Earlier this week, we ran a post announcing that a new Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), Mark J. Lesko, had been added to the team of prosecutors who are pursuing a variety of charges against Keith Raniere and several high-ranking members of his NXIVM sex-slaver cult.
At the time, we were not 100% certain that we had identified the correct person because the biographical information we were able to find did not seem to line up with someone at the level of an AUSA.
But we knew one thing for certain: if the Mark J. Lesko that we had identified online and on social media was the same Mark J. Lesko who showed up in court last Monday, “That does not augur well for the defendants”.
Well, with a little more research – and a little more asking around – we can now confirm that it is indeed The Mark J. Lesko who is now part of the team prosecuting Raniere, Allison Mack, Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Kathy Russell.
And that is definitely more bad news for the NXIVM Numbskulls and their Scheme Team of defense attorneys.
So, here are a few more interesting facts about Mark J. Lesko:
– He was admitted to practice law in New York State in August 2018. Given his prior work as an AUSA in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), we assume this was really a re-admission.
– He previously worked for Richard P. Donoghue, the current U.S. Attorney for the EDNY, when Donoghue headed up the Criminal Division there.
– Given Donoghue’s status, he could have brought back Lesko to the EDNY in a higher-level position such as Chief or Deputy Chief, provided that Lesko was willing to commit to staying there for several years.
– Why would anyone with Lesko’s outstanding record as an attorney, a politician, a vice president of a college, and a top-level executive come back to work on a case that he didn’t consider to be both important and winnable? The answer is he wouldn’t!
– But if Lesko didn’t want to make a long-term commitment – and was just coming back to help ensure that Raniere and his co-defendants are convicted and properly sentenced to long stints in federal prison – he could have been hired as a Senior Litigation Counsel (SLC) – which would only require him to stay around for at least one year.
The SLC program was created for the express purpose of recognizing truly outstanding non-supervisory Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) based on their overall careers as litigators. To qualify, an AUSA must meet the following criteria:
– Have at least five years’ experience as an attorney, the major portion of such experience having been as an active litigator in the Federal court system;
– When nominated, be at a salary at least equivalent to GS-15, step 1;
– Be recognized as an outstanding litigator in the Federal court system as demonstrated by awards, letters of commendation, press coverage, or other material attesting to the success and quality of the attorney’s advocacy skills;
– Be responsible for the in-office training of AUSAs less knowledgeable in advocacy skills;
– Not supervise any AUSAs; and
– Have the stated intention of remaining with the Department of Justice for at least one year after designation, and be available, when it will not interfere with assigned caseload, to serve as a rotating faculty member at the National Advocacy Center.
Mark J. Lesko would easily meet each of those criteria.
So, now that the NXIVM case is moving through the discovery stage – and getting closer to the trial stage – the U.S. Attorney has brought Lesko on board to augment the highly talented and experienced team of Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar.
And despite rank speculation to the contrary, this move does not indicate that Donoghue was unhappy with the performance of Penza and Hajjar, the two AUSAs who have been going toe-to-toe with the previously well-financed horde of attorneys that have been representing the six defendants in the case (We recently found out that the attorneys representing Raniere, Mack, the Salzmans and Russell have already blown through more than 75% of the funds that Clare Bronfman set aside for them). In fact, if Lesko was hired as an SLC, he would explicitly not be allowed to supervise any other AUSAs.
What the addition of Lesko does indicate, however, is that this case is about to get much more complicated – (“much more complicated” is spelled: S-U-P-E-R-S-E-D-I-N-G I-N-D-I-C-T-M-E-N-T) – and that Donoghue is doing whatever is necessary to ensure that his team has enough resources to win.
At this point, it appears that Kevin Trowel, who specializes in prosecuting corrupt public officials, will still be involved in the EDNY case. The question then becomes whether the EDNY will actually be willing to prosecute some of the public officials in Upstate New York who aided and abetted the NXIVM/ESP crime syndicate for almost 20-years: e.g., Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares; New York State Senior Investigator Rodger Kirsopp; Albany City Judge Holly A. Trexler; etc.
The Office of the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of New York (NDNY) was never willing to investigate – let alone prosecute – any of the public officials who enabled Raniere and his cronies to carry-on their criminal enterprise. Let’s hope the EDNY doesn’t also decide to turn a blind eye towards those scoundrels.