Judge Garaufis issues written memo & order – denying Raniere bail package [complete document here]

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, the sentencing judge for Keith Raniere

Judge Nicholas Garaufis has issued a memorandum and order setting forth his reasons for not granting Keith Raniere’s bail motion. In essence, what the judge said is that Raniere is a flight-risk – and that the bail package proposed by his 5-member team of attorneys was insufficient to offset that risk.

Although the judge acknowledged that it is “at least conceivable” that Raniere’s attorneys could propose a bail package that would be sufficient to offset the chance that Raniere would flee (Heck, Joe O’Hara and I already gave them several suggestions for doing that), he also dropped a not-so-subtle hint that they shouldn’t waste their time on that effort. To quote the judge: “Because the court determines that Defendant remains a flight risk notwithstanding the proposed bail conditions, it need not consider at this time whether the Government has also shown by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or set of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of others and the community. Translation: Raniere is not going anywhere anytime soon.


PDF version MEMORANDUM & ORDER https://frankreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-06-20-MEMORANDUM-ORDER-on-bail-package.pdf

Text version below.



18-CR-204-1 (NGG)


NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.

Defendant Keith Raniere has been indicted on charges of sex trafficking by force, threat of force, fraud, or coercion; conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion; and conspiracy to cause another to engage in forced labor. (Indictment (Dkt. 14) IITI1-3.)

On June 5, 2018, he filed a motion for release on bail pending trial, which the Government opposed. (Def. Mot. for Pretrial Release (“Def. Mot.”) (Dkt. 43); Gov’t Opp’n to Def. Mot. (“Gov’t Opp’n”) (Dkt. 44); Def. Reply, in Supp. of Def. Mot. (“Def. Reply”) (Dkt.

On June 12,2018, the court denied the motion without prejudice and stated on the record its reasons for doing so. (See Tr. of June 12,2018, Hr’g (“Hr’g Tr.”) (Dkt Number Pending).)

The court issues this opinion to provide a fuller statement of its reasons.

Defendant is the founder and philosophical leader of Nxivm, a self-help organization headquartered in Albany, New York, that offers “classes promising personal and professional development.” (Compl. (Dkt. 1) fl3-6; Def. Mot. at 5-6.) In his own words. Defendant is an “ethicist” whose “ethical teachings … have focused on raising the level of humanity within each person.” (Def. Mot. at 5.)

According to the Government, Nxivm “operates largely in secrecy” and “maintains features of a multilevel marketing scheme, commonly known as a pyramid scheme, in which members are recruited via a promise of payments or services for enrolling
others into the scheme.” (Compl. 7-8.)

This case stems from allegations that Raniere oversaw an otherwise all-female “secret society,” going by the name “DOS” or “The Vow,” within Nxivm. Qd. T[ 11 .)^ According to the Government, DOS also operates as a pyramid scheme, in which more senior women in the organization (referred to as “masters”) recruit more junior women (referred to as “slaves”) to serve them and “masters above them in the DOS pyramid.” (Id H 13.)

To join DOS, a “slave” must turn over “collateral” (for example, confessions to crimes, statements accusing loved ones of crimes and other bad acts, and embarrassing personal material) that can be released if the “slave” leaves DOS, reveals its existence, or fails to perform her DOS obligations. Qd 15-16, 18-19.) DOS obligations include serving the “masters,” engaging in “acts of self-denial,” and performing “readiness drills” night or day. (Id 20-21,25-29.)

According to the Government, DOS “slaves” were also required to have sex with Defendant, whose role as the ultimate DOS “master” was concealed from all but the highest-ranking DOS “slaves”; to maintain low-calorie diets to conform to Defendant’s alleged preferences; and, in some cases, to be branded with Defendant’s initials and/or those of his co-defendant, Allison Mack. Qd 17,22-24, 30-32.)

Defendant does not dispute that DOS exists, that DOS members were required to provide “collateral” as a condition of joining the organization, or that several DOS members were branded. (Def. Mot. at 6-8.) He argues, however, that DOS was not formally connected to Nxivm, and that DOS members voluntarily joined the organization, provided “collateral,” and agreed to be branded. Qd.) He also argues that the “collateral” was never connected to a requirement to have sex with him (or anyone else) and that the collateral was never actually released. (Id.: see also id. at 16-17.)

[Footnote: The Government alleges that “DOS” standards for “Dominus Obsequious Sororium,” a broken Latin phrase
roughly translating to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions.” (Compl. If 11 n. 1.)]

According to the Government, the existence of DOS became public in mid-2017 following the defection of a DOS “slave” who was also a high-ranking Nxivm member. (Compl. 33.) In mid-October 2017, The New York Times published an article that relayed a number of disturbing allegations about Nxivm and DOS. See Barry Meier, Inside a Secretive Group Where Women are Branded. N.Y. Times (Oct. 17,2017), at al.

Several weeks later, “after the FBI began interviewing witnesses,” Raniere allegedly flew to Mexico, where he lived in a gated
resort in Puerto Vallarta. (Compl. 35; Gov’t Opp’n at 8.)  On March 26, 2018, Defendant was detained by Mexican authorities, deported to the United States, and arrested in connection with this case. (Def. Mot. at 8-9.) The Government sought a permanent order of detention, arguing that Defendant posed both a flight risk and a danger to the community. (Gov’t Mar. 26, 2018, Letter in Supp. of Order of Detention (“Gov’t Mar. 26 Ltr.”) (Dkt. 4).)

On April 13, 2018, Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione entered an order of detention without prejudice to Defendant’s presentation of a bail package. (Apr. 13,2018, Min. Entry; Order of Detention (Dkt. 13).)

On June 5, 2018, Defendant presented this court with the instant bail motion. In it Defendant proposes that he should be released pending trial, subject to a number of conditions. (See Def. Mot, at 3-4.) First, Defendant would sign a $10 million bond. (Id at 3.) His travel would be restricted to the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and he would surrender his passport and agree not to secure new travel documents. (Id) He would be confined to a residence selected by a private security company and would be subject to both GPS monitoring and round-the-clock supervision by two armed guards. (Id at 4.) He would have access to a
computer and telephone, but the computer would lack internet access and would be used only to review materials related to this case, and the telephone would be used only to make and receive calls to and from phone numbers agreed to by the Government, including those of his counsel and the mother of his child. (Id) Finally, he would not have contact, outside the presence of his
coun[pdf-embedder url=”https://frankreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-06-20-MEMORANDUM-ORDER-on-bail-package.pdf” title=”2018 06 20 MEMORANDUM & ORDER on bail package”]sel, with his co-defendant(s), alleged co-conspirators, or any other current or former affiliate of Nxivm or any affiliated entity. (Id.)

Pretrial detainees have a right to bail under both the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the imposition of “[e]xcessive bail,” as well as the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3141 et seq. Under the latter, the court must release a defendant “subject to the least restrictive further condition, or combination of conditions, that [it] determines will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(c)(1)(B). Only if, after considering the factors set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 1342(g), the court determines that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community” may the court order the defendant to be held without bail. Id § 3142(e)(1).

If, however, there is probable cause to find that the defendant committed one of the offenses specifically enumerated by §3142(e)(3), a rebuttable presumption arises “that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure” the defendant’s appearance or the safety of the community or others. Id § 3142(e)(3).  Where such a rebuttable presumption arises, “the defendant ‘bears a limited burden of production … to rebut that presumption by coming forward with evidence that he does not pose a danger to the community or a risk of flight.'” United States v. English. 629 F.3d 311,319 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v. Mercedes. 254 F.3d 433, 436 (2d Cir. 2001)); see also United States v. Rodriguez. 950 F.2d 85, 88 (2d Cir. 1991)

(“[A] defendant must introduce some evidence contrary to the presumed fact in order to rebut the presumption.” (emphasis added)). If the defendant offers such evidence, the presumption favoring detention does not fall away but “remains a factor to be considered among those weighed by the district court” under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g). English. 629 F.3d at 319 (quoting Mercedes. 254 F.3d at 436). Even in such a “presumption case,” however, “‘the government retains the ultimate burden of persuasion by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant presents a danger to the community,’ and ‘by the lesser standard of a  preponderance of the evidence that the defendant presents a risk of flight.'” Id. (quoting Mercedes. 254 F.3d at 436); see also United States v. Martir. 782 F.2d 1141, 1144 (2d Cir. 1986).

A. Defendant Is Subject to the Presumption in Favor of Detention
As the parties agree, this is such a “presumption case.” (Def. Mot. at 21 n. 8; Tr. of June 12,2018, Hr’g (“Hr’g Tr.”) (Dkt. Number Pending) 30:3-7.) The Bail Reform Act’s list of enumerated offenses includes any “offense under chapter 77 of this title for which a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years or more is prescribed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(D). That describes all three offenses with which Defendant has been charged. Each offense is proscribed by Chapter 77 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. The sex-trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy charges are both punishable by up to life in prison, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(b)(1), 1594(c), and the
forced-labor-conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589(d), 1594(b). And Defendant’s indictment by a grand jury conclusively establishes that there is probable cause to believe that he committed the offenses charged in the indictment. See United States v. Contreras, 776 F.2d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1985). Thus, the court begins with the
presumption that no condition or combination of conditions of pretrial release will reasonably assure the Defendant’s appearance and the safety of the community. S^ 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3).

[Footnote: A different rebuttable presumption arises if the defendant recently committed one of certain offenses while on release pending trial. See id. § 3142(e)(2). This case does not implicate this presumption.]

B. Defendant Is a Flight Risk Notwithstanding the Proposed Conditions

The court next considers whether Defendant has introduced evidence rebutting the statutory presumption that he is a flight risk and a danger to the community and others. In support of his bail motion. Defendant has attached several photographs of immigration documents, as well as receipts for flights and a canceled reservation for an Airbnb in Canada. (See Def. Mot., Exs. 1-7, 9 (Dkts. 43-1 to 43-7, 43-9).) He contends that these documents undermine the Government’s account that he traveled to Mexico in November 2017 to flee from law enforcement, and instead corroborate his explanation that he traveled to Mexico in October
2017 to be with the mother of his child, a Mexican citizen whose U.S. visa was expiring. (Def. Mot. at 12-14.) Defendant has also provided the court with a copy of a document, filed in the New York Surrogate’s Court, Saratoga County, in January 2018, in which he renounced his appointment as executor to the estate of his deceased romantic partner, Pamela Cafiitz. (See Renunciation of Nominated Executor and/or Trustee (Dkt. 43-8).) This document was notarized by a Mexican notario publico who provided his name and location (Guadalajara, Jalisco) on an apostille to the document. (See id. at ECF p.7.) Defendant argues that the fact that he filed this document in state court shows that he did not conceal his location from U.S. authorities.

Defendant has carried his “limited burden of production … by coming forward with evidence that he does not pose a… risk of flight.” English. 629 F.3d at 319 (intemal quotation marks and citation omitted). That is not to say that this evidence is particularly persuasive: As the court explains further below, these documents only weakly support Defendant’s account that his relocation to Mexico, use of encrypted email, and decision to stop using his phone had nothing to do with law enforcement’s increased interest in him following publication of the New York Times article. Because Defendant has provided “some evidence” that he is not a flight risk, the court turns to whether the Government has carried its ultimate burden of persuasion on this issue. Rodriguez. 950 F.2d at 88. (Because, as stated below, the court denies Defendant’s motion based on a finding that he poses a flight risk, it need not decide whether he has proffered any “evidence that he does not pose a danger to the community.” See English. 629 F.3d at 319 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).)

The court considers the question of whether the Government has shown that there are no conditions of release sufficient to reasonably assure Defendant’s appearance before the court in light of the factors listed by 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g):
(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence, a violation of [18 U.S.C. §] 1591, a Federal crime of terrorism, or involves a minor victim or a controlled substance, firearm, explosive, or destructive device;
(2) the weight of the evidence against the [Defendant];
(3) the history and characteristics of the [Defendant], including—  (A) the [Defendant]’s character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and
(B) whether, at the time of the current offense or arrest, the [Defendant] was on probation, on parole, or on other release pending trid, sentencing, appeal, or completion of sentence for an offense under Federal, State, or local law; and
(4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the [Defendant’s] release….

As the court explains below, these factors, taken together, support the conclusion that Defendant remains a flight risk notwithstanding his proposed bail conditions.

1. The Nature and Circumstances of the Offense Charged

The first § 3142(g) factor weighs heavily in favor of continued detention. This factor specifically directs the court to consider whether the defendant seeking pretrial release has been charged with “a violation of [18 U.S.C. §] 1591,” a sex-trafficking statute that Defendant has been charged with violating and conspiring to violate. “By specifically enumerating the type of violation alleged here, the statute suggests that [Defendant]’s alleged actions militate in favor of detention.” United States v. Goodwin, No. 15-CR-lOl, 2015 WL 6386568, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 21, 2015).

The offenses with which Defendant has been charged are also subject to extremely lengthy sentences. If convicted, Defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the sex-trafficking and sex-trafficking-conspiracy charges, as well as up to 20 years’ imprisonment for the forced-labor-conspiracy charge. 18 U.S.C. § 1591(b)(1) (sex trafficking by force, threat, fraud, or coercion); id. § 1594(c) (conspiracy to violate § 1591); id. Page 8 of 16 PageID #: 288 §§ 1589(a), (d), 1594(b) (forced-labor conspiracy).

Additionally, Defendant faces a 15-year statutory minimum sentence if convicted on the substantive sex-trafficking charge. Id
§ 1591(b)(1). Faced with the possibility that, if convicted, he may spend the rest of his life in prison. Defendant clearly has “a strong motive to flee.” United States v. Sabhnani. 493 F.3d 63, 76 (2d Cir. 2007k see also United States v. Khusanov. —F. App’x—, 2018 WL 1887339, at *1 (2d Cir. 2018) (summary order).

2. The Weight of the Evidence

The second § 3142(g) factor weighs at least weakly in favor of detention. There appears to be substantial evidence against Defendant. A grand jury has determined that there is probable cause to believe that Defendant committed the charged offenses. The Government has also proffered a number of text messages sent by Defendant that suggest that, as the Government puts
it. Defendant “created DOS,” that “there was a significant sexual component to DOS and that some DOS slaves would be recruited to have sex with [him],” and “that his identity as the head of DOS would be concealed from some DOS slaves.” (Gov’t Opp’n at 3; s^ id. at 3-6.)

There are, however, reasons to proceed cautiously at this point in the proceedings. From Defendant’s motions and his counsel’s statements to the court, it appears that his defense will rely heavily on arguments that the so-called “DOS slaves” joined and remained in the group willingly and that they engaged in any sexual activity with him consensually, not because they feared that their “collateral” would be released. (See, e.g.. Def. Mot. at 17.) Defendant also contends that “there is no evidence that anyone engaged in a commercial sex act, within the [see Violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1589 that “include … aggravated sexual abuse” are punishable by up to life imprisonment. Id § 1589(d).}

The Government has not, however, charged Defendant with an aggravated-sexual abuse enhancement meaning of the [sex-trafficking] statute.” (Id) At this early stage in the case, the court lacks sufficient evidence from which to make a confident assessment as to the strength of the Government’s case on these points.

3. Defendant’s History and Characteristics
The third § 3142 factor, however, weighs especially strongly in favor of detention, notwithstanding Defendant’s proposed conditions of bail.
a. Defendant is a flight risk

Defendant’s history and characteristics strongly support the conclusion that he is a flight risk. Certain aspects of Defendant’s history and characteristics weigh in his favor. He is a longtime resident of upstate New York, and the court is not aware of any indication that he has a prior record of arrests or convictions, a substance-abuse problem, or a history of missed court  appearances. 18 U.S.C. § 1342(g)(3)(A). Nor was he on probation, parole, or other release at the time of his arrest for the charged offenses. See id. § 1342(g)(3)(B). The court is troubled, however, by evidence of Defendant’s conduct in recent months, his lack of an ordinary job or personal financial resources that could secure a meaningful bond, and his apparent access to extensive financial resources supplied by anonymous third parties. These factors all point to a substantial risk of flight.

First, the court finds that it is more likely than not that Defendant moved to Mexico last fall at least partly to elude law enforcement. Despite having little history of international travel, Defendant relocated to Mexico soon after attention turned to his alleged activities in connection with Nxivm and DOS. The Government avers that, while in Mexico, Defendant also began using end-to-end encrypted email and stopped using his phone. (Gov’t Mar. 26 Ltr. at 6; Gov’t Opp’n at 8.) As a result, the Government avers, it took a month and a half for authorities to track Defendant down.

Defendant has innocent explanations for his change of scenery and behavior. He avers that he traveled to Mexico last October to be with his child and with the child’s mother when her U.S. visa expired. (Def. Mot. at 12-14.) While he admits to using different phones and email addresses, he states that he did so not to evade authorities but to evade an anti-Nxivm group that he says harassed him for years. (Id at 15.) Finally, he contends that the Government was, or should have been, aware of his location because of the document he filed in Saratoga County Surrogate’s Court and because “his attorney left a phone number with the Department of Justice on two occasions by which he could be reached.” (Id at 14, 15.)

These explanations are not persuasive. While it may be the case that Defendant traveled briefly to Mexico in October to be with the mother of his child in Monterrey, that does not explain why he traveled back to Mexico the following month—or why, when he did, he moved hundreds of miles away, to Puerto Vallarta. {See Hr’g Tr. 18:23-19:14.) If Defendant had been seeking to avoid anti-Nxivm activists, not the Government, it is not clear why he would have stopped using his phone entirely, as the court is not aware of how the former would have the ability to track Defendant’s phone.

That Defendant’s attorney left a callback number with prosecutors does not imply that Defendant was forthcoming with authorities about his location. Finally, the court does not see how law enforcement could have inferred that Defendant was
residing in Puerto Vallarta from the fact that he filed in Saratoga County Surrogate’s Court a document notarized in Guadalajara, about a five-hour drive from Puerto VaUarta. Directions from Guadalajara, Jalisco, to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Google Maps,
https://www.google.coni/maps/dir/Guadalajara,+Jalisco,+Mexico/Puerto+Vallarta,+Jalisco,+Me xico/ (last visited June 14, 2018).

Second, the court also has grave concerns about Defendant’s financial situation.

According to Defendant’s financial affidavit, he is self-employed and has no income or assets other than a partial interest in a home in Clifton Park, New York, worth approximately $60,000. (Financial Aff (Dkt. 44-2).) Even accepting that this affidavit is truthful. Defendant has little to lose if he were to flee, and nothing with which to secure a meaningful personal bond. (But see
Gov’t Mar. 26 Ltr. at 4 (stating that Defendant has made purchases using a credit card in the name of a deceased romantic partner and has drawn extensively on a bank account in her name containing $8 million).) Besides having no income or assets of his own. Defendant also appears to have access to enormous financial resources contributed by anonymous third parties. The
Government contends that Defendant is financially backed by “independently wealthy women,” including a liquor-fortune heiress whom the Government contends has provided Defendant with millions of dollars and access to private air travel and to a private island m Fiji. (Gov’t Mar. 26 Ltr. at 4.) Indeed, Defendant himself proposes that he should be released into home detention,
guarded by a private security company at a cost of at least $40,000 per month, to be paid for by an unidentified trust funded by anonymous third parties. (Gov’t Opp’n at 7 n.7.) This arrangement only underscores the court’s concern that Defendant may have access to extensive but unknown financial resources.

In light of these concerns, the court must conclude that Defendant poses a serious risk of flight if he is released pending trial. The proposed conditions of release do not adequately mitigate this risk

Defendant’s proposed conditions of release do not mitigate these concerns. Defendant proposes release on a $10 million bond, but the court views such a bond as basically worthless inlight of Defendant’s lack of personal assets. Without anything to offer as collateral. Defendant would have nothing to lose if he were to flee. Nor does Defendant offer a surety (such as a family member or other loved one) who would stand to lose something if he were to flee.

Accordingly, as his counsel admitted at oral argument, the court lacks any moral suasion over Defendant to induce him to remain here and face trial. (Hr’g Tr. 13:18-14:2,17:7-9.) To compensate for his inability to post such collateral. Defendant proposed an
“admittedly unorthodox” bail package, under which round-the-clock armed guards would be responsible for keeping him confined to a selected residence. (Id 16:23) While the court commends Defendant’s counsel for both his creativity in structuring this proposal and for his candor in describing it to the court, the proposal does not mitigate Defendant’s flight risk.
Defendant seems to accept that armed guards are necessary to ensure his appearance at trial. As the Second Circuit has observed, however, the conclusion that “deadly force may need to be used to assure defendant[‘s] presence at trial…. would, in fact, demand a defendant’s detention.” Sabhrtanf 493 F.3d at 74 n. 13. As other courts in this circuit have mused, “What more compelling case for an order of detention is there than a case in which only an armed guard and the threat of deadly force is sufficient to assure the defendant’s appearance?” United States V. Zairab. No. 15-CR-867 (RMB), 2016 WL 3681423, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. June 16,2016) (quoting United States v. Valerio. 9 F. Supp. 3d 283, 295 (E.D.N.Y. 201411: see also United States v.
Colorado-Cebado. No. 13-CR-458,2013 WL 5852621, at *6 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 30, 2013).

It is also not clear that these guards could actually prevent Defendant from fleeing, if he were to attempt to escape. Defendant indicated that he would consent in advance to the use of force against him if he attempted to escape, but he would not—nor, it seems, could he—consent to the use of deadly force against him. (Hr’g Tr. 11:22-12:1.) Nor could Defendant consent to the use of deadly force against any Nxivm or DOS acolytes who might plausibly attempt to help him escape. (See Gov’t Opp’n at 12.) As the

Government also correctly notes, any escape attempt would also present the risk of a confrontation between armed guards and Defendant (or his followers) in the streets of New York City, which would mean that any reduction in the Defendant’s flight risk from this proposal would be at least partially offset by a greater risk to the community. CSee id.)

Nor does the court have any basis for concluding that the proposed private security firm could keep Defendant confined. The court in no way impugns the private security firm that Defendant has proposed. This firm appears to employ a number of experienced law-enforcement veterans, and it would surely have a strong reputational incentive to keep Defendant confined.

The court nevertheless has general concerns about the use of a private security company to monitor a defendant’s home confinement, particularly where the company has been chosen by the defendant, where the Government “exercises no hiring, training, or supervisory control” over it, Valerio. 9 F. Supp. 3d at 295, and where the court knows nothing about the individuals who would be responsible for monitoring the defendant on a day-to-day basis.  see Sabhnani. 493 F.3d at 78 (noting that, in that case, the government had chosen the private firm responsible for monitoring the defendant’s home confinement, so it was “not a case in which government reservations about either the competency or integrity of a private security firm might give a court
pause about the effectiveness of home confinement in deterring flight”). These generalized misgivings about the use of private security firms in this context are exacerbated by the unique circumstances of this case, in which Defendant is accused of running an organization with a number of devoted adherents, faces strong incentives to flee, and may have access to substantial financial resources. In such a case, broad assurances about the private security company’s experience or reputational incentives are no substitute for an actual jail. Valerio. 9 F. Supp. 3d at 295.

Finally, the court is also troubled by the lack of clarity about who would actually pay for these armed guards. As Defendant cryptically avers in his reply, the guards would be “paid by an irrevocable trust funded by third-party contributors.” (Def. Reply at 2.) His proposed bail package offered no information about the terms of the trust, its corpus, or its settlors. Indeed, at oral argument, it emerged that the parties did not know to a certainty exactly who was funding the trust (although they speculated that the aforementioned liquor-fortune heiress was responsible). (Hr’g Tr. 22:21-28:2.) The court cannot make a reasoned assessment of the adequacy of Defendant’s proposed home confinement without knowing who would actually pay for Defendant’s round-the-clock armed guards.

4. The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by Defendant’s release.
Fourth, the court concludes that the last § 3142 factor also weighs in favor of detention.

Defendant is charged with serious felonies based on his alleged role in running a secretive, cult like organization in which “slaves” are allegedly branded with his initials and tasked with serving him and other senior members of the organization. In light of these charged offenses, see United States v. Nikolow, 534 F. Supp. 2d 37, 39 (D.D.C. 2008), and the Government’s representations that Nxivm critics and defectors have faced harassment (Gov’t Mar. 26 Ltr. at 5, Gov’t Opp’n at 12 n.ll), there is at least some risk that if Defendant is released, he may unlawfully exploit women or obstruct justice.

5. The presumption in favor of detention.

Finally, the court notes again that Defendant has been charged with offenses triggering a presumption of detention. Although he has rebutted that presumption by introducing evidence that he is not a flight risk, the presumption remains to be considered by the court alongside the aforementioned four § 3142(g) factors.

* * *
The court concludes that the Government has easily shown that Defendant’s proposed conditions are insufficient to reasonably assure his appearance. Because it is at least conceivable that Defendant could address the court’s concerns, this denial is without prejudice to refiling a revised bail package. Because the court determines that Defendant remains a flight risk notwithstanding the proposed bail conditions, it need not consider at this time whether the Government has also shown by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or set of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of others and the community.

Defendant’s motion for release on bail (Dkt. 43) is DENIED without prejudice.


Dated: Brooklyn, New York NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS:
June 20,2018 United States District Judge
s/Nicholas G. Garaufis

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  • I wonder if Judge Garaufis reads the Frank Report? We have been told that Raniere’s attorneys do. If so, GOOD JOB Judge Garaufis! It’s nice to see how intelligent you are and you will not be swayed with disguised BS.

  • One minor point that shows that Raniere’s lawyers painted themselves in a corner: the judge noted that while having armed guards around might dissuade some of “Vanguard”s loyal followers from trying to spring him, having a bunch of armed men running loose in Manhattan might diminish the flight risk but would raise the risk to the public by at least the same amount. In other words, the lawyers designing the bail package that was rejected actually harmed their own case by the insistence on armed guards. Oops!

      • The Judge raised a point that was not considered by either side – that public safety could be at risk, should Raniere escape his mirage private jail.

        How does permit holding citizens enter this picture?

    • The Raniere lawyers HAD to propose armed guards, as Keith is so dangerous with his own hands, he would “judo” an escape.

  • I was proud of Judge Garaufis and his writing – but a little concerned that he did not bring up the other risk of KR tampering with / intimidating victim / witnesses while out on bail, because I believe that is real.

    • IMHO he’s on top if all aspects of this case, but just didn’t need to go down that rabbit hole today:

      ‘Because, as stated below, the court denies Defendant’s motion based on a finding that he poses a flight risk, it need not decide whether he has proffered any “evidence that he does not pose a danger to the community.’

  • Frank, I think that Keith’s attorneys have given you material for a future article to research and write.

    They have already stated their defense to the blackmail elements……they are arguing it was a consensual “contract”.

    For now let’s disregard the fact that DOS used the voluntary collateral to later demand more damaging collateral each month.

    I’m just curious about the original ‘voluntary’ blackmail collateral issue all by itself, as it relates to contract law.

    In essence, Keith’s legal team is arguing that there’s such a thing in U.S. contract law that allows “consensual blackmail”.

    But from what I understand, there is no such thing as consensual blackmail (or at least no appellate courts have ever upheld such a contract before).

    For a contract to be legal, the consideration exchanged by each party must not be of ‘nominal’ value.

    For example, if you agree to sell your Porsche (valued at $60k) to a family member in exchange for $1 cash (something of nominal value)…..that’s not an enforceable contract since the ‘consideration’ you received was nominal and not reflective of the value the other party placed on the car.

    The blackmail collateral (and vow of LIFELONG obedience) cannot be compared in value to what those slaves received in return (from their DOS master) for entering into that contract — since all they received in return was:

    1) The mere knowledge that DOS “exists”

    2) The promise to obey all commands from master for life.

    I realize that some people can place a value on slave training (tiny-brained India calls it “character building”)……but I don’t think the courts are gonna even attempt to place a value on these things for the purposes of calling it an enforceable contract. LOL.

    There’s also a principle of contract law called “unconscionability”…..which nullifies any contract where the terms are so “one-sided” that enforcing the contract would “shock the conscience”.

    For example… PayPal had one of their arbitration clauses voided years ago due to “unconscionability”. The court found that it was so unfair and one sided that it literally “shocked the conscience”.

    I’m pretty sure that entering into a “blackmail” contract for LIFELONG slavery would be shocking to the court as well, LOL.

    This topic is gonna be part of the trial…..so you may as well get some feedback from contract lawyers and write a future article about it.

    • I think you need to look at the elements of blackmail in the US Code, 18 USC § 873 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/part-I/chapter-41). It doesn’t seem like blackmail is a chargeable offense, and Raniere isn’t charged with blackmail as far as I know. Maybe there is a NY State charge for coercion in the 2nd degree (https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/penal-law/pen-sect-135-60.html), but Raniere is not being prosecuted in a NY state court. If he’s acquitted in Federal Court maybe new charges could be brought in state court, but double jeopardy in NY is very broad. On the other hand, there is little chance of Raniere being released on bail, ever, and his odds of acquittal are pretty slim too.

  • So basically, the judge just threw the legal teams a big bone. Since it is without prejudice, they can go back to the ATM machine a.k.a. Raniere defence trust, for another whack of billables.

    Drain that trust! Drain that trust!

    • They’re not dumb. They’re simply doing what their client is instructing them to do. They know this case is almost impossible to win. That doesn’t really matter. The goal is to get every last dime out of that ten million dollar trust while they can.

      • Great to have a response from someone with direct knowledge.

        Are you sure you aren’t supposed to be only reading and not commenting?

        Appreciate it, either way. 😉

  • Maybe now Claire can stop wasting her money on fruitless motions to spring Raniere on bail.

    1.)The opinion demonstrates that the Judge understands the hold Raniere has over his female adherents.

    “the unique circumstances of this case, in which Defendant is accused of running an organization with a number of devoted adherents”

    2.) And the Judge understands the unique efforts the government engaged in to track down anddetain Raniere in Mexico.

    “The Government avers that, while in Mexico, Defendant also began using end-to-end encrypted email and stopped using his phone.
    As a result, the Government avers, it took a month and a half for authorities to track Defendant down.”

    3.) Lastly the government and Judge understand that Claire Bronfman and other wealthy women are backing Raniere in his cult endeavors and in the efforts to free him to continue those endeavors.

    “The Government contends that Defendant is financially backed by “independently wealthy women,”
    including a liquor-fortune heiress (Claire Bronfman) whom the Government contends has provided Defendant with
    millions of dollars and access to private air travel and to a private island m Fiji. “

  • The GOOD news…

    Near the end, the judge explains why the defendant is not likely to reverse this decision in future bail hearings.

    “Because it is at least CONCEIVABLE that Defendant could address the court’s concerns, this denial is without prejudice to refiling a revised bail package”

    The word “conceivable” simply means “within the realm of human imagination”. LOL.

    For example, it’s conceivable that aliens exist in neighboring galaxies…….which simply means we can’t rule out that possibility without knowing more detailed information about the planets in those galaxies.

    Or in other words, because the judge can’t rule out the possibility that Keith could come forward with proof that he has long time family assets stashed somewhere (in his name) sufficient to guarantee his appearance in court……therefore the judge can’t completely squash his ability to file future bail applications. LOL.

    *But if Keith ever offered proof of longtime ownership in wealthy family assets…..he’d be hit with additional IRS charges and other charges of lying to the court about his lack of personal assets. LOL.

    So it’s really not gonna be possible for Keith to overcome this ruling…..because his only source of bail money is from wealthy 3rd parties who have so much wealth that losing a mere $10 million would be nothing to them. Even $40 million would be nothing.

    Because if Clare Bear already gave him a $65 million dollar loan (that he lost in the commodities market) that he was never required to repay…….then why would she be upset if he flees and she only loses another $10 million? LOL.

    • – The word “conceivable” simply means “within the realm of human imagination”.

      Technically speaking it does not. Conceivable means able to be conceptually grasped. It is distinct from the imagination. For example, we can conceptually grasp a 1000 sided figure. But we could never imagine it. We can conceptually grasp that a 1001 sided figure has more sides (one more) than a 1000 sided figure. However, like the the 1000 sided figure we could never imagine it. Thus, we could also never imagine the difference between the two figures side by side. Conceivable means its possible in the real world, not only in the realm of the imagination. Conceivability falls under the category of what is called “determinate” thinking.

      Since the statement was made without prejudice, the judge has still left it open for the defense to come up with a viable bail package. The previous statements just show that the judge is highly unlikely to allow bail because there is no convincing evidence that he is still not a flight risk and that is sufficient regardless of whether the government can sufficiently prove that he is danger to the community.

    • Karma is a bitch. All the bullshit about being impoverished! (And celibate.) Making loyal people beg and scratch for mere crumbs. Coming back to bite him. Good!

  • This should put to rest any lingering doubt or fear that vandouch will get released before trial. It’s hard to think of someone who could be more of a flight risk than a cult leader with hundreds of millions in “anonymous” resources.

  • Good to see the judge got it right. Getting flashbacks to Flip Wilson’s “Here comes the judge” schtick.

  • Very well written opinion – clear, concise, succinct. The Court (the Judge) hit the nail on the head – VanGrifter cannot have it both ways. Keith cannot claim he is: a) broke while he has the ability to b) raise millions of dollars for bail, guard service, home detention, mansion, etc.

    It is also troubling, because allowing this type of bail package would send the message that there are two forms of justice in the country: 1) mansions for wealthy folks and 2) jails for everyone else. Moreover, the fact that the Defense is proposing armed guards (that cannot use deadly force) still means that the Defense considers Raniere a flight risk. Thus, the crux of the Defense argument for bail is negated by the particulars of the Bail proposal itself.

    Welp. The next step is to wait for the new indictments and superseding indictment of Raniere.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if they already had other sealed indictments.
      To me it sounds like prosecution is going to drag it out as long as possible to be able to keep investigating without having to give additional discovery, yet.
      At the moment, I would expect Clare’s arrest not to come until right before the next status.

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.

IMDb — Frank Parlato


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