New York Daily News

COWARDLY LYIN’

NRA’s weaselly Wayne fled to luxe yacht to feel ‘safe’ after Sandy Hook massacre

- BY STEPHEN REX BROWN

This resolute gun nut was under “Illusions” he was the real target of armed killers.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre says he faced an unpreceden­ted “security threat” in the wake of bloody rampages at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticu­t and a Parkland, Fla., high school — and had to seek refuge aboard his Hollywood producer pal’s 108foot yacht.

In a chutzpah-rich deposition, the politicall­y powerful gun-rights advocate said the fancy vessel christened “Illusions” was one of the few places he felt safe from the national outrage that erupted after the slaughter of innocent children with military-grade firearms.

“They simply let me use it as a security retreat because they knew the threat that I was under. And I was basically under presidenti­al threat without presidenti­al security in terms of the number of threats I was getting,” LaPierre said. “And this was the one place that I hope could feel safe, where I remember getting there going, ‘Thank God I’m safe, nobody can get me here.’ And that’s how it happened. That’s why I used it.”

He said his first stay aboard the boat equipped with two jet skis and a staff of around four people was “after the Sandy Hook shooting, the summer after the Sandy Hook shooting.” His last stay, he added, was “sometime in 2018 after the Parkland shooting.”

The deposition emerged Monday on the first day of a closely watched hearing over the NRA’s decision to file for bankruptcy in Texas to avoid a lawsuit brought by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

Assistant Attorney General Monica Connell said in opening remarks that LaPierre’s use of Illusions was a clear conflict of interest and violation of rules surroundin­g the NRA’s nonprofit status. LaPierre did not disclose his free trips aboard the boat, owned by Hollywood producer David McKenzie. Meanwhile, the NRA continues to pay McKenzie $1 million a month for media projects, Connell said.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good friend with a yacht?” tweeted Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun reform group Moms Demand Action — mocking LaPierre’s response to the slaughter of 26 people, including 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, at Sandy Hook ,Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre notoriousl­y said, prompting the Daily News to label him “the craziest man on Earth.”

The extravagan­t yacht is equipped with two jet skis, a 16foot “jet boat,” several state rooms and a cook. LaPierre also took the yacht on a family trip to the Bahamas. He recalled a handful of trips to Europe and Greece with “celebritie­s” aboard other boats owned by the McKenzie family. The vacations were part of an effort to recruit celebs “young and old” to the NRA, LaPierre said.

But the NRA honcho conceded in the deposition that his security director did not conduct any review of security aboard the boat or scrutinize the people on board.

James sued to dissolve the NRA in October, alleging leaders of the politicall­y powerful organizati­on lived extravagan­tly off of members’ money. The allegation­s emerged amid nasty infighting in the NRA’s upper ranks that spilled into court and weakened the group’s legendary political influence.

“They simply let me use it as a security retreat because they knew the threat that I was under. And I was basically under presidenti­al threat without presidenti­al security in terms of the number of threats I was getting.” WAYNE LAPIERRE

LaPierre responded to James’ suit by filing for bankruptcy in Texas — while still declaring the organizati­on with 5 million dues-paying members was stronger than ever. LaPierre openly admitted the bankruptcy is intended to avoid James’ oversight, which he says is politicall­y motivated.

The ongoing hearing in Texas Bankruptcy Court is expected to last six days and will feature testimony under oath by key players about the gun rights group’s shady finances.

A judge will rule if the bankruptcy case should proceed, or if questions surroundin­g the NRA’s money woe should con tinue to b litigated i New York courts. The NRA was founded in New York in 1871.

Jaunts on Illusions were not the only example of LaPierre’s misuse of NRA money, the AG’s office said. Connell also cited a traveling “glam squad” of stylists for LaPierre’s wife who traveled with the family to vacation destinatio­ns.

NRA attorney Greg Garman countered that the stylists were not exclusivel­y for Susan LaPierre, but rather a goody for speakers at the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum.

“Are there going to be facts that are moderately cringewort­hy? The answer is yes. We’re not going to run from them,” Garman said in opening remarks, insisting the NRA began a “self-correction” in 2018.

The NRA’s opposition to any gun reform remained firm in 2018 following the fatal shootings of 14 students and three staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The mass shooting inspired a new generation of teenage activists.

In a videotaped eposition played uring opening emarks, LaPierre xplained that the G investigat­ion posed an existentia­l threat to the NRA. He said there was “tremendous concern” about the probe.

“She would have put the NRA into receiversh­ip, which would have in effect destroyed the organizati­on,” LaPierre said.

“It certainly does not deserve to be dissolved.”

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good friend with a yacht?” SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER OF GUN REFORM GROUP MOMS DEMAND ACTION

 ??  ?? NRA big gun Wayne LaPierre escaped to pal’s 108-foot yacht named “Illusions” (above) in wake of Sandy Hook and Parkland, Fla., school shootings, it was revealed Monday at gun lobby’s bankruptcy trial in New York.
NRA big gun Wayne LaPierre escaped to pal’s 108-foot yacht named “Illusions” (above) in wake of Sandy Hook and Parkland, Fla., school shootings, it was revealed Monday at gun lobby’s bankruptcy trial in New York.
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 ??  ?? NRA’s Wayne LaPierre (r.) hid on yacht (bottom) owned by David McKenzie (bottom r.) after slaughters in Newtown, Conn. (facing page), and Parkland, Fla. Using boat, and stylists for wife, Susan (below), were hit in action vs. the NRA.
NRA’s Wayne LaPierre (r.) hid on yacht (bottom) owned by David McKenzie (bottom r.) after slaughters in Newtown, Conn. (facing page), and Parkland, Fla. Using boat, and stylists for wife, Susan (below), were hit in action vs. the NRA.
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