Lauren Salzman has filed a motion seeking to be tried separately from her co-defendants, Keith Raniere and Allison Mack.
All three are connected to DOS, the master-slave women’s group headed by Raniere – that branded women on their pubic region and required “collateral” of blackmail-worthy material for membership.
But the pending charges against them are different: Raniere and Mack are charged with sex trafficking involving the use of coercion – which carries a 15-year minimum prison sentence. Lauren is charged with trafficking for labor and services or document servitude which carries a 3-5 year sentence.
“Lauren did not participate in, was not aware of, and is not … charged with any … sex trafficking offenses,” Lauren’s attorney, Hector Diaz writes. “… Lauren was [not] aware of any sex or sex trafficking within DOS.”
However, Diaz writes, “…the Government plans to make sex the theme of its case against all defendants, even those,” like Lauren, “who are not charged with a single sex-related crime.”
He writes, “The Government will be highly motivated to present voluminous evidence of sex trafficking at a trial against Raniere and Mack…The same would not be true in a separate trial for Lauren… Instead, the Government would…focus its presentation of evidence as to those acts and charges against Lauren, none of which remotely infer sex trafficking.”
“Lauren should not be burdened with the stigma of the sex trafficking evidence the Government will present against Raniere and Mack,” he writes.
Speaking of sex, the Government has stated it plans to offer evidence at trial that the female defendants – Nancy Salzman, daughter, Lauren, Allison Mack, Kathy Russell, and Clare Bronfman – were all in “intimate relationships with Raniere” and “undertook efforts to facilitate Raniere’s access to other women.”
Diaz argues this “is not relevant to any charges against Lauren and would only have the effect of tainting the juror’s minds.”
The Government contends that Lauren must be tried with Raniere and Mack because they are all charged with a RICO conspiracy and the trial may only be severed if her defense theory is so irreconcilable with Raniere’s and Mack’s that, “…in order to accept the defense of one defendant, the jury must of necessity convict a second defendant.”
Diaz suggests that may happen, writing, that Lauren’s “defense theories will conflict with those offered by Raniere and Mack,” and “there is certainly a risk of antagonistic defenses.”
He further argues that the jury will not be able to keep the evidence relevant to each defendant separate – and “render a fair and impartial verdict as to each defendant.”
The Government contends there is “no reason to believe” that this case would be confusing to a jury of laypersons because it does not involve economics or statistics.
There are charges where Raniere and Lauren are deeply intertwined. The Government intends to show that Lauren assisted Raniere in his imprisonment of a young Mexican woman for 18 months in a room in Clifton Park, NY, as punishment for developing romantic feelings for another man [Ben Myers], when she had been ordered to have sex only with Raniere.
Diaz, previewing Lauren’s defense, stating that “Lauren vehemently denies that she had any knowledge of Raniere’s purported punishment of this young woman, and she intends to vigorously defend herself against such assertions.”
That defense may be “antagonistic” to Raniere, he wrote.
Diaz also argues that the Government has “twisted the nature of NXIVM and DOS” and tried to “shoehorn” certain harmless actions into “a completely novel method of charging the alleged crimes.”
“There is no precedent for the Government’s allegations of ‘forced labor’ based on personal errands such as picking up coffee or grabbing groceries, or ‘extortion’ resulting from an adult voluntarily sending private information [collateral] in order to gain access to an exclusive group,” Diaz writes.
The jury may be confused by it, Diaz writes. “Lauren may strategically decide not to cross-examine any of the sex trafficking witnesses. A jury, however, may deduce that Lauren’s strategic decision not to cross-examine these witnesses is evidence of her guilt, especially in light of Lauren’s involvement in DOS.”
It is within the discretion of the Court to determine whether sufficient prejudice exists to warrant severance. Working against Lauren are “judicial economy” and the convenience of witnesses.
Judicial economy is the principle that the limited resources of the court should be conserved wherever possible.