or your family members during travel paid for or reimbursed at any time” by the NRA.
The subpoena orders Susan LaPierre to furnish the documents by January 31 and to appear for a deposition at NRA headquarters, in Fairfax, Virginia, on February 4.
Neither the NRA nor the Attorney General’s office responded to requests for comment.