After seven weeks in the courtroom and five days of deliberation, a Manhattan jury announced last Friday that it had reached a decision in the civil corruption trial against the National Rifle Association, its former CEO Wayne LaPierre, former treasurer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, and current general counsel John Frazer. They read the verdict shortly after 5:30 p.m. All defendants were found liable, though it would cost some more than others — and no one more than LaPierre, the longtime face of the organization.

LaPierre, impassive as the verdict was read, was ordered to pay the NRA more than $4.3 million in damages, the largest sum of the defendants. Although he announced his departure from the organization three days before the start of the trial, jurors agreed that there was evidence for his removal. But as The Trace’s Mike Spies writes, the greatest cost for LaPierre came perhaps not from the verdict, but the trial itself.

LaPierre’s defense had centered on a portrayal of the NRA as a heavily scripted production — a political drama in which he starred, and for which he was paid to build a devoted, dues-paying audience. He wasn’t born a seething populist, his lawyer said; he was “bookish” and “shy,” and only reluctantly ascended to the top of the organization 30 years ago, where he was molded into a John Wayne character whom the NRA’s millions of members could trust. 

But the trial had forced him to tell the truth, Spies writes. He wasn’t John Wayne. He could barely handle a firearm. He had given the role everything he had, but he had only been playing a character — and the act was over.

From Our Team

A roundup of stories from The Trace.

The Unmasking of Wayne LaPierre

The National Rifle Association corruption trial forced its former chief executive to tell the truth about himself, as the curtain dropped on a three-decade act.

Why Some Gun Purchases Still Don’t Require Background Checks

Congress has made dozens of attempts to narrow the so-called gun show loophole since establishing the background check system. Most of those efforts have failed.

Gary, Indiana, Begins to See Fewer Homicides as Community Leaders Band Together

Residents are challenging the city’s decades-long reputation for violence as new programs show encouraging results.

Jury Finds the NRA, Wayne LaPierre Liable in Corruption Case

A New York jury ordered the gun group’s former CEO to pay more than $4.3 million in damages.
Read more →

What to Know This Week

The Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in Garland v. Cargill, a challenge to the ATF’s ban on bump stocks — aftermarket devices that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire more rapidly — and the agency’s authority to interpret federal law. The court appeared divided over the issue, though both liberal and conservative justices expressed concern about the lethality of the devices. [The Washington Post

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced earlier this month that the city would end its use of the controversial gunshot detection technology ShotSpotter, putting Chicago on a growing list of cities cutting ties with the company behind the system. Research shows that ShotSpotter does not reduce violence, and data recently leaked from the company revealed that its sensors are placed primarily in low-income communities of color, adding new context to long-running criticism that ShotSpotter perpetuates biased policing. [Stateline/Vital City/Wired

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, antisemitic and Islamophobic episodes have surged nationwide. Among the most high-profile of these was the shooting of three Palestinian students, all of whom survived, in Burlington, Vermont, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Months later, they’re grappling with the attack and the state of hate in America. [The New York Times Magazine

TikTok Shop, the social video app’s e-commerce feature, appears to be facilitating the sale and distribution of firearm accessories, including illegal conversion devices, in violation of company policy. [Media Matters

The Supreme Court’s 2022 Bruen decision upended firearm laws across the country. But the legal shift on the Second Amendment is extending far beyond guns, creating court battles over regulations on billy clubs, butterfly knives, and other weapons. [Los Angeles Times]

In Memoriam

Nazim Berry, 37, was a beloved figure in his Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood. The bodega worker “helped everybody out,” a Crown Heights resident told CBS New York, in ways large and small: He’d spot people who didn’t have the money to buy something from his store, a friend told the New York Daily News, and was often spotted sweeping the sidewalks free of debris. Berry was shot and killed on Monday in front of the corner convenience store he took great joy working for. He was a quiet and humble man — and, per his mother, a fifth-degree black belt in karate. “He was my heart,” his mom said. “I called him Pop. He had an old soul. Everybody loved him.”

We Recommend

Among Gun Rights Activists, Fears About Survival Reign

“An anthropologist delves into what the rising ranks of local firearm-touting militias in Virginia reveal about intensifying political polarization in the U.S. — and what these shifts might mean for the 2024 presidential election.” [Sapiens]

Pull Quote

“Our children’s lives are at stake, a child could’ve lost his life here. If you send an officer into a residential neighborhood with bad information, thinking you have an active shooter, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

— Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago Law School professor, on police responding to a ShotSpotter alert and opening fire on an unarmed teenager setting off fireworks, to CBS Chicago