June 19, 2019

USA: Co-founder And Self-proclaimed Guru Of “Sex-Slave Cult” Nxivm, Guilty Of Racketeering, Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor Conspiracy, Sexual Exploitation Of A Child, Child Pornography, etc.

CBS New York published on Jun 19, 2019: Guilty Verdict For NXIVM Celebrity Sex Cult Founder. The alleged founder of a celebrity sex cult in upstate New York has been found guilty on all charges. CBS2's Valerie Castro reports.

CBC News: The National published on Jun 19, 2019: NXIVM leader found guilty on all 'sex cult' charges. Keith Raniere was accused of sexual offences, extortion and even forcing women to have abortions, a litany of charges linked to his time as leader of the self-help group he founded called NXIVM. Now, after a 7-week trial, a jury has found him guilty on all charges.
written by Lisette Voytko, Forbes Staff and Will Yakowicz, Forbes Staff
Wednesday June 19, 2019

Topline: Keith Raniere, the cofounder and self-proclaimed guru of “sex-cult” Nxivm, was found guilty Wednesday of racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and other felony charges.
  • The jury, which heard from half a dozen former Nxivm members, delivered its verdict finding Raniere guilty on all seven charges, which included sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.
  • "Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact, a master manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involved in sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation,” said Richard P. Donoghue, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse shortly after the jury delivered the verdict on Wednesday.
  • Raniere, 58, faces a possible life sentence in prison. He will be sentenced September 25, 2019.
  • Forbes first raised questions about the cult-like Nxivm—and Raniere—in 2003.
During closing arguments on Tuesday at Federal District Court in Brooklyn, prosecutor Moira Penza told jurors that Raniere posed as a spiritual guru and claimed he could help people lead better lives, but in reality he was running a criminal organization that served his appetite for sex.

“You saw him for what he was,” Ms. Penza told the jurors, as the New York Times reported. “A con man, a predator, a crime boss.”

Penza said that Nxivm and the “sex-slave group” he founded called DOS allowed Raniere to tap into “a never-ending flow of women and money.”

Key background: Raniere cofounded Nxivm in 1998 in a town near Albany, New York, as a purported self-help group. An estimated 17,000 people took courses, including Sheila Johnson, a cofounder of Black Entertainment Television; Antonia Novello, a former U.S. surgeon general; and Stephen Cooper, now CEO of Warner Music Group. Nxivm also hosted an event on an island owned by Richard Branson. The people who took a class or two had no idea of the darker forces at work—only a small sliver of people ended up staying and gaining admission to Raniere’s inner circle.

Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune and a longtime member of the group, largely funded Nxivm with her trust fund and pleaded guilty to two felonies in April after being charged along with Raniere. Allison Mack, the TV actress, Nancy Salzman, Raniere’s cofounder, and her daughter Lauren Salzman also pleaded guilty to crimes.

In 2003, Forbes published the first critical article about Raniere and Nxivm, explaining that while it seemed to tap into the “high-profit fad of executive coaching,” critics also saw a “darker and more manipulative side” to Raniere. And the cover story included a whopping charge from Clare’s father, billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr.: “I think it’s a cult.”

Last week, a 29-year-old former member who went by “Jay” took the witness stand to testify about her experience as a “sex slave.”

Jay said that to gain admission to DOS, which was pitched to her as the ultimate women’s empowerment group, women had to submit collateral, including naked pictures of themselves, on the first of every month “like rent.” She testified that once she was admitted to DOS (an acronym for a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “master over submissive women”), her grand master, Smallville actress Allison Mack, told her she had to ask for permission to complete basic tasks, including eating a meal. And if she did not obey her masters’ demands, Jay said she believed they would make her collateral public.

DOS members were made to stay on strict low-calorie diets and told not to shave their pubic hair in order to fit Raniere’s sexual preferences. Eventually, Jay was told to “seduce” Raniere but was able to escape. “Everything was crumbling,” Jay said from the witness stand. “It was my worst nightmare come to life—that it would be a cult and someone would want to sleep with me. And that’s what it was.”

In his closing statements on Tuesday, Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s lead attorney, characterized the experience of DOS as “strong medicine,” the New York Times reported, but stressed that the members made their own “adult choices” to gain membership.
Law & Crime
written by Matt Naham
Wednesday June 19, 2019

There was no shortage whatsoever of lurid testimony over the course of an accused sex cult leader’s trial in the Eastern District of New York, and it didn’t take long for a jury of his peers to reach a verdict. Keith Raniere, also known as “Vanguard” and the founder of NXIVM (nex-ee-um), was found guilty Wednesday of all criminal charges.

According to reporters on scene, it took jurors only four hours of deliberation to reach a verdict. The verdict was scheduled to be read at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

While the co-defendants in the case–some of them rich and famous–opted to plead guilty but not to sex crimes, Raniere, 58, chose to go on trial alone to fight sex trafficking, child exploitation, wire fraud conspiracy and child pornography charges.

The seemingly endless list of felonies:
There were plenty of cringe-inducing moments throughout trial.

In one instance, Judge Nicholas Garaufis (who apparently has quite a reputation) erupted, yelled “You’re done” multiple times at Raniere’s defense lawyer Marc Agnifilo. It happened while government cooperator, Lauren Salzman, was being cross examined by Agnifilo. This prompted Agnifilo to file a motion for a mistrial. The judge rejected his argument. Salzman, a former NXIVM member, recounted how she and Raniere were taking a nap at a Mexican villa when the feds showed up to arrest him. She said this happened just before a planned group oral sex session was to occur.

Agnifilo argued as recently as Tuesday that Raniere may be seen to be gross and “distasteful,” but not a criminal.

“You might find many things about him distasteful, but most of them aren’t part of the charges,” Agnifilo told jurors. “Disgusting lifestyles aren’t criminal.”

Prosecutors argued that Raniere, a self-described self-help guru, started a secret society in his organization, and leveraged women into “master-slave” relationships; he and his cohorts collected dirt on victims in order to control them. The so-called slaves would become masters by getting their own slaves. This was a pyramid with Raniere at the top, authorities said. The case roped in high-profile co-defendants like Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman.

Mack was accused of recruiting several women to be slaves in the organization; these women were allegedly forced to have sex with Raniere and perform labor under threat of extortion. Mack admitted to receiving “labor and services” from two alleged female slaves she oversaw on Raniere’s behalf. Additionally, Mack admitted to engaging in a conspiracy to commit the above federal crime. What she didn’t plead guilty to were the sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy charges in the indictment. Like Mack, Bronfman didn’t plead guilty to sex offenses — a significant difference for sentencing purposes.

Raniere, on the other hand, faces life in prison.

Several former members of NXIVM came forward with stories of sexual initiation rituals and being forcibly branded with both Raniere’s and Mack’s initials while part of the latter’s “slave pod.”

Among the ugly details that emerged at trial: Raniere allegedly called one woman “Norelco” because she had no pubic hair, urged her to have an abortion as a “great opportunity to lose weight and get fit,” and shamed women he’d surrounded himself with to lose weight so he could have sex with them. Even Agnifilo acknowledged early on that Raniere used abortions a part of a desire to have sex with many women.

Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

[Images via YouTube/Keith Raniere Conversations screengrab]

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