Kathy Russell may be on the mend.
Yesterday, her attorneys requested that her bail conditions be modified to allow her to relocate from Clifton Park, NY to an undisclosed location in Georgia where “she will be initially supported by family members while she looks for steady employment”.
She has also asked to have her electronic monitoring device removed.
If approved, Kathy will make the move sometime around June 1st.
That’s just two months before she will be sentenced on the Visa Fraud charge to which she pleaded guilty on April 19th (It is expected that she will be sentenced to serve 6-12 months in federal prison on that charge).
The prosecution has not raised any objections to her proposed move. But it has indicated that it is opposed to having her electronic device removed.
Regardless of whether she gets to be free of electronic monitoring, this is great news for Kathy.
After almost two decades of being under the control and influence of Keith Raniere and the members of his inner circle, it appears that Kathy is ready to break free – and to start the next chapter of her life free and clear of those people.
Just a little over a month ago, Kathy spent a week with one of her sisters in Georgia.
At the time, we speculated that her visit might be an indication that she was getting ready to accept a plea deal.
Less than three weeks after her return from that visit, Kathy stood before U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis – and admitted to the false paperwork she had submitted to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico in order to help Loreta Garza Davila obtain a visa that would allow her to return to the U.S.
The false paperwork indicated that Loreta was to be employed as a management consultant – and paid an executive-level salary – by NXIVM Corporation.
In reality, Loreta was responsible for running the Rainbow Cultural Garden (RCG) company.
And like all the other RCG-related staff, Loreta had to kick-back some of her salary to Clare Bronfman.
During her allocution, Kathy did not try to blame anyone else for her legal predicament.
Instead, she accepted full responsibility for her actions.
“I know what I did was wrong, and I’m very sorry for the trouble I have caused. I compromised my own principles and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life”.
Straightforward and uncomplicated.
Much like Kathy herself.
While everyone ultimately bears responsibility for their actions, it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy towards Kathy.
To begin with, the prosecution really had no interest in indicting her.
All they wanted her to do was answer some questions about the bookkeeping work she had done for many years for the NXIVM Corporation and its numerous affiliates – and confirm that the paperwork that was filed on behalf of some of the people from other countries that Keith and Clare wanted to hire contained false information.
Two things prevented Kathy from doing that.
First, she was totally mesmerized by – and controlled by – Raniere and his NLP henchwoman, Nancy Salzman.
Anyone who ever saw her around them – or talked to her about them – immediately saw how awestricken she was by them.
She even left her family back in Alaska to be at their beck-and-call.
Sure, it would have been nice if she were a stronger person and not so easily duped by Raniere and Salzman – but she wasn’t.
Once they got Kathy away from her family, Raniere and Salzman quickly moved to gain total control over her – emotionally, financially, and physically.
They even convinced her that despite the fact that she was a middle-aged woman when she moved to Albany, she could still become a world-famous ballerina.
How they must have laughed at her naivete
And how they used – and abused – her complete and total trust in them.
Compounding Kathy’s loyalty to Keith and Kathy was the attorney that Clare Bronfman selected to represent Kathy after she received a Grand Jury subpoena: William P. Fanciullo.
Fanciullo – who describes himself as a “seasoned and successful litigation attorney” and as “a gifted tactician, who can deftly maneuver in every phase of a case” – did virtually nothing to help Kathy.
Within 15 minutes of him filing a “Notice of Appearance” as Kathy’s attorney, the prosecution contacted him to discuss the possibility of a deal whereby Kathy would have been granted immunity in exchange for her cooperation and testimony.
Fanciullo didn’t even bother to reply.
Instead, he simply accompanied Kathy to her Grand Jury appearance on May 10, 2018 – and gave her a slip of paper that contained the words she would have to repeat in order to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
When Kathy and Fanciullo arrived at the location of the Grand Jury proceedings, they were immediately met by the lead prosecutor, Moira Kim Penza, who suggested they meet and confer before Kathy went in to testify.
Once again, Fanciullo declined the invitation to discuss how Kathy might avoid being indicted in the case.
And so it was that Kathy found herself sitting in front of the Grand Jury – and being asked all sorts of questions about herself and her work for NXIVM
And all she had to defend herself was the scrap of paper that Fanciullo had given to her.
Over the course of her Grand Jury appearance, Kathy invoked her Fifth Amendment rights approximately 75 times.
And she did so over innocuous questions like how much she weighed, how far she had gone in school, whether Raniere had any children, etc.
When Kathy was done testifying, Moira met with her and Fanciullo – and explained to them that the government’s investigation was ongoing and that they were continuing to gather new evidence every day.
Moira then offered to meet with them pursuant to a “Proffer Agreement” – which was emailed to Fanciullo on May 14, 2018 (A “Proffer Agreement” is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation that permits those individuals to give the government information about crimes with some assurances that they will be protected against prosecution).
Fanciullo wrote back to them on May 22, 2018 – and indicated that “Ms. Russell respectfully declines your proffer proposal.”
Two months later, Kathy was indicted. A few weeks later, Fanciullo was replaced as Kathy’s attorney by Justine Harris.
Unfortunately for Kathy, by the time that Justine arrived on the scene, the damage had already been done.
Much like a surgeon jumping in to try and rescue a patient after a horribly botched surgery, Justine did everything she could to try and get the charges against Kathy dropped.
And when that didn’t work, Justine shifted her attention to getting a reasonable plea deal for her client.
Which is what brings us to today – with Kathy looking at the possibility of spending 6-12 months in federal prison and then spending the rest of her life saddled with the label “Felon” next to her name.
What is to be gained by shipping Kathy Russell off to federal prison for 6-12 months?
Will it benefit any of the victims of the NXIVM criminal enterprise? No!
Will it teach her a lesson she’ll never forget? That’s probably happened already.
Will it help prevent anyone else from making similar bad decisions in the future? Very unlikely because Kathy’s case – and her name – are not well known
Wouldn’t it make much more sense to sentence Kathy to 6-months of community service – or even 6-months of home confinement – to be followed by 3-years of probation?
And wouldn’t it make more sense to expunge her record after the 3-years of probation if she had no new violations during that time period?
Not doing those things will ensure that the rest of Kathy’s life will be disaffected by her having been duped by Raniere and Salzman.
Is that what our vaunted criminal justice system deems to be justice?