Judge issues ‘ominous’ ruling in computers case, opening the door for more Raniere litigation

Clare and Sara Bronfman foot the legal bills for NXIVM’s abusive litigation.

Justice for the wealthy.

Backed by Seagram heiresses, Clare and Sara Bronfman, NXIVM hired attorney Paul DerOhannesian II to pursue further litigation efforts against Joe O’Hara and Toni Natalie – this time over the return of their computers.

Paul Derohannesian [Pronounced Dear -ah – Nxian], NXIVM’s latest lawyer.

In a January 10th letter, DerOhannesian asked Judge Roger D. McDonough to order O’Hara and Natalie to return the computers that the New York State Police (NYSP) seized from them in 2013, and returned to them a month ago.

The criminal case against O’Hara and Natalie was dismissed, all charges against them dropped, and the case closed on August 10, 2016.

On January 17, 2018, Judge McDonough issued a ruling which O’Hara and Natalie see as ominous.

Judge Roger D. McDonough leaves the door open for NXIVM to keep the dismissed and closed computer trespass case alive.


Natalie and O’Hara hoped Judge McDonough would have notified DerOhannesian that, by ‘black letter law,’ an alleged victim [NXIVM] has ZERO standing to intervene in a criminal case that was dismissed and officially closed.

Instead, unhappily for them, Judge McDonough seems to have left the door open for NXIVM by informing DerOhannesian that “…any re-opening of the case would require formal motion practice citing specific case law or a statutory justification for the re-opening of a criminal matter”.

It is true that no such case law or statutory justification likely exists anywhere to argue that an alleged victim of a crime has standing to prevent innocent citizens, cleared of all charges, from getting their seized property returned.

In any other legal setting, this would be a forgone conclusion.

Keith Raniere has spent an estimated $50 million of Bronfman money on what some have called a classic pattern of legal abuse syndrome.

But in the legal abuse syndrome-fraught world of Keith Raniere, he can now pay DerOhannesian to come up with some [any] legal theory [however absurd, far fetched, or unlikely to prevail] that will force O’Hara and Natalie back into court -–  where, at this point, they are representing themselves.

It will be interesting to see the flurry of papers DerOhannesian shuttles out of his office to try to wear down and bury O’Hara and Natalie, who have been tortured by this bogus case since 2012.

O’Hara has complained for months now that the only party that conceivably has legal standing to challenge the return of the computers was the Albany County District Attorney, which was the prosecuting party in the case.

Despite his complaints – and despite the fact that Albany County has not appeared before Judge McDonough – first, the NYSP and now, NXIVM – have been allowed to raise questions to Judge McDonough, thereby delaying the return of the computers to O’Hara and Natalie.

Toni Natalie has been in a near constant legal battle with Keith Raniere since she broke up with him in 1998 and he demanded she return to him.

You would think simple justice would weigh in their favor: they have undergone enough trial and tribulations. The attempt at prosecution started out in 2012 in Saratoga County. But then-Saratoga County District Attorney, James Murphy, and  the New York State Attorney General refused to bring charges against O’Hara and Natalie.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares declined to pursue the case because of a “conflict of interest” but arranged to have Holly A. Trexler [a former employee of his who was then in private practice] appointed as Special District Attorney to prosecute the matter. NXIVM’s attorney, Michael McDermott, was also a former employee of Soares and, ironically, a former supervisor of Trexler.

Trexler indicted O’Hara and Natalie and they were arrested. Two years later – after much torment and expense, the criminal case was dismissed after the defense team discovered and made it clear to the prosecution they had evidence that Clare Bronfman had lied about NXIVM’s computer server being located in Albany County. The prosecution would either have to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction or go to trial suborning Bronfman’s perjury.

Special Prosecutor Holly Trexler had to dismiss the case when she found out Clare Bronfman was lying. But she did not choose to prosecute Bronfman for a crime that put Natalie and O’Hara under intense pressure and torment for years – and cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

Special District Attorney Trexler chose to dismiss all charges.

Now two years later, O’Hara and Natalie are still fighting for the return of their computers – which normally would have been returned when the case was dismissed.

O’Hara and Natalie cited language from the dismissal agreements signed almost two years ago to underscore why they are entitled to get their computers back. That language reads: Upon dismissal of the action, the arrest and prosecution shall be deemed a nullity and I shall be restored to the status I occupied before my arrest or prosecution.

In addition to the language in their dismissal agreements, O’Hara and Natalie also cited New York State statutes to bolster their argument that their computers should have been restored to them as soon as the charges against them were dismissed:

  • “No person shall suffer any disability or forfeiture as a result of such an order. Upon the dismissal of the accusatory instrument pursuant to this section, the arrest and prosecution shall be deemed a nullity and the defendant shall be restored, in contemplation of law, to the status he occupied before his arrest and prosecution” (N.Y. Criminal Procedure Law 160.50).
Michael McDermott was NXIVM’s attorney and Special DA Holly Trexler’s old boss. A lucky happenstance [if not a criminal conspiracy] occurred that ensured injustice. Did McDermott know Clare was lying about the location of the servers? Was he prepared to suborn her perjury? He was well paid and that’s what counts for many attorneys.  But, why did he and his law firm suddenly stop representing NXIVM/Bronfman/Raniere?

Despite the latest developments, O’Hara said he was confident that he and Natalie would eventually prevail.

Joe O’Hara has been on the receiving end of NXIVM’s fierce and abusive litigation tactics for more than a decade.

“This is one of those unusual situations where the facts are on our side, the statutory language is on our side, and the case law is on our side”, he said. “Although that may not be enough to prevent NXIVM from asserting some new baseless claims, it will most certainly be enough for us to prevail on the merits”.

Natalie added that she was anxious to get back her computer which, among other things, contains pictures of her parents, both of whom died during the course of this unusual prosecution against her and O’Hara.

“It still amazes me the things that Keith will do to try and harm me and other people he considers to be his enemies”, Natalie said. “And I’m just as amazed by what some courts will allow him to get away with as he continues to uses the legal system as a stalking device”.

Judge McDonough is not the first judge in this long and extremely disturbing case. The original judge was Stephen W. Herrick.  When he retired, the case was assigned to Judge William Carter.  When Judge Carter declined to take the case, it was assigned to Judge Peter Lynch, who 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 McDonough.

The case screams for a public corruption investigation and, for all we know, one may be underway.


Paul DerOhannesian Letter To Judge McDonough (01.10.2018)

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • So many questions about this and they all smell fishy.

    Makes one wonder what NXIVM might have hanging over the Judges head. Did Keith send one of his skinny little boy toys out after him to get some not do nice photos he’s doesn’t want made public?

    They did get all the financials of all the cases according to the document Barbara Bouchey filed in court & this Judge would have been one of them.

    Since when can a civil matter reopen a criminal case after people have been found not guilty? Isn’t that double jeopardy?

  • I hope whoever is investigating Raniere takes a long look at this judge too. He’s done everything he could to help the cult prevent OHara and Natalie from getting their computers back, including giving NXIVM’s new lawyer 45 days to file yet another lawsuit against them. The fact that NXIVM’s lawyer fucked up and missed the filing deadline doesn’t exonerate the judge from his role in this case. Maybe he can hire derOhannessian to defend him too.

  • Because I work in the Albany County Courthouse, I got to watch first-hand as this case bounced around from judge to judge. Looked to a lot of us that things were being set up to ensure that Judge McDonough ended up with it, just like he got the Bouchey cases several years ago. Since he took over, the rulings in this case have been so bizarre that his Clerk won’t even discuss the case anymore. That tells you something right these.

  • It’s pretty clear that Trexler’s payoff for taking on this case was becoming an Albany City Court Judge. And doesn’t that just tell you everything you need to know about the sewer politics in Albany? No wonder no one has ever tried to prosecute Raniere in this area. He’s bought everybody off one way or another.

  • Judge McDonough is the same judge who presided over two lawsuits that were brought against Barb Bouchey by NXIVM and the Bronfman brats several years ago. And though he eventually dismissed both of those lawsuits because of the plaintiffs’ “failure to prosecute”, he let them hang around on his docket for at least a couple of years before doing so.

    Kind of interesting how Judge McDonough was the only judge who was all too happy to preside over NXIVM’s latest attempt to use the legal system as a weapon against its enemies. Every other judge ran away from this dog-shit case as fast as they could in their judicial robes. But not Judge McDonough.

    Guess he’s just a really brave guy….

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com