Is Keith Raniere going to get away with running the NXIVM sex cult?
Moira PenzaAs Keith Raniere’s sentencing date (finally) approaches, it seems like he’s getting more desperate to avoid a life sentence behind bars. The only NXIVM leader to go to trial, Keith Raniere was convicted on all seven counts he was charged with. Despite being convicted, Raniere maintains his innocence.
Raniere was found guilty of racketeering & racketeering conspiracy, sex trafficking, attempted sex trafficking & sex trafficking conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy. On October 27, the former ringleader of NXIVM will learn his fate after over a year since his conviction. He awaits sentencing at the MDC in Brooklyn.
Most of the charges against him related to a sex cult within NXIVM called DOS, a so-called sisterhood where members would become masters & slaves, essentially operating as a sex trafficking pyramid scheme.
Members would be branded with Keith Raniere’s initials and blackmailed with “collateral” if they didn’t comply with the whims of their master. These orders could include starvation through stringent calorie counting, sexual assault, and kidnapping. One woman was imprisoned in a house for nearly two years for non-compliance.
The new HBO docuseries The Vow delves into how NXIVM brainwashed members into following Raniere and how NXIVM harassed anyone who spoke out against the cult. The Vow gives good insight into how Raniere was able to manipulate members into accepting brands, calorie restrictions, and an onslaught of intimidating lawsuits against ex-members.
Sentencing memorandums have already been submitted. The prosecution submitted a 59-page memorandum seeking life imprisonment for Raniere. “The sentence imposed on Raniere should reflect the immeasurable damage he has done to his victims,” their introduction read, stating that life imprisonment would protect the public from Raniere and “justly punish his years of crime & exploitation.”
Raniere’s defense team submitted a memorandum that was over 89 pages, arguing that the jury’s conclusion was the result of a “media campaign involving witnesses who were motivated to testify falsely, a heavy-handed prosecution that threatened potential defense witnesses and, most respectfully, an unfair trial.”
However, the memorandums aren’t the end of what legal teams are receiving. Frank Parlato reports that prosecutors in the Keith Raniere case are being harassed by Raniere’s followers.
The affidavit drop
We’re going to back up to June 9, when Parlato says Keith Raniere emailed one of his loyal followers, Suneel Chakravorty, an affidavit. An investigation after the following affidavits & petitions were sent to EDNY prosecutors revealed Raniere was behind the affidavit.
Chakravorty is the leader of The Forgotten Ones, a dance troupe that claims to dance for prison abolition, but really, they’re dancing for NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.
Suneel Chakravorty sent an email at around 5:00 on September 26 with the details of the affidavit, asking eight prosecutors involved in Keith Raniere’s case to initial each point. He & ten other people also showed up in person (with a camera) to the U.S. Attorney for the EDNY’s office, leaving a petition.
According to The Frank Report, another person left a package on the doorstep of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza, who was also involved with Keith Raniere’s case as the lead prosecutor for Raniere’s trial.
What was in the drop-off?
Suneel Chakravorty said the drops included “a petition, an affidavit, and some signatures of support from the media” which “We the People” (that’s what the petitioners call themselves) want answers for by September 30. The points in the affidavit read closely to claims found in Raniere’s defense team’s sentencing memorandum.
These claims include allegations that the prosecution intimidated defense witnesses, perjury, and witness tampering. They also include vague-sounding questions about whether the prosecutors have lied to the media & the public before the questions alluding to content in Raniere’s sentencing memorandum.
But wait, there’s more!
The memorandum from “We the People” also has a plan to hold judges accountable. These plans include “$35,000 innocence challenge, a podcast and other provocative public actions that bring hidden transgressions to light and send a message to judges, prosecutors and federal agents that they answer to us, We the People.”
“We the People” also claims that the U.S. Justice system is broken. While they sent the petition in support of Keith Raniere, they say he’s only one example of how corrupt the U.S. justice system is and they’re fighting for criminal justice reform in “months, not years or decades”. Why they latched onto Keith Raniere’s case specifically to change the entire U.S. justice system is anyone’s guess.
They also secured twice-convicted, now exonerated Amanda Knox to sign their petition. Knox was accused of murdering her roommate in Italy and her trial was controversial. Knox told CBS News that she “had no opinion” of Raniere’s guilt or innocence. “I signed the petition because violation of these practices would constitute prosecutorial misconduct, regardless of Mr. Raniere’s guilt or innocence,” Knox said.
CBS spoke to NXIVM members on Monday who confirmed they sent the petition to the prosecution team. “The affidavit is a very simple thing, in which we’re saying to them, all we’re asking you to do is can you affirm that you’re honest? Can you affirm that you’re not doing criminal behavior? You know, asking a prosecutor to say, can you just affirm that you didn’t tamper with evidence? Is not a bad thing,” Marc Elliot told CBS.
Marc Elliot suffered from Tourettes Syndrome before he found NXIVM. Elliot claims that NXIVM helped him overcome Tourettes in a way that therapists couldn’t. “I ended up beating my Tourette’s completely mind over body,” he said, crediting Raniere & the NXIVM ESP program for helping him.
CBS News even spoke with prominent NXIVM member Nikki Clyne, who was in DOS. “We’re not denying that certain things took place. There is evidence that certain things happened. How they happened, why they happened, and how certain people chose them — that’s a whole other conversation,” Clyne said about DOS & the branding.
How will this impact Raniere’s sentence?
Parlato believes this stunt will backfire on Keith Raniere spectacularly. First, after the tragic shooting of federal judge Esther Salas’ family, in which Judge Salas’ son was killed & her husband injured, judges are taking even less kindly to “threats and intimidation tactics” as Parlato describes them.
Second, given that this petition shows the influence Keith Raniere continues to have behind bars, Parlato speculates that “the chances of Keith being assigned to the supermax facility in Florence Colorado (where The Unabomber Ted Kaczinski & drug lord El Chapo were housed) where he will be underground in solitary confinement for years just went up exponentially.”
However, NXIVM members are speaking with the media, so clearly, they got attention. On the other hand, from the CBS coverage, NXIVM followers speaking for themselves may not be helping their cause as much as they think.