Prosecution May Charge Bronfman-paid Attorney Who Told Woman to Plead the 5th in Grand Jury

Clare Bronfman leaves court after her bail hearing in July 2018. She was released on $100 million bail and subject to home confinement.

One of the first things that they teach students in law school is to pay attention to the footnotes in legal opinions.

Although many of them are references to obscure but somewhat relevant opinions – and others are just musings of the judge writing the opinion – sometime that’s where the most important information is.

The same is true with legal filings – especially those by the prosecution in a criminal case.

A concrete example of this legal truism can be found in a recent letter from AUSAs Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar to U.S.  District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis concerning the use of the Trust Fund set up by Clare Bronfman to pay the attorney fees of potential witnesses in the pending criminal case against Bronfman, Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Kathy Russell.

To those who may have missed the earlier post about this situation, here’s a quick summary of the events leading up to the letter:

  • An unidentified woman who was once part of NXIVM/ESP was issued a subpoena requiring her to appear before the grand jury that has been hearing evidence – and issuing indictments – in the aforementioned criminal case.
  • After she mentioned the subpoena to one of her NXIVM colleagues, she was given the name of an attorney – and told to contact him.
  • At her first meeting with the attorney, he told her that she did not have to worry about paying his legal fees because he was being paid by Clare Bronfman.
  • He also told her that his recommendation was that she plead the Fifth Amendment every time she was asked a question in front of the grand jury.
  • When she balked at that suggestion, he told her that unless she agreed to accept his advice – and plead the Fifth Amendment as instructed – he could not represent her and she would have to hire her own attorney on her own dime.
  • She asked if she could hire him with her own money and he said he was too expensive, or in other words – plead the 5th or he wouldn’t represent her.

After hearing about this encounter, Judge Garaufis directed the prosecution to advise him as to what its thoughts were with regard to the use of funds from the trust to pay for the legal fees of potential witnesses.

In their December 17th letter, AUSAs Penza and Hajjar indicated to the judge that they had the following concerns:

  • “Witnesses may be improperly advised to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination…”; and
  • “Witnesses may receive advice from a lawyer suffering from a conflict of interest”.

But buried in a footnote is what may turn out to be the most important part of their letter: “To the extent these issues arise during the grand jury process in the context of the government’s ongoing investigation, the government will raise such issues, as it deems necessary, through the appropriate procedures, such as a motion to compel compliance with a subpoena.  If any such conduct rises to the level of obstruction of justice, it will be investigated by the government as a criminal matter”.

Let’s parse through what’s in that footnote.

The first part – “To the extent these issues arise during the grand jury process in the context of the government’s ongoing investigation, the government will raise such issues, as it deems necessary, through the appropriate procedures, such as a motion to compel compliance with a subpoena – may be a little obtuse for non-lawyers.

But what the prosecution is telling the judge is that if a witness raises the Fifth Amendment in response to its questions, it may simply grant immunity to the witness – and compel her/him to answer the questions.

Apparently, the lawyer who was going to be hired to represent the witnessed described above failed to tell her that invoking the Fifth Amendment does not guaranty you won’t be compelled to answer the questions being asked of you by the prosecution.

And what happens if you refuse to answer those questions after you’ve been granted immunity, you ask?

Well, then the judge can order you to be incarcerated until you change you mind (Just ask Barry Bonds’ trainer who spent a year in federal prison for refusing to answer questions after he was granted immunity regarding Bonds’ alleged use of Performance Enhancing Drugs).

But it’s the second part of the footnote that ought to send shivers down the spine of the attorney who advised the potential witness that she would have to plead the Fifth Amendment in front of the grand jury or hire another attorney: “If any such conduct rises to the level of obstruction of justice, it will be investigated by the government as a criminal matter”.

The message could not be clearer: “You fuck with our witnesses – and we will fuck with you, big time”.

Methinks there won’t be too many attorneys out there who are willing to face criminal charges by intimidating any other potential witnesses in this case.

Waking up as an attorney – and going to bed as a defendant – is just not all that much fun…

Now some of you may think this is a little heavy-handed on the part of the prosecution, but consider how abhorrent the attorney in question’s behavior is.

He had a potential client. Rather than try to find out if he could get immunity for his client – meaning that in return for honest testimony, he could insure she would not be charged – he told her to plead the 5th or he would not represent her.

If he was a good attorney – a non-conflicted attorney – he would have sought to find out what interest the prosecution had in her – whether she was a target or a subject – and whether she was likely to be charged. If he could get her off the hook altogether – by her telling the tr.uith.

Instead, he told her to put herself in jeopardy to protect Clare Bronfman who was paying his fees. By his potential client invoking the 5th, without his making any effort to find out what jeopardy she was in or how she could get out of it, she might have easily become a target and gotten herself indicted.

Instead, by leaving the care and concern of the Bronfman paid attorney and telling the DOJ about what happened, it appears she has become a witness for the prosecution and has spared herself being charged.

That was the result the Bronfman-paid attorney should have been seeking from the start.

It is quite possible he obstructed justice and/or tampered with a witness. At the very least, he was serving Clare Bronfman’s interests and not those of his potential client.

Frank Report will seek to identify this attorney and reach out to him for comment.

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K.R. Claviger

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Ajo y Comida Mexicana
Ajo y Comida Mexicana
4 years ago
Reply to  onewomanarmy

As far as we know, Clare’s lawyer Dennis Burke is the only one out the whole group of NXIVM Sex Cult Attorneys who has been penalized by a state bar for misconduct. Dennis K. Burke, Bar No. 012076. “Respondent conditionally admits that his conduct, as set forth below, violated Rule 42, ERs 1.6 and 8.4(c). Upon acceptance of this agreement, Respondent agrees to accept imposition of the following discipline: Reprimand.”

The section Burke admitted to violating, ER 8.4., reads as follows: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

“Respondent’s admissions are being tendered in exchange for the form of discipline stated below and is submitted freely and voluntarily and not as a result of coercion or intimidation. Respondent conditionally admits that his conduct violated Rule 42, Ariz. R. Sup. Ct., specifically ERs 1.6 and 8.4(c). “

4 years ago

Anyone have a bet about which of Clare Bronfman’s attorneys would have (i) claimed “he” was “too expensive, then (ii) attempt to obstruct justice, by (iii) coercing, intimidating, or otherwise manipulating witnesses? By process of elimination, at least three of Clare’s four current lawyers are women: Susan Necheles, Kathleen Cassidy, and Gedalia Stern. So, who is he, the intimidator?

4 years ago

According to the Frank Report’s Dec. 5 article ‘More analysis on conflict of interest with Clare-paid attorneys’ the trust attorneys are ” James Q. Walker, Esq. and Andrew Podolin, Esq. of Richards Kibbe & Orbe, LLP, who indicated that they serve as counsel to the trustee administering the Trust.” I looked up Mr. Walker yesterday. He appears to have a good reputation in the legal community. He is also chair of a county ethics committee. He has many wealthy and powerful clients. This is going to come down to a he-said/she-said unless there is audio or documentary evidence of this ‘plead the fifth conversation’ and Mr. Walker is going to be hard to impeach.

4 years ago
4 years ago
Scott Johnson (@ScottTexJohnson)

If this story is accurate, then this lawyer is stupid. He should have taken on the billable hours first, THEN given the woman the advice to plead the 5th, which is her Constitutional right. If the government thought she had valuable information, then they would offer immunity to her. If not, they would have dropped her as a grand jury witness. This lawyer left money on the table, so he failed lawyering 101. The only differences in the outcome are that he didn’t get billable hours and brought suspicions on himself. We need to find out who this stupid lawyer is, so nobody ever uses him again.

Little Lord KAR Legal Shenanigans
Little Lord KAR Legal Shenanigans
4 years ago

Right out of Little Lord KAR’s playbook. LL-KAR has been manipulating witnesses for decades.

If one was to research past legal case, you’d find how NXIVM has lied to the courts, used their attorneys, who want to be on the Clare/Sara Bronfman gravy train of litigation but presenting fake facts to the Courts, and manipulating public officials.

It’s about time Justice is served with the NXIVM Criminal Enterprise. This attorney had to been ordered that in order to keep the gravy coming in, he had to manipulate witnesses into protecting the NXIVM mafia leaders. Its these kind of tactics that give the attorneys a bad reputation.

Thank God the DOJ in the Eastern district are willing to uphold justice.

4 years ago

Stupid,stupid,stupid where do they find these idiots. You don’t need to be a lawyer to know your setting yourself up to be charged. Is the money that good that’s it worth spending time in jail. SMH

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.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

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 premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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