NXIVM has hired Albany attorney Paul DerOhannesian II to help prevent the return of
the computers that were seized by the New York State Police (NYSP) from Joe O’Hara and Toni Natalie in October 2013.
Less than a month ago, those computers were returned to O’Hara and Natalie who immediately placed them in safekeeping, pending a forensic computer examination by an independent expert to determine what, if any, changes were made to the computers while they were in state police custody and whether they had been infected with any malware or key-strokers before they were seized.
The original 2013 seizure of their computers was part of Albany County’s criminal computer trespass proceeding against O’Hara and Natalie. (The underlying claim was that they had accessed NXIVM’s website without permission and copied some information from it). The case was dismissed on August 10, 2016.
Since the case was dismissed, O’Hara and Natalie have been trying to get their computers back. But the fight over the seized computers turned into quite a “hot potato” for the judicial community in Albany.
After the original judge in the criminal computer trespassing case, Stephen W. Herrick, retired, the case was assigned to Judge William Carter. Judge Carter declined to take the case and returned it for re-assignment. It was then assigned to Judge Peter Lynch, who immediately recused himself because of a conflict-of- interest. (He had previously served as one of NXIVM’s attorneys). The case was then assigned to Judge Thomas Breslin, who also declined to handle it. It was finally assigned to Judge Roger D. McDonough.
DerOhannesian, on behalf of NXIVM, requested that Judge McDonough order O’Hara and Natalie to return the computers to the NYSP.
This has been a case fraught with irregularities. The attempt at prosecution started out in Saratoga County then moved to Albany County after then-Saratoga County District Attorney, James Murphy, and the Office of the New York State Attorney General, both refused to bring charges against O’Hara and Natalie.
Although Albany County District Attorney David Soares declined to pursue the case himself because of a “conflict of interest”, he arranged to have Holly A. Trexler [a former employee of his who was then in private practice] appointed as a Special District Attorney to prosecute the matter. NXIVM’s attorney at the time, Michael McDermott, was also a former employee of Soares and, ironically, a former supervisor of Trexler.
The criminal case was dismissed after it became clear that Clare Bronfman’s claim that NXIVM’s computer server was in Albany County was a lie.
A former NXIVM associate told Frank Report that the server in question was always in Saratoga County, but because the Saratoga County DA would not prosecute, Bronfman told the NYSP and the Special District Attorney that the server had been in Albany County at the time of the alleged trespass.
Another ex-NXIVM associate told Frank Report that NXIVM hastily constructed a server room in Albany County, after the fact, in order to cover-up Clare Bronfman’s lie.
This information came into the hands of the defense team who made it clear to the prosecution that they could prove that Bronfman lied about the location of the server and that, if the case went to trial, the prosecution would have to dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction or suborn Bronfman’s perjury.
Special District Attorney Trexler decided to dismiss the charges. Shortly after doing so, she was appointed as a City of Albany Court Judge, a position she still holds today.
On November 20, 2017, Judge McDonough ordered the NYSP to return the computers to
O’Hara and Natalie “in their current form” on or after January 4, 2018.
Prior to that, the NYSP had argued that it should be allowed to “wipe clean” the computers before they were returned to O’Hara and Natalie – an argument Judge McDonough ignored.
The NYSP returned the property to O’Hara and Natalie via their attorney several days before the court ordered deadline.
Interestingly enough, the prosecution in the case – Albany County – did not argue that O’Hara and Natalie should not get their computers back. Instead, it has been NXIVM and the NYSP that have been working together to prevent that from happening – or, at a minimum, to have the computers “wiped clean” before they were returned to O’Hara and Natalie. Neither NXIVM nor the NYSP are a party in the case.
Why is NXIVM working so hard to prevent O’Hara and Natalie from keeping their computers?
O’Hara thinks it’s because NXIVM is worried that data on the computers might be used to support criminal charges against NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.
“I believe that Raniere is worried that Toni and I have material on those computers that could be used to help prosecute him and other high-ranking members of the cult”, O’Hara said. “The original attempt to prosecute us on bogus criminal computer trespass charges – and the ongoing attempt to keep us from getting back our computers and
other materials – are part of a well-orchestrated effort to suppress and destroy information that could be used in criminal proceedings against Raniere and other members of the cult”.
O’Hara also noted that he has requested that the NYSP Internal Affairs Division (IAD) undertake two investigations related to the “criminal computer trespass” case.
“I asked the IAD to re-examine the actions of the NYSP Senior Investigator who oversaw the original case because I think his investigation was extremely biased and improper”, O’Hara said. “In addition, I asked the IAD to investigate why the NYSP’s Counsel decided to intervene in a criminal case in which the NYSP was not a party – and to share information and filings with NXIVM’s attorneys”.
As of now, O’Hara said he has not received any updates regarding the status of
either IAD investigation.
Stay tuned…There’s a lot more to come on this topic.