We asked an attorney if the human branding and collateral practices alleged of DOS are legal. Here is what he wrote:
An adult can consent to bodily harm that is not “serious.”
If the alleged consent was obtained through deception, duress, false promise, fraud, menace, mistake, undue influence, it generally will be treated as non-consent.
That is illegal
I definitely think there are “limits” in terms of what type of – and how much – physical harm someone can consent to: e.g., if I ask you to kill me and you do so, you can definitely be prosecuted – at a minimum for manslaughter – if you carry out my request.
The question, in terms of Keith Raniere and Allison Mack, is whether their “brandings” cross the line in terms of how much physical harm a person can consent to without exposing the perpetrator to criminal charges.
As you may be aware, there is currently a Federal prosecution going on in Detroit regarding a local doctor (and several others) who allegedly cut the genitalia of several girls (female-genital-mutilation-doctors-michigan). Interestingly enough, the Feds have decided to prosecute that case even though the cutting was clearly done as a religious rite – and even though the girls’ parents all consented to the procedure.
I don’t think that the Feds will view “voluntary branding” by adult women in the same way that they view genitalia cutting of underage girls. But prosecutors have extremely broad discretion in terms of the activities they choose to prosecute – and it’s possible that enough publicity regarding the Raniere/Mack “brandings” may shame the local U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albany, NY to take some action.
Blackmail occurs when the offender threatens to reveal information about a victim or her/his family members that is potentially embarrassing, socially damaging, or incriminating unless a demand for money, property, or services is met.
Keeping something secret is a service.
Even if the information is true or actually incriminating, the offender can be charged with blackmail if (s)he threatens to reveal the information unless the victim meets whatever demands have been made.
Extortion is a form of theft that occurs when an offender obtains money, property or services from an individual through coercion. To constitute coercion, the threatened act can be a threat of violence, destruction of property or improper action.
All in all, it looks to me like there are a lot of legal issues involved in the “branding” of women that you’ve reported on. But I have little doubt that Keith Raniere and Allison Mack would easily be convicted of any crimes they are charged with simply because of the moral outrage that jurors would have when they learned the details of these heinous acts.
The question, of course, is whether any legal entity will step forward and bring charges against Mr. Raniere and Miss Mack – which, in turn, raises another question: Where did the “branding” take place? If the answer is Albany County, then I doubt that any charges will be forthcoming. But if the answer is Saratoga County, then I think the answer might be very different.[Editor’s note: The branding reportedly took place in Saratoga County.]
I think there’s a chance that the Saratoga County District Attorney, Karen Heggen, might get interested in this case. Perhaps someone will contact her about these alleged travesties that are taking place on her home turf.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York; the FBI Office in Albany, NY; the NYS Attorney General; the Albany County District Attorney; the Albany County Sheriff; the Saratoga County District Attorney; the Saratoga County Sheriff; the IRS; the NYS Department of Taxation & Finance; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE); etc. might be interested in learning more about Executive Success Programs, its founder Keith Raniere, and its executive board member Clare Bronfman, who finances and oversees much of the companies activities and litigation.