The large crowd of people seeking to attend the trial caused a brief delay at the outset of this morning’s session.
But things finally got underway around 10:00 AM – with Judge Garaufis reviewing the procedures and rules that will be followed throughout the trial.
Judge Garaufis then made the following announcements:
– Court will be in session from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM each day, Monday through Thursday – with some Friday sessions as needed;
– There will be 1-hour lunch breaks – and a few short breaks during the morning and afternoon sessions as needed;
– The trial is expected to last about 6 weeks;
– Juror 9 had a hardship – and has been replaced by one of the 6 alternates; and
– Sketch artists will only be allowed to do drawings of the witnesses that the court designates.
Next, came the prosecution’s opening statement – which was delivered by Tanya Hajjar rather than Moira Kim Penza.
During the course of her 45-minute presentation, Hajjar outlined some of the things the prosecution would prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” during the course of the trial.
These included the following:
– That although Raniere claimed to be a spiritual leader, he was really nothing more than a con-man;
– That Raniere targeted young women – and groomed them for sex;
– That Raniere pretended to be a guru but was actually a criminal;
– That Raniere had sexual relationships with all three daughters of a Mexican family that was involved with NXIVM (Note: In keeping with the rules established by Judge Garaufis, Frank Report will only refer to certain victims and witnesses by their first names);
– That one of the Mexican daughters, Daniela, was confined to a room for 23 months – during which time she wrote hundreds of letters to Raniere;
– That another of the Mexican daughters, Camila, was only 15 years old when Raniere started having sex with her (Raniere’s pet name for her was “Virgin Camila”).
– That Raniere took numerous naked pictures of Camila when she was 15 years old – which constitutes child pornography;
– That Raniere indicated that the collateral he demanded from all the members of DOS should be “Something so distasteful that you would rather die than break your vows of obedience and servitude”;
– That another victim, an actress by the name of Nicole, was blindfolded and taken to a shed by Raniere – where Camila performed oral sex on her per Raniere’s instructions;
– That Raniere kept tabs on people he considered to be his enemies, had criminal complaints filed against some of them, and litigated others into silence;
– That Raniere operated as a crime boss;
– That the jury would hear testimony from several of Raniere’s victims – including Daniela and Nicole; and
– That the jury would also hear testimony from several of Raniere’s former co-defendants.
Next up was Marc Agnifilo who, as expected, presented the defense’s opening statement.
Agnifilo began by telling the members of the jury that they would be hearing a lot of jargon, labels, and slogans over the course of the trial – and that they should ignore all of them.
He then informed them that the trial would come down to one question: Did Keith Raniere have the intent to commit any of the crimes that he’s been charged with committing?
During the course of his lengthy presentation, Agnifilo also told the jury:
– That they needed to consider all the evidence through Keith’s eyes;
– That they would hear testimony from several former members who believe that NXIVM was “wonderful” and “like Camelot”;
– That 17,000 people took NXIVM courses – and the vast majority of them got something good out of it;
– That the women in DOS all voluntarily chose to be part of that group – and that they did so because they wanted to be more in control of their lives;
– That the jurors would have to take into consideration how much each person is responsible for their choices in life;
– That the many pictures of naked women they would see were nor sexual in nature but rather a demonstration of some women’s willingness to make themselves vulnerable;
– That none of the DOS collateral was ever released;
– That Raniere wanted women to have their own secret society in the same way that men had secret societies;
– That Daniela was a thief who stole thousands of dollars from NXIVM;
– That Daniela was never really forced to stay in one room – and that she could have left the family home in which she was staying at any time;
– That in becoming romantically involved with another man, Daniela had broken an agreement she had entered into with Keith;
– That although some women were given assignments to seduce Raniere that did not mean they had to have sex with him;
– That Mark Vicente led a revolt against Keith Raniere – and caused many defections within the ranks of NXIVM; and
– That Keith Raniere is a “good and gentle man” whose only goal in life is to help others reach their full potential.
During the course of his opening statement, Agnifilo cited several quotations – and also made several interesting comparisons.
One quotation was from the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird in which Atticus Finch proclaimed that you never really understand another person “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.
And one of the comparisons came from a Winston Churchill speeches in which he vowed to fight for freedom until his last breath (Agnifilo also promised to defend Keith Raniere until his last breath).
All in all, a pretty predictable first session of the trial.
Next up will be the prosecution’s first witness: Sylvie.
Frank Report has made arrangements to receive transcripts of the trial’s daily proceedings.
As a result, it’s possible that we will be making clarifications and/or corrections to some of the initial reports on those proceedings.