NXIVM leader Keith Raniere sentenced: Everything to know
Today, Keith Raniere, disgraced NXIVM cult leader, learned his fate. After several hours of testimony in a Brooklyn court, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis handed Raniere 120 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine.
The sentence comes after years of alleged physical, financial, emotional, and sexual abuse by NXIVM against its members. Using coercion, brainwashing, and physical confinement, NXIVM controlled its members in unbelievably harrowing ways – former victims, including Mark Vicente, Sarah Edmondson, and India Oxenberg, recount their harrowing stories in the HBO docuseries The Vow and Starz’s Seduced.
It’s still unclear where Keith Raniere will spend the rest of his life. Frank Parlato, the investigative journalist behind The Frank Report, speculates he’ll be sent to ADX Supermax due to his continued influence on former, but loyal NXIVM members.
The origins of the case
NXIVM purported to be a “self-help” group focused on empowering its members to “live lives of joy” and be the best versions of themselves. Underneath the slogans and new-age talk, NXIVM was ruthless, using their influential members to go after people who tried to leave.
In 2017, a more sinister side of NXIVM emerged. DOS, a group formed in NXIVM, engaged in sex trafficking, blackmail, and branded its members with Keith Raniere’s initials. After independent journalist Frank Parlato and The New York Times broke the story, former NXIVM members & their families pressured the U.S. government to act.
After an investigation, the FBI arrested Keith Raniere in Mexico. Fellow NXIVM leaders were also arrested & charged, including Smallville star Allison Mack, who pled guilty to racketeering in 2019. NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren, and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman were also arrested & charged. All of them pled guilty – only Bronfman has been sentenced.
Keith Raniere was convicted of seven charges, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and attempted sex trafficking in 2019. Due to COVID-19, his sentencing was pushed back.
Leniency wasn’t expected
Keith Raniere is the second NXIVM leader to be sentenced so far. Clare Bronfman, Seagram heiress & NXIVM’s biggest financier, received nearly seven years in prison for her crimes related to NXIVM, more than the five years prosecutors asked for. She was immediately taken into custody after the sentence came down per The Frank Report.
Prosecutors sought life in prison for the NXIVM cult leader and submitted a deposition detailing why Keith Raniere should receive life. “Raniere recruited individuals into organizations he founded, purportedly for their own benefit, and then exploited them – for power, for profit, or for sex . . . The sentence imposed on Raniere should reflect the immeasurable damage he has done to his victims.”
However, Raniere’s defense team disagreed, releasing over eighty pages explaining why Keith Raniere only deserved fifteen years in prison. His attorneys, Marc Agnifilo and Paul DerOhannesian wrote: “Keith Raniere continues to assert his complete innocence to these charges.” In court, Keith Raniere maintained his innocence but professed he was “deeply remorseful” per The Times Union.
At least fifteen of Keith Raniere’s victims delivered impact statements regarding the suffering they endured in NXIVM & at Raniere’s hands. India Oxenberg, whose story is told in a new Starz documentary, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, gave a scathing testimony about the seven years Raniere “stole from her”.
“I will be the victim of Keith Ranieres for the rest of my life – but I don’t need to act like one,” she said, asking the court to give him a “permanent sentence.” Via Bustle, Oxenberg worried she would need a sedative to face Raniere in court today. Her mother, Catherine Oxenberg, expressed gratitude after Raniere’s sentence came down. Catherine was instrumental in exposing NXIVM and trying to break India out of the cult.
U saved my daughter India and countless others, I am forever grateful. TY for putting this predator behind bars https://t.co/3MBy7Kiebr
— Catherine Oxenberg (@catoxenberg) October 27, 2020
Sarah Edmondson, the Canadian actress who broke the DOS branding story to The New York Times and appeared on HBO’s The Vow, also delivered her statement. In a conference call, Edmondson called Keith Raniere a “liar, parasite, and grifter”, telling him “In a curriculum that focused on personal growth – you have taken none.”
Documentarian Mark Vicente also delivered a video statement per The Times Union. Also appearing in court were former NXIVM members Susan Dones, Barbara Bouchey, Ivy Nevares, and Kristin Keeffe, who has a child with Raniere. “My child will never get back the years we spent in hiding,” Keeffe tearfully said to the court Monday, detailing the years of threats she had to endure from NXIVM leadership after escaping the cult.
Since this is a breaking story, more details are emerging. Read our articles about NXIVM, including their remaining loyalists, and stay tuned for more developments about Keith Raniere’s sentence, including when Smallville’s Allison Mack will hear her sentence.