Just one day after they found out that all three of three co-defendants are currently engaged in plea deal negotiations, Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman are scrambling to avoid going to prison for long periods of time.
But unlike in the past – when the two stood shoulder to shoulder in their battle against federal prosecutors – it looks like Keith and Clare are now headed in very different directions.
And what caused this apparent break-up of The Vanguard and Legatus?
Did Clare suddenly come to her senses – and realize that all Raniere ever cared about her was the balance in her bank account? Nope – she still hasn’t figured that out.
Did Clare finally realize that she had been lured into a life of crime by a psychopath who is bereft of any moral compass or normal human empathy? Nope – it wasn’t that either.
Did Clare interpret Nancy Salzman’s guilty plea as a sign that it was time for her to also consider taking a plea deal? Nope – she apparently still intends to go to trial to fight the pending charges against her.
So, what was it?
According to her new lead attorney, Mark Geragos, it’s because Raniere is now facing additional charges for possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor.
In a new filing that he submitted after yesterday’s Status Conference, Geragos argues that Clare will face unfair prejudice if she’s forced to stand trial jointly with Raniere.
According to Geragos: “It is not simply the nature of the additional charges, but the specifics of the evidence that will be introduced to prove those charges, that necessitates severance. The alleged fact of a sexual relationship between a man in his late forties and a fifteen-year-old is alone likely to be so offensive to potential jurors and selected jurors as to deprive Ms. Bronfman of a fair trial”.
He went on to add: “These explicit and close-up photos—allegedly of a minor—suggest such a disregard of social norms and possibly the laws regarding sex with minors that it will be difficult for jurors to believe this did not carry over to other aspects of Mr. Raniere’s life; thus, this evidence will unfairly and inevitably infect the jurors’ perceptions of people like Ms. Bronfman, who were close to Raniere”.
Geragos went on to point out that some media outlets have already mistakenly indicated that Clare is facing sex-related charges. In particular, he quotes the following passage from Buzz Feed News, which prides itself on the exclusivity of its content: “Several women, including former Smallville star Allison Mack and Seagram liquor heir Clare Bronfman, allegedly helped run the operation and are awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.”
The prosecution is expected to oppose the pending motion to have Clare tried separately from Raniere. But given the nature of the new charges against Raniere, it is certainly not out of the question that the presiding judge in the case, Nicholas G. Garaufis, would grant her motion.
Meanwhile, Raniere’s lead attorney, Marc Agnifilo, is arguing for a different kind of severance.
In his most recent filing, he has asked Judge Garaufis to sever Counts Three, Four, Five and Eleven – and Racketeering Acts Two, Three, and Four – from the second superseding indictment.
For those few Frank Report readers who have not yet memorized the second superseding indictment, here’s a summary of those counts and acts:
• Count Three: Sexual Exploitation Of A Child – Jane Doe 2.
• Count Four: Sexual Exploitation Of A Child – Jane Doe 2.
• Count Five: Possession Of Child Pornography.
• Count Eleven: Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft Regarding Jane Doe 7
RE: Racketeering Acts:
• Racketeering Act Two: Sexual Exploitation Of A Child – Jane Doe 2.
• Racketeering Act Three: Sexual Exploitation Of A Child – Jane Doe 2.
• Racketeering Act Four: Possession Of Child Pornography.
Agnifilo makes two separate arguments as to why the cited counts and acts should be severed and tried separately from the remaining counts and acts.
Those two arguments are as follows:
• There isn’t enough time for him to prepare appropriate defenses against the new charges and acts – and still start the trial on April 29th; and
• The new acts and charges – as well as the original charge that is contained in Count 11 of the second superseding indictment – are all related to activities that allegedly occurred in the Northern District of New York (NDNY), which is where they should be tried.
According to Agnifilo, “(T)here is only one remedy: the brand new, four-day-old charges contained in Racketeering Acts Two, Three and Four, corresponding to Counts Three, Four and Five, must be severed from the instant indictment and must be addressed in the Northern District of New York, where the Government concedes they are venued”.
Agnifilo makes a similar argument with respect to Count Eleven in the second superseding indictment: “Therefore, as with Counts Three, Four and Five, this Court may, under Rule 5, conduct an initial appearance on Count Eleven. However, all other proceedings would have to, pursuant to Rule 5, be conducted only in the Northern District of New York, where the government alleges this crime took place”.
Once again, the prosecution is expected to oppose this motion to sever. But given the fact that the new charges were brought fewer than 50 days before the scheduled start of the trial – and given the jurisdictional issues regarding where the alleged crimes took place – it would not be all that surprising for Judge Garaufis to grant this motion.
So, what’s the likely outcome of all this pre-trial wrangling by Geragos and Agnifilo?
While there is certainly no definitive answer to that question, here’s one very plausible outcome:
Judge Garaufis grants Agnifilo’s motion to sever the cited counts and acts – and allows those to be tried in the NDNY. And, having done that, he denies Geragos’ motion because all the counts and acts that he cites as being unfair to Clare are no longer part of the trial.
If, in fact, the NDNY gets to take over responsibility for prosecuting the severed counts and acts, it might also start looking at some of the other criminal charges that could be brought against Raniere – and lots of other potential defendants – in that jurisdiction.
That is not good news for all those high-ranking NXIVM members – and all those local law enforcement officials – who figured they would never be called to task for their criminal acts.
And, as Paul Manafort recently found out, having cases in two jurisdictions can result in sentences that run consecutively rather than concurrently.