We will be posting updates as more info becomes available.
After a sidebar to discuss claims of attorney-client privilege, Clare Bronfman fainted.
Bronfman’s “faint” – which at least one observer thought was faked – occurred after the sidebar, which was called after the judge asked her, “Did you retain Mr. Avenatti to represent you in this case? Yes or no?”
She never answered. She became rigid in her chair and collapsed.
After her faint, she was wheeled on a stretcher by paramedics into a conference room where she was treated. An ambulance was called, then evidently canceled.
The hearing was put on hold.
After about an hour, Bronfman seemed to recover. She was led to a car, walking, holding onto Geragos’ arm.
Geragos declined to answer questions, saying they would be answered tomorrow when the hearing resumes.
“In deference to the Southern District of NY, under DOJ policy that’s not something they disclose,” Geragos said. Asked if he’s a cooperator, he said, “No” and walked away from reporters.
The hearing today was focused on the potential conflict-of-interest involving the various attorneys representing Bronfman and Raniere.
Clare Bronfman is still represented by Mark Geragos – and at last report, Keith Raniere is still represented by Teny Geragos, [Mark’s daughter] and Marc Agnifilo.
Geragos admitted Avenatti does represent Clare but didn’t know if Avenatti intended to file a notice of appearance in this case “because of the other case.”
He did not say on the record if “the other case” was Avenatti’s criminal case in the SDNY case or one of Bronfman’s pending civil suits.
Perhaps most interesting of all – even more interesting than Avenatti’s representation of Clare – is that the heiress was secretly trying to work out a plea deal.
It was revealed by Moira Penza at the Status Conference on March 18, that three of the defendants are working on plea deals.
Who were the three? Although she did not say, it was widely assumed that it was Allison Mack, Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell.
The question now is was Clare one of the three? If so, then who is the lone defendant [other than Raniere] not to be seeking a plea deal.
And if Clare if the fourth one then it’s everyone against Raniere.
Imagine Raniere’s shock when he learned that et tu Bronfman – she is looking to save herself over her own Vanguard.
Raniere was in court today – and reports from courtroom observers said that his shoulder-length hair and soft features gave him a decidedly feminine look. He also appeared less red-faced than usual.
His reaction to the news that Clare is secretly trying to get a plea deal was not clear.
According to a source who told Tony Ortega and myself:
The judge seemed angry at Clare Bronfman, accusing her of being untruthful at a previous hearing concerning how she had found Mark Geragos.
Clare said then that she had found Geragos online.
The judge quipped “like an online dating service.”
Today, the judge in an angry tone said he learned that Geragos had a preexisting relationship with the Bronfman family.
“Then there was this issue of another attorney [Avenatti] secretly being involved. I want the truth,” Judge Garaufis said in a stern and admonishing tone.
Clare, who has long been known to be allergic to truth, then collapsed or staged her collapse.
“Her attorneys gathered around her. Paramedics came in about a half hour and put her on a stretcher. They took her into a room with windows papered over. Later, we were told that it had been recommended that she go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to. She wanted to go home. She was arm in arm with Mark Geragos when they left the court.”
The question has been raised whether Clare will actually appear tomorrow or get a medical excuse that will make her unfit to appear.
Tomorrow Clare will almost certainly be asked how she happened to retain Avanetti?
If she got Geragos from online research, how did she happen to retain Avanetti? The answer would likely seem to be that Geragos recommended him – which is probably not something that Geragos would like to have come out in court.
The judge has a challenge. He can remove Geragos from the case. But that could make it an issue on appeal – the judge denying her the choice of attorney.
On the other hand, Geragos might be arrested during the trial which would cause a mistrial.
This is not an easy decision for Judge Garaufis.
A second court observer said the judge was actually yelling, screaming at Clare, demanding she tell the truth – about how she found her attorneys.
“That’s when she fainted. It was obviously a fake faint.”
One observer said, “I can just imagine when the medics showed up to treat Clare they said ‘OMG we have a malnourished individual.'”
Keep in mind – that as Clare was sneaking in the back door with Avenatti trying to make a plea deal, her money was paying for all the other attorneys in the case- including Raniere’s attorneys.
As previously noted, Geragos and Avenatti were very busy last week.
They had at least two meetings and one conference call with Nike’s lawyers as they tried to convince the company to shell out $22.5-$25 million to avoid the release of embarrassing information about the company’s involvement with high school and college basketball players. That led to Avenatti being arrested and Geragos’ possible indictment.
They also had the meeting with Mark Lesko, the newly-named Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the EDNY, to discuss a possible plea deal for Clare Bronfman. It is not known whether any agreement was reached – and/or whether those negotiations are ongoing.
It is not known if they were both also involved in the negotiations that led to the shocking dismissal of 16 state felony counts against Jussie Smollett, another of Geragos’ clients. Hopefully not for their sake because according to several sources, the FBI is now investigating how that dismissal came about.
Photos taken by Village Diane.