The Downfall Of Clare Bronfman – Literally! – more on the fainting heiress

Marie White's gloriously accurate depiction of Clare Bronfman

Here is more on the fainting heiress, Clare Bronfman, who some believe faked her faint to get out of answering Judge Nicholas Garaufis’ question of whether Michael Avenatti is representing her.

She won’t be likely to dodge the question today if she shows up in court. She is scheduled to return at 2 pm – unless she gets a doctor’s excuse and a postponement.

On the fainting story, we have had some great comments from readers and several news outlets have added new information.

New York Post:

Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman collapsed in court Wednesday following a discussion with the judge about whether embattled lawyer Michael Avenatti had joined her defense team.

… Judge Nicholas Garaufis said he’d been told “that she had an additional attorney who was negotiating with the government.”

“Did she retain Mr. Avenatti to represent her in this case, yes or no?” Garaufis asked Donna Newman, one of Bronfman’s lawyers….

Rather than answer, Newman requested a sidebar with the judge, and Bronfman joined more than a half-dozen lawyers for a private, 10-minute discussion next to Garaufis’ bench.

On her way back, Bronfman — whose face appeared yellowish — stumbled and fell forward, but broke her fall by planting her hands on the defense table.

One of her lawyers grabbed her and helped her to a chair, where she drank some water while courtroom personnel summoned an ambulance.

A short time later, EMTs appeared with a stretcher, and Bronfman climbed on and was wheeled into a nearby conference room….  Nxivm leader Keith Raniere was taken to a holding cell…

About 20 minutes later, Bronfman walked back into the courtroom, where Newman told the judge, “Her skin has not come back to color. And they recommend she go to the hospital.”

Geragos also said, “She did black out, probably for 35 seconds to a minute.”

Prosecutor Mark Lesko then told Garaufis that he’d met with Avenatti and Geragos last week to discuss the case, prompting the judge to scold Bronfman’s lawyers.

“There is no privilege associated with retention of counsel … I control and run this case!” he yelled….



…  “The judge was very upset because he had not been informed that she had retained Avenatti,” which was not disclosed to the judge last week before he held another hearing to discuss possible conflicts of interest that could result from Bronfman funding the attorney costs of her co-defendants, the source said.

“It appeared that the judge was very heated,” the source said.

After the sidebar ended, the judge called a five-minute adjournment.

As Bronfman was walking back toward the rear of the courtroom, “she appeared to be wobbling on her feet, and she started to collapse, and her attorney mark Geragos caught her from behind,” the source said.

“She didn’t hit the floor, her knees start buckling,” the source said. “She was very pale.”

Emergency medical technicians from the New York Fire Department and other medical workers went to the court in response. But Bronfman declined to go to the hospital. The hearing in the case was continued until Thursday.


Daily Mail

… The judge wasted no time getting down to business, and early in the hearing asked Bronfman and her attorney if she was being represented by Michael Avenatti.

Bronfman remained quiet, an eyewitness told, while her Curcio lawyer objected to these questions.

That in turn prompted very irritated judge to call a sidebar and, eventually demand that Bronfman give him a ‘yes or no’ answer.

It was then the she suddenly staggered back to her table in the courtroom and collapsed onto the floor.

… The sudden spell occurred while the billionaire Seagram’s heiress was being asked to reveal if she had secretly hired Michael Avenatti as her lawyer…

Soon after she hit the floor, an ambulance rushed to the courthouse and EMTs were seen rolling in a stretcher to examine Bronfman.

She remained conscious and was taken into a conference room so she could regain her strength.

Bronfman never did answer that question about her lawyers, but she will be back in court on Thursday for a continuation of the proceedings….


Fox News

Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Geragos admitted that he and Avenatti had met with prosecutors on Bronfman’s behalf. New York Post reporter Emily Saul…  tweeted that Geragos told Judge Garaufis that he did not know if Avenatti intended to appear before the court in the Bronfman matter “because of the other case.”

…  It was not clear whether Geragos was referring to the Nike extortion case or a separate case in which Avenatti was charged by federal prosecutors in California with wire fraud and bank fraud.

A few moments later, Bronfman collapsed and was evaluated by medics. She left the courtroom with assistance from Geragos.

NY Daily News

Seagram’s liquor company heiress Clare Bronfman nearly collapsed Wednesday …  Her lawyer Mark Geragos caught his swooning client from behind with both arms and steered Bronfman back to her seat at the defense table after she staggered across the courtroom well. …  her legs temporarily turned to jelly, was spared a tumble when her lawyer stepped up.

The trial was then temporarily halted as two EMS employees placed Bronfman on the gurney and steered her through the courtroom doors to a nearby conference room.

Geragos later left the courthouse with Bronfman on his arm, and the pair walked side-by-side to a waiting black SUV before making their exit.

The unsettling episode followed a heated legal battle over whether the deep-pocketed Bronfman had hired recently-arrested attorney Michael Avenatti as part of her defense team.

“I want the truth,” said an irate Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis. “Did she retain Mr. Avenatti to represent her in this case? Yes or no?”

The query led to a sidebar, followed quickly by the 40-year-old Bronfman’s woozy walk from the witness stand.

Geragos said afterward that he, Avenatti and the government were indeed negotiating last week, but insisted it was not to work out a plea deal…..

Garaufis, in his pointed questioning, also asked Bronfman if she was aware that defense attorney Geragos was cited as an unindicted co-conspirator in Avenatti’s alleged attempt to extort $22.5 million from Nike.

“OK, are you aware your attorney Mark Geragos is CC-1?” asked Garaufis.

The defense immediately objected that was hearsay.

Defense attorneys attempted to answer all of the judge’s questions for Bronfman, until Garaufis finally announced, “She’s going to have to answer my questions.”

Minutes later, the courtroom turned to chaos with Bronfman’s unexpected courtroom fade.

Albany Times Union

… Bronfman, 39, fainted and was caught by Mark Geragos…

According to a letter filed by prosecutors that is under seal, according to the source, Avenatti and Geragos met with the government last week to discuss the case of Bronfman….

Both the government and Geragos confirmed the meeting in court, the source said, adding that U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis was “extremely irritated at being kept in the dark.” Bronfman never informed the judge she was being represented by Avenatti, the person said.

The person said the sequence of events started when Kathleen Cassidy, an attorney for Bronfman, raised a question that Cassidy said involved attorney-client privilege and sensitive matters – and asked the judge to clear the room. The source said several reporters objected and the judge refused to close the courtroom.

Garaufis had been attempting to question Bronfman at the bench about whether she had retained Avenatti. Donna Newman, a lawyer for Bronfman, objected to her client answering the question, saying it was a matter of attorney-client privilege. Cassidy requested a sidebar conference at the bench.

A five-minute break followed. As Bronfman walked back to the defense table, she started “wobbling and staggering on her feet,” the person said. She looked pale and her knees were buckling, the person said, noting that Geragos then caught his client and put her down in a chair….



…. When U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis asked Geragos whether he and Avenatti had told prosecutors Avenatti was being brought into the case, he responded, “That’s exactly what happened.”

… Under stern questioning by the judge Wednesday about which lawyers are actually representing her and whether she knew if Geragos was involved in the Nike case, Bronfman turned pale, staggered away from the bench and collapsed into a chair. An ambulance was called, but she later left the courthouse on the arm of Geragos.

The judge adjourned the hearing but told lawyers Bronfman would need to come back to court Thursday to give some answers.

“You’re going to tell me who the lawyers are,” he said. “You’re going to tell me when they were retained.”


In addition to media reports, Frank Report has the advantage of having a number of insightful comments.

UPDATED: Clare Bronfman faints in court after Judge Garaufis asks if Michael Avenatti secretly represents her

Interesting detail in the NY Daily News’ reporting, if correct:

“Geragos said afterward that he, Avenatti and the government were indeed negotiating last week, but insisted it was not to work out a plea deal. The defense lawyer added that he was not cooperating with Manhattan prosecutors regarding the Avenatti charges.”

What else would they have been negotiating over? There are obviously contentious issues about evidence, etc., but I wouldn’t have expected Geragos and Avenatti to have been negotiating something like that with the prosecutors at this point….


Clare is well know for lying in court

… She told the Judge she found her lead attorney on Google. PLEASE Ms. BRONFMAN, none of us bought it.  Than your new attorney brings in slimy bottom feeder who is arrested days after working with the EDNY by the SDNY….

Let’s not forget the fake faint. OM Clare. If it wasn’t fake you need to start eating some beef lady.

Maybe this is proof that Claire is distantly related to the eastern hog nose snake, which will feign death when trapped.

Lack of young blood and adrenochrome much more likely than malnourishment.

Is she faking or just anemic from the KR diet? Either it’s on Clare.

Clearly the fainting spell was planned if things started to head down the path of Clare’s deception to the Judge; the sh*t eating grin on Geragos face says so, tells the whole story of what really went on today. SMH.

What a circus!
That’s straight out of the Raniere manifesto on conflict resolution… Whenever I disagreed with him, he would conveniently faint. And I was very young and very naive at the time and believed he couldn’t handle the stress and was actually ill. I’d say it was quite a joke except he used it to be very manipulative. Clare should note that KAR’s “faint to fool em” method doesn’t work on full grown, experienced adults.

Interesting to hear that about Raniere – Mr. “no one is ever a victim,” and the proponent of Ayn Rand’s rather muscular philosophy of assertive self-interest. From reports that the enablers around him used to cite his supposed, virtually psychic, sensitivity as a tool to manipulate others into behaving so as not to somehow disrupt him or sap his energy, I think he made a lot out of playing the covert victim – but it’s typical that leaders of high control groups or cults, have all sorts of edicts and rules that their followers are expected to obey faithfully, yet which they themselves are exempt from.

Clare and Raniere have long gotten away with gaming if not fooling law enforcement and the judicial system around Albany, but they are now dealing with serious authorities who have seen it all, and apparently aren’t going to cut them any slack.

AGREE. “Manipulative” is a gross understatement! Would you agree that these exaggerated, outrages claims and acts like the fainting you describe made it seem more improbable that he was lying?

Who feigns fainting to avoid hearing a single challenging word? ….

That’s funny. I almost fainted around this time last night. Mundanely due to an iron deficiency rather than an allergy to the truth.

… I’ve seen Clare in court. She’s very contrived….

… Clare was reported to have said that she found Geragos “online” – I wonder if that’s deceptive weasel-wording, for in an e-mail from others she’s involved with. It seems that her unfortunately long run of getting away with perjuring herself and manipulating the judicial system, may be coming to an end.

… lost in the NOISE…Clare is trying to negotiate a plea!!! Will she testify against Albany Jesus? Her one and only savior? The Truth and the Way? Say it ain’t so! And it only cost her $10 Million.

… Was Clare advised to faint and soon as [Avenatti’s] name was mentioned?

I wonder if Allison gave everyone some acting tips and Clare gave a stunning performance! I’m sure the judge was far from impressed.

Did Bronfman really faint?


Keith had another ploy to avoid confrontation. Excuse himself to the men’s room and never come back. He did this to me because I asked him to explain the ethics behind enrolling 3 people into Nxium without compensation and the incongruency (one of his favorite words to make him sound smart, personally I prefer illogical) of the module in the Intensive that teaches “one is to be paid for their work i.e. slavery is bad and suppressive and his not paying for the first 3. I told him I get paid from the first sale. That’s when he skipped out to the boys room….

… How to Pretend to Faint: 14 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

Scott Johnson
That’s probably the link Geragos sent Bronfman after she found him on the internets.

Talk about Thin Mints

Clare has taken the DOS diet way too far. If she is not careful, she will cause herself heart problems or other serious health issues.  For those who are old enough to remember Karen Carpenter, she waited too long to seek treatment and ended up dying very young due to her anorexia.

Maybe Clare is hoping she can spend her prison time in a “treatment” prison for her eating disorder that she could easily kill herself over.  It might be that Clare was never taught how to care for herself since she had servants to make her meals….

… And that’s an interesting and perhaps telling anecdote about Raniere. Along with the various accounts of his enablers treating him as sort of spiritually delicate, and then using that to manipulate the behavior of others, it sounds as if he actually got mileage out of playing a sort of covert victim, all his bluster and admonitions aside….

So Keithy would fake fainting in order to avoid confrontation. Wow. Good luck in the pokey, you man’s man.

“Sources who witnessed Raniere fake a faint told me that he would seem to grow light headed, or hold his heart and say he was having palpitations.”

Red Foxx would do the same thing on Sanford and Son:

“In a running gag in the series, during times of distress, Fred looks up (as to heaven) with his hand across his chest, faking a heart attack and saying, “This is the big one, Elizabeth! I’m coming to join ya, honey.”

Village Diane: I was there at court today and this is what I observed – Don’t think Clare was faking her faint


Bronfman appeared to have lost weight since her first court appearance in July 2018, and her face was a ghastly yellowish white.  (from Court News Service)

… the TimesUnion reported that she appeared pale at the time, which is consistent with a real vasovagal episode. It’s a stress reaction that can come on rapidly, and resolve relatively quickly….


[Roberta] Glass also said that Clare looked “very sick and very very thin.”


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Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

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His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

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Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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