Why are cult disciples still being faithful to the disgraced Keith Raniere?
Keith Raniere’s imminent sentencing hearing might not be the last chapter in the NXIVM saga, but for victims of his alleged abuse, it might give a sense of closure. Set for October 27th, he faces fifteen years to life in prison for multiple charges including sex trafficking & forced labor. Despite this, Raniere still has more than a few followers who remain devoted to his NXIVM teachings.
NXIVM was an organization claiming to be a self-help group, but former members claim was actually a sex cult in disguise. Within NXIVM was DOS, where women were allegedly recruited, branded with a cauterizing pen, & turned into Raniere’s “sex slaves”, prosecutors argue. And yet, his most loyal devotees claim Raniere is innocent through it all.
Here’s a rundown of the people who still believe Raniere is innocent and possible reasons why they think Raniere should be given a second trial.
Raniere had a knack for getting NXIVM believers to devote their entire lives to his teachings, despite the cult-like qualities of the organization. NXIVM videos & found footage of his spontaneous sermons sees him spouting vague wisdoms to people who are seeking guidance during a tumultuous time in their lives. Some have compared NXIVM to Scientology, as members spent thousands of dollars to attend ESP meetings.
The New York Times reported Raniere “programmed” his followers by making them believe they’d become better people by joining NXIVM. Some believe members were “brainwashed” into being fully loyal to Raniere. Former NXIVM leader Mark Vicente said Raniere’s teachings “in essence played with our moral compass”.
To get people to stay in DOS, leaders would collect “collateral”, essentially blackmail, intimidating women to stay within the group. Nevertheless, the followers who still believe in Raniere’s mission insist every part of NXIVM is for a greater cause and seem to think his work has helped them at getting to a better place in life.
Does Clare Bronfman still follow Raniere?
Other than Raniere, five other NXIVM leaders were arrested because of their crimes within NXIVM, but only Clare Bronfman has been sentenced. Bronfman is a multimillionaire who used her fortune to help fund NXIVM. She was sentenced to eighty-one months in prison for “conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification”, according to Esquire.
When Bronfman had a chance to disavow Raniere in court, she reinforced her positive stance on NXIVM. In a letter she wrote to the judge she said, “For me, NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better”, according to The New York Times.
Raniere himself reportedly thinks Bronfman remains loyal. Raniere said, “I don’t think her view of me has changed at all. If anything, it’s gotten stronger”, according to The New York Times.
Are other top NXIVM members still loyal?
It’s unclear whether the other five NXIVM leaders have declared their loyalty to Raniere, as most of NXIVM’s leaders have laid low since their arrests. However there are still a number of vocal NXIVM members who believe Raniere is innocent, including Nicki Clyne, a former Battlestar Galactica actress who was a NXIVM member for thirteen years.
Clyne is known for being in Raniere’s “inner circle”, according to the New York Post, and for being the wife of Smallville actress Allison Mack, another important NXIVM leader. Mack pleaded guilty for multiple charges connected to her her crimes in NXIVM & DOS, including charges of sex trafficking.
Clyne wasn’t charged or arrested and still holds her belief of Raniere’s innocence. She told CBS News she “wouldn’t trade [her] experiences for anything” and thinks it’s “unfortunate” NXIVM is considered by many to be a “sex cult”. Clyne wouldn’t confirm nor deny whether she was branded or had a physical relationship with Raniere.
What his other loyal followers are saying now?
CBS News talked to five Raniere supporters, including Nicki Clyne, who started a petition & a podcast to declare Raniere’s innocence. Michele Hatchette is a former member of NXIVM who, when asked whether she was branded, told CBS News, “I think there is a difference between being branded and getting a brand”. Hatchette said she’s willing to testify for the defense even though she’ll be “risking going to jail”.
On the subject of branding, Eduardo Asunsolo, Raniere’s friend & former business partner, claims society is “very sexist” and compared NXIVM’s branding to football players, who, Asunsolo said, are admired for being “part of a secret fraternity that brands”. He told CBS News, “when women supposedly have a brand, [society thinks] they must have been abused. And that is very offensive for women, in my opinion”.
Former NXIVM member Marc Elliot claims NXIVM fixed his Tourette’s Syndrome through NXIVM’s ESP courses. Elliot still believes Raniere is innocent and says he’s seeking “justice” for Raniere. Suneel Chakravorty is also seeking justice and has taken to podcasting to gain support. He’s been interviewing Raniere in jail for the podcast, making it Raniere’s first time publicly speaking since his arrest.
The supporters’ efforts
Raniere’s supporters seem undoubtedly convinced of his innocence, even after the guilty pleas, the convictions, and the evidence brought to court. Even more, The New York Post found Raniere’s biggest disciples “dancing for [Raniere] outside his Brooklyn prison every night”.
Raniere’s devotees sent a petition to the New York prosecutors handling Raniere’s case, questioning the prosecutors’ ethics during Raniere’s trial, according to CBS News. The petition, which is now considered an affidavit, was actually Raniere’s idea, which prosecutors discovered through a series of emails. The supporters later admitted it was Raniere’s idea to CBS News during their interview.
Raniere’s defense counsel is going a similar route of claiming misconduct, as they argue Raniere’s trial was mishandled “due to the accumulation of prejudicial errors and due process violations”, according to CBS News. Raniere still claims he’s innocent and claims his teachings work.