By Dianne Lipson
Another day of testimony for Mark Vicente. This is his third day on the witness stand. He began at the end of Day #1 – and he spent all of Day #2 on direct examination.
Cross-examination has not begun yet.
Keith was wearing the same royal blue sweater and white shirt he wore the other day. And, by the way, he’s ugly.
For the first time since the trial began, the courtroom was not full.
There were some interesting moments this morning as we learned more about how the cult operated. Here are some of the things we learned today from Mark Vicente.
Vicente has an immunity agreement with the government. As a result, anything he says that reveals he committed a crime won’t be used to prosecute him unless he fails to tell the truth.
Vicente has retained an attorney to represent him in a potential civil lawsuit against Nxivm or some of its leaders.
Vicente said that during his time at Nxivm, he was concerned with the way Keith Raniere was running Nxivm. One of his concerns was about Keith sleeping with members – and another was about how the company spent money. He was also concerned about what he described as “criminal behavior”.
Vicente testified about what Keith said about Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones and the rest of the Nxivm 9 – all of whom were described as suppressives. The money Barb and the others attempted to get from Nxivm was characterized, by Keith, as attempted extortion. Civil actions were filed – and Vicente testified that he was asked to go to a Nxivm Center to do damage control. He did so. Others went to other Centers to do the same thing.
After the Nxivm 9 left, Vicente was promoted to Green Sash.
At that same time, a new Executive Board was appointed. The new board included Emiliano Salinas, Alex Betancourt, Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, and Nancy Salzman. But even though the Executive Board was responsible for the company’s overall policies, it could not make any policy changes. Ultimate authority – and ultimate decision making – rested with Keith alone. That’s because Keith was seen as the wisest person.
The government lawyer, Mark Lesko, characterized a certain group of NXIVM members as the “trusted group.” Membership in this group was not necessarily based on Stripe Path ranking. Nor was it limited to those who were on the Executive Board.
The trusted ones went on social outings together – and were invited to Nancy’s house. The trusted group had special privileges, one of which was spending more time with Keith.
Lesko asked Vicente if some of the members of the trusted group had intimate relations with Keith and he said he believed they did.
The trusted group included Pam Cafritz, Mariana Fernandez, Dawn Morrison, Edgar Boone, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, Sara and Clare Bronfman, Monica Duran, Dani Padilla, and Karen Unterreiner.
Esther Chiappone Carlson was not trusted.
Vicente said that seeking Keith’s approval was very important. If you didn’t praise Keith in speeches, you would hear about it.
Members of the trusted group recruited people of influence. Clare, Alex Betancourt, and Emiliano Salinas enrolled high net worth individuals.
At one point, a neighbor [in Knox Woods] had a problem with Keith and became very aggressive. A large guy who was a member of Nxivm stepped in between Keith and the neighbor – and Keith really praised this person.
There were two systems of payment from Mexico. One was online – and the other, which Vicente personally observed, involved the payment of cash to Nancy. Vicente did not know if this cash was recorded or not. For the Nxivm bookkeeping records, Nxivm used a code word for cash – it was “TLL”.
Vicente communicated with Keith by phone, Whatsapp and Telegram.
Vicente would sometimes ask about certain people who Keith said had “ethical breaches” but he kind of got the message from Keith not to ask. So he stopped asking.
Siobhan committed an ethical breach by not completing an editing project. She was put in a room until she finished it.
There was no formal process of rehabilitation for an ethical breach. It was Vicente’s understanding that no one ever totally rehabilitated themselves.
If someone was not giving appropriate tribute to Keith, Keith said they were prideful.
Vicente was told he was prideful and that he lacked a full understanding of the concept of tribute.
In the Mexico film project, Vicente was accused of minimizing Raniere. He was asked, “After everything that you’ve been given by Keith, how could you do that?”
His personality was picked apart.
If you were prideful, you had to agree to a special program. It involved humility. Humility was the antidote for pridefulness – and they used it a great deal.
“Penance” was introduced in the “Human Pain” curriculum – and involved the creation of a consequence for inappropriate behavior. One example of “penance” was being forced to take a cold shower.
“Feedback” was being told something you didn’t know or didn’t want to know about yourself.
As you moved up the Stripe Path, you were expected to be more and more open to seeing that if you argued, it was a sign of pride and resistance.
“Shunning” was when you didn’t talk to somebody or do business with them. Barbara Bouchey was shunned. Michelle and Lauren Salzman were told to shun their father.
There were attempts to curry favor with the Clintons and with New York State Senator Joe Bruno – and a strong desire to connect with other people in politics. Nancy spent a lot of time with Joe Bruno.
They discussed the illegal bundling of campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton – via which Nxivm members donated to Clinton and received illegal reimbursements from Clare.
Vicente was asked if he was afraid of being sued by Nxivm after he decided to quit the organization. He responded: “Indeed, I was.”
He was asked about NXIVM suing journalists – and enemies of NXIVM. He was also asked about NXIVM’s use of private investigators and about the conversations he had with Raniere regarding Kristin Snyder, the woman who disappeared in Alaska after taking a Nxivm class.
Keith told Vicente that NXIVM’s private investigators found Snyder alive at a motel with her girlfriend. In 2014, Keith told Vicente the private investigators had found Snyder in Florida and were watching her but then they lost her.
Vicente testified about a promotional video he made for V-Week. He was asked to remove a portion of it because a woman named Nicole appeared in it [She is one of the Jane Does in this case – the one who was tied down and blindfolded while Camila performed oral sex on her as Keith watched. She is expected to testify.] Nicole – Vicente was told – was on a mission where it would be dangerous if she was seen in the video. [That secret mission was to seduce the son of Esther Chiappone Carlson].
Vicente edited the video and took out Nicole.
Vicente testified about the Society of Protectors (SOP), which also had readiness drills similar to the ones DOS had. A message would be sent and they had to text back “ready”.
That was a daily thing at a certain hour. But there were also random readiness drills that could occur any time of day or night so SOP members were always on standby.
If Keith was upset about something and he walked out, everybody was happy.
The concept of collateral was introduced to SOP but it was not the same as the nude pictures or confessions that the women of DOS provided. Instead, if an SOP member promised to do something, money would be taken out of his credit card. If he did what he said he was going to do, the money was restored. But if he didn’t do it, he lost the money. Vicente said he lost money this way.
“SOP Complete” was a special training program that was open to both men and women. It was run like a boot camp – and it included discipline and hazing.
It was six days long. The idea was to give women the experience of being a little boy in a man’s world.
For example, women were often told to “man up and stop crying.” You had to sit up straighter or get singled out. Planks were used as punishments. There were consequences, nicknames, and costumes such as fairy wings and princess tiaras.
Clare Bronfman was given a jockstrap to wear for thinking she was in charge of things.
That was Raniere’s decision.
The basic idea behind SOP Complete was that women were coddled their whole lives and no understanding of reality.
Esther Chiappone Carlson had an issue with this misogynistic training and Raniere had to talk her down. Remember, she was the one who was not trusted.
Vicente brought some concerns of certain women about this misogynistic training to Keith – and then realized he shouldn’t have done that. Keith wanted to know who the women were that complained.
Vicente believed that SOP Complete was created to help women feel stronger. But he noticed these women became shells of themselves as they were beaten into submission. Vicente said that the women were obedient to men in a way that was dangerous. It broke them. It was not good for them.
Vicente had a discussion with Lauren Salzman about having a baby. Although Lauren really wanted a baby, Keith insisted that she was not ready to become a mother.
There was an obsession with weight among the women. Women became pale and unhealthy, eating the same low calorie food all the time. They looked terrible. You could see their bones.
Mariana, Nikki Clyne, and Sylvie were all very thin.
Vicente was concerned that Allison Mack was dropping so much weight – and that she always appeared tired and malnourished. Vicente talked to Keith, expressing his concern and Keith said, “Well, she’s still getting her period.”
At one point, Keith said he was trying to break Allison.
Vicente said he never got clear answers from Keith about why India was so unhealthy.
Vicente was disturbed. He got it about “pridefulness” but wondered how losing weight could fix that.
He asked Keith these questions but only in private, not in front of others.
Vicente became aware of Keith’s sexual relationships with women when Barbara Jeske died and Keith said it was like losing a wife. Vicente also said Mariana conceived with Keith – which would have been around the time that Pam Cafritz died. But Vicente didn’t become aware of the harem of over 20 women until after he left Nxivm.
Vicente was aware that Keith was always touching and kissing women. He said that Keith was very touchy-feely with women, touching and kissing them on the lips at the Center – which Vicente thought was inappropriate in a corporate environment.
There was discussion about Allison being promoted to Proctor. Vicente was concerned because he felt she was not stable. And the women she was mentoring were not doing well.
Vicente said that India had a close relationship with Mack who took India under her wing.
India had big dreams. She wanted to have a talk show where she would interview the world’s most interesting people and she wanted to do things with cooking. But after India went on a walk with Keith, she changed her focus and gave up all those dreams.
Vicente was concerned that India was becoming enamored with Allison Mack, like she was falling in love with her. He didn’t think it was healthy.
The lunch break was called and VIcente will resume testifying after lunch.