A couple of days ago, Frank Report ran a post about a recent filing by Kathy Russell’s current attorneys, Justine A. Harris and Amanda Ravich, in which they lambasted Moira Kim Penza, the lead prosecutor in the case of U.S. v. Raniere Et Al, for the way she treated Russell prior to her indictment.
Some of the specific allegations that Russell’s attorneys made in that filing are as follows:
– Although Penza informed Russell that she was only a “fact witness” at the time she testified before the Grand Jury that was hearing testimony about Raniere and his sex slave cult, Russell was, at a minimum, a “subject” or “target” of the investigation – and perhaps even a “putative defendant”;
– Penza made numerous misleading statements to Russell about a variety of topics;
– Penza provided erroneous legal advice to Russell concerning the scope of her Fifth Amendment rights when she was testifying before the Grand Jury on May 10, 2018; and
– Penza treated Russell unfairly – and induced her to partially waive her Fifth Amendment rights in her testimony before the Grand Jury.
Because of all the alleged misdeeds on the part of Penza, Russell’s attorneys asked the presiding judge in the case, Nicholas G. Garaufis, to dismiss all the charges against her.
Alternatively, they asked that he conduct an evidentiary hearing in order to determine exactly when the prosecution obtained the evidence that led to charges being brought against Russell.
They also asked him to order the prosecution to turn over portions of the Grand Jury minutes with respect to other witnesses who appeared before it so they could determine if the prosecution had committed similar misdeeds regarding those witnesses.
Based on the pleadings filed by Russell’s attorneys, it appeared that Penza might have made some major mistakes in the way she handled Russell.
But now, as Paul Harvey would say, we get “the rest of the story”…
In its filing in response to the allegations of Russell’s attorneys, the prosecution refuted each and every one of those allegations – and laid bare what really happened before, during, and after Russell’s appearance before the Grand Jury.
Here are some of the responses contained in the prosecution’s filing:
– At the time that Russell testified, she was being represented by William Fanciullo, a former Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Northern District of New York who advertises on his website that when he was an AUSA he “…handled all aspects of cases, including grand jury investigations” and that as a “…more experienced AUSA, he handled the most difficult and complex cases”.
– As soon as Fanciullo informed Penza he was representing Russell, she offered to meet with him prior to Russell’s Grand Jury appearance. He declined that invitation.
– When Fanciullo and Russell showed up, as scheduled, on May 10, 2018, Penza asked him if he had any questions – and offered to meet with him and Russell before Russell began her testimony. He declined that invitation.
– At the outset of Russell’s appearance before the Grand Jury, Penza informed her that she was not a “target” of the investigation – which meant that she was not “…a person to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking to a commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.”
– At that same time, Russell was informed that she had sworn to tell the truth and could be charged with perjury if she did not do so; that she had the right to counsel in connection with her appearance; that she could consult with her attorney before answering any questions; and that if she could not afford an attorney, one would be provided for her by the Court.
– During this preliminary stage – and before any serious questions had been asked – Russell invoked the Fifth Amendment for the first time when she was asked whether she was paying for her lawyer and whether she had destroyed any documents prior to her appearance (She did this by reading off a piece of paper that she had brought with her into the Grand Jury room).
– Over the course of her nearly 2-hour testimony, Russell invoked the Fifth Amendment approximately 75 times – and each time she did so, she read the same text off of the same piece of paper.
– Some of the questions that she declined to answer concerned her level of education; how she reconciled her decision to move to Albany to work for NXIVM when she had an adolescent son in Alaska; what her duties were as a bookkeeper for NXIVM; whether she was a member of DOS; and whether Keith Raniere had any children.
Following Russell’s testimony, Penza again met with Fanciullo and Russell – and explained to them that the government’s investigation was ongoing and that they were continuing to gather new evidence every day.
Penza then offered to meet with Russell and Fanciullo pursuant to a “Proffer Agreement” – which was emailed to Fanciullo on May 14, 2018 (A “Proffer Agreement” is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation that permits those individuals to give the government information about crimes with some assurances that they will be protected against prosecution).
Fanciullo wrote back to them on May 22, 2018 – and indicated that “Ms. Russell respectfully declines your proffer proposal.”
Russell was arrested on July 24, 2018, one day after the indictment against her was returned by the Grand Jury – and nearly three months after she had been summoned to testify before it.
Fanciullo represented Russell at her initial appearances in the Northern and Eastern Districts of New York but was replaced on August 9, 2018 by Justine Harris (It is believed that Fanciullo is no longer involved in the case).
So, notwithstanding the bombast and bullshit from Kathy Russell’s current attorneys, it looks like she chose to follow Fanciullo’s advice – and in so doing, passed up the opportunity to avoid being prosecuted.
And although we can’t be certain as to who paid Fanciullo for his sage advice and legal services, there’s a high probability it was Clare Bronfman or NXIVM.
And here we have a great example of what’s wrong with having the horde of attorneys who are currently representing Russell, Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, and Lauren Salzman all being paid from a Trust Fund that was set up by Clare Bronfman.
Are any of those attorneys actually doing all that they can to protect their respective client’s interests? Or are they doing whatever is necessary to protect Raniere and Bronfman?
Kathy Russell – who has often been described on Frank Report as a hapless fall girl and a pawn in this entire matter – could have avoided prosecution altogether if she had simply been willing to tell the prosecution what she knew about the illegal operations of the NXIVM crime syndicate.
Instead, she declined the proffer offer of the prosecution and chose to follow the advice of an attorney who was being paid for by someone else – and the result is that Kathy will very likely end up spending time in federal prison because of that choice.
Viva Executive Success!
It’s getting to the point where I can write the Paul Harvey “the rest of the story” parts.
This case is so bizarre and corrupt. The facts of DOS are so horrifying, but to layer it with money laundering, an outrageous childcare center, human trafficking, and loads of corrupt money…it really is unbelievable.
Great story! I’m sure Kathy’s new Bronfman-paid counsel will make sure that doesn’t recur. Jk. Yeah…That’s why they’re blaming the prosecution first thing instead of requesting a renewal of the plea proffer.
All that empowerment training cleaning out the sex lair, wasted! She’s taking the fall rather gracefully, though, and looks good in Orange.
Great analysis and reporting. Thank you.
Let’s consider the important questions and truths being revealed here!
1. Question: Who has been paying for legal counsel for apparently all (or practically all) defendants and/or witnesses in the nxivm case?
Answer: Clare Bronfman!
2. Question: By taking on the extraordinary role of funding practically all of the defense lawyers, who is trying to control the entire defense strategy of the case?
Answer: Clare Bronfman! But was Clare the designer of this sophisticated, coordinated legal effort?
Surely, such a complex legal defense effort involving precise, coordinated efforts by 20+ attorneys, could not be the result of strategy designed by Clare alone. So, the next logical question is:
3. Question: Who advises Clare Bronfman?
Answer: Disgraced/previously censured and fined former federal prosecutor, Dennis K. Burke! (Who is now under investigation in the nxivm case, himself!)
And therefore the next logical question to ask is:
4. Who does Dennis Burke take his instructions from, if not Clare and not Raniere? Because, Burke didn’t have a pre-existing friendship with Keith Raniere.
Answer: The answer to question #4 may be the biggest unanswered question in the entire nxivm case.
With the final answer to the above questions, the truth is revealed about who is trying to thwart the government’s prosecution of nxivm, with Clare’s money!
My understanding was that Fanicullo told her that he would no longer represent her if she was pleading not guilty / not taking a deal.
I was left with the impression he was neither sticking around for a losing case nor to represent her unfairly based on who was paying him.
Can you site your source, Just?
Pretty sure it was an article here on the site that said he wasn’t going to be representing her if it was going to trial.
Frank, can you shed some light on Heidi and Just’s question?
How did you come up with your understanding and impression?