This is In Depth Dani’s testimony Part 3.
During Part 2, we learned that the 16-year-old Mexican girl, Daniela, came to Albany to help Nxivm’s mission to save the world. She was working in the administrative offices and Dani took $6,000 of cash Nxivm was hiding to evade taxes. She felt guilty and returned it the next day. She told Keith about it and he told others who began to punish her, while Keith promised to be her friend and stay at her side. Nancy, in particular, was extremely punishing to Dani.
Dani’s testimony occurred on May 23, 2019 in the trial of Keith Raniere.
The events she described occurred in 2003 when Dani was 17.
Moira Penza is doing the examination of Dani.
Q After this conversation with Nancy [about her ethical breach and her punishments for taking, then returning the money] and everything that happened there, how did your relationship with the Defendant change?
A I became closer to him. What he said was true and he was there for me throughout and at the end. I would say he was sort of a shoulder to cry on…. at the time, he felt like the only person who was on my side, in fact, because I felt like that hell I went through… everybody thought I was bad. … he didn’t adopt that stance. He kept being my friend. He was understanding. I would talk to him about how I felt about this, like, wave of punishment coming at me. And he was there for me.
Q Looking back, do you have any thoughts on what happened in that incident?…
A I think he set it up. … I think that he made himself the hero of the story. He created a horrible situation by which I became closer and a little more dependent on him…. it’s my belief that that whole situation was crafted.
Q And you said this is in 2003, right? [She was 17]
[Dani explained that she would email Raniere. Penza admitted into evidence a series of emails between Dani and Keith].
Q In general, how would you describe the back-and-forth [in emails] between you and the Defendant?
A I would say it was playful…
Q At that time, what was the age difference between you and the Defendant?
A I don’t know exactly, but I was 17 and he was in his forties.
Q Looking back, do you have any thoughts on [a particular] e-mail?
A I think he was leading the conversation into a flirty, more sexual way…. I was being playful. I thought we were… developing a friendship. But he would… push the conversation towards … flirting with me … I believe he was grooming me.
Q What type of questions would the Defendant ask you…?
A He asked questions about my life, about my past, about what I wanted to do, had I ever been in love… I was a bit of a late bloomer. … by 2003, I had never been kissed and I had never had any other type of sexual contact.
Q So, he learned that you were a virgin?
Q … what were your beliefs about the Defendant’s sex life?
A …. I had been told he was a renunciant. And I believed … he was celibate, he didn’t have any relationships of a romantic kind at all.
[Dani testified about how her parents moved to Albany with her siblings Cami and Adrian and that her parents were having marital difficulties]
Q Did you ever talk about this with the Defendant?
A Yes. … I was hoping to get some insights that maybe would allow me to help my parents. I felt like I had a super friend that maybe could help.
Q Was there a particular incident where you discussed what was going on with your parents with the Defendant?
Q Where were you?
A I was in the room next to Prefect’s [Nancy Salzman] office. We were sitting there on the purple couch … and the door was closed…. we were sitting there and I was telling him all about my parents’ issues. And he was… giving me advice: [he said] ‘I understand that your mother might not want to be with your dad, but if she doesn’t know what she wants yet, what is it? What has changed that they can no longer live under the same roof? At least they could be friends.’ … I considered his understanding of human nature to be… way better than mine. So, I was listening, but I was sharing this very sensitive, very painful, very negative situation… And in the middle of me sharing this with him, he moved closer to me and he kissed me. He just kissed me on the lips. And it was not a kiss that was reciprocated. I did not expect it…. I was talking about my parents’ divorce. So, I just — I froze. Yeah, I froze. It was … weird, it wasn’t expected.
Q How would you describe the kiss?
A It was unwanted. And it was long…. it wasn’t like a little peck. It felt like it intended to be passionate, but I did not reciprocate. I didn’t know what to do honestly. … And it lasted a good few seconds and I just wasn’t sure what to do.
Q Did the Defendant say anything?
A Yeah. I remember he asked me if I liked that he had done that.
Q What did you say?
A I said yes.
Q Why did you say that?
A I froze. I had no idea what was happening. I just said yes. It was, like, a quick reaction.
Q What happened after that?
A The conversation, well, it was over with that. I left and I drove home. And I remember, I was trying to understand what had just happened. And that kiss did not feel good the moment that he kissed me. I froze. I didn’t feel bad, didn’t feel good, didn’t feel anything, it was just like ‘what’s going on?’ As I was driving home and I was processing, I started feeling almost like, ‘Oh, my God, he likes me. He likes me in that way.’ And this thing started growing in me, like, ‘How do I feel? I feel flattered. I feel like I’m special. I feel chosen.’
… I started trying to understand all of that, and … I started to feel a little excited about it. Like, the kiss itself was — I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t feel anything and it was not something I wanted. But I started to think about it and I started to figure out what it meant…. I was driving home … thinking … about … telling my mom about it. And as a good thing…. … I got home, my mom was there…. I don’t know why I decided to hold it inside me a little longer. … I still didn’t understand and started to feel almost good about it… almost excited about it. …. I was going to tell her. I didn’t tell her right away. But in between, I received a phone call from Keith… ‘How are you doing? I think it’s better if you don’t tell anybody about what happened, our kiss. I think that’s better that’s between us.’
And I agreed, I complied. So, I think that by a few hours I would have changed the course of history because I don’t think my mom would have been very happy to hear that a 40-year-old something — it doesn’t matter if it’s Vanguard — kissed her 17-year-old daughter.
Q Had you ever kept a secret from your mom before?
A No, that was the first secret I kept from my mom.
Q Would you keep additional secrets after that?
A Everything about my personal life was a secret from then on.
[Dani testified that things with Raniere escalated.]
A … now that I knew … he liked me. There was flirting going on.… I was very shy.… it took a lot of prodding … It wasn’t something natural. To me, it was uncomfortable… the questions became more sexual and we began to talk about [sex. He said], ‘Oh, but we can’t have sex because you’re too young.’… talk about sex but in the negative, like we can’t have it, which I understood perfectly. And [he]… let me in on his sexual life.
Q What did he tell you?
A He explained … that he had … romantic relationships, that he had several girlfriends, that there were long-term girlfriends, that privacy was very important to him, that it needed to be a secret….
Q Did the conversations about … the negative conversations about sex… continue and escalate?
A Yes, especially as my birthday was coming up.
Q So, was your 18th birthday a trigger point? Was that something that was being built up to?
A Yes, yes. It was built up by him and I understood it and I followed on it. … there was a particular conversation that happened … maybe a month… before [Dani’s 18th birthday]. We were at volleyball. And after all this conversing about, ‘Oh, we can’t have sex, you’re too young.’ [He said] ‘Your birthday is coming up. What do you want for your birthday?’
… in my mind, it was clear what the answer should be: I should want sex. But I was too shy to even say that. So, it took a lot of him asking in a flirty way, ‘What do you want for your birthday? Do you want something special?’
And I couldn’t say it and I did not say it. And he noticed I was extremely shy, and he said, ‘Well, if you’re too shy to say it, why don’t you write it on the palm of my hand?’ And it was easier than to say it, so I, with my hand, spelled out S-E-X.
Q What did the Defendant… say after that?
A He acted surprised…. He said, ‘Oh, you want sex?’ And I remember feeling very insecure all of a sudden, like, ’Oh, my God, that was not the right answer. Oh my, God, I want sex? Who am I? That’s so dirty.’ I felt like… he set me up. Like a little deer, he set up the trap, and when I fell, he’s like, ‘Oh, you fell in a trap.’ So, after that, I was visibly shy… I was extremely mortified. And he said, ‘Is there something that you are insecure about… sex?’…
I told him I [was] insecure about my body and … insecure about I felt fat… I felt insecure about my stretch marks that started appearing after I gained weight suddenly. And he’s like, ‘Oh, that’s all right. But what about your pubic hair? Is that something you’re insecure about, the hair on your pussy?’
And I remember being really confused because … how would I be insecure about [that?] … what, is the hair too curly? Is it the wrong color? And he explained, ‘Some women are insecure and don’t like their hair. But you know, I like natural.’
Q … at that time … that wasn’t even a concept that you were familiar with?
A Which concept?
Q The concept of grooming pubic hair?
A No, one did not touch it.
Q So the defendant stated that his preference was for it to be natural?
A Yes, that’s what I understood.
Q Later on … would the defendant repeat that that was his sexual preference with you?
A Yes, he made that very clear.
Q In which ways?
A … once he started having sex with me, he mocked me … because he said I had very little hair. …
And he …was, like, ‘well, you shave it. You know how I like it. You shouldn’t shave it.’ No, that’s the way I am. I’m young. I didn’t have a lot of hair and he nicknamed me ‘Norelco’ because Norelco is apparently this little machine with which you shave hair. So he used to call me Norelco in a playful way. I didn’t like it. … One day we were at the volleyball court and he yelled ‘Norelco’ and I wanted to die…. I was very aware that he liked it natural [pubic hair] and through games and jokes and explicit directives, I knew that there was no grooming allowed.
Q Going back to before you had had sex with the defendant, did the defendant tell you anything you needed to do before you had sex with him?
A … I needed to lose weight…. He said that… for him to share his sexual [energy], he was very sensitive to that because of who he is. And, so, that when a woman was fat, overweight… that interrupted that energy and it sounded like something that should make sense; like the body’s fat/muscle ratio was off, so the energy didn’t flow properly. But it was also because a person who’s overweight is obviously a person who does not have control of their indulgent impulses. So it’s a person who is … almost too primitive in their way. They can’t even keep themselves from eating so he couldn’t share his sexual energy with somebody like that. He needed me to lose weight.
Q Would your weight become a focus throughout for the next ten years?
A Yes… in sharp focus all the time. Sometimes when I called him the first question would be, [when he] pick[ed] up the phone, ‘what is your weight?’
Q Did the defendant have a specific amount of weight he wanted you to lose?
A … I needed to lose 20-something pounds and I needed to weigh 155 … for … my 18th birthday.
Q Did you do anything to try and lose the weight?
A Yeah. I tried to diet. I took laxative pills.
Q And what happened?
A I turned 18.
Q Did anything else happen that day?
A … I remember what didn’t happen…. I did not have sex with Keith that day… I was disappointed. I felt rejected. I know that he was disappointed that I had not lost the weight.
Q Did you actually have a conversation with him about that?
Q What did he say?
A ‘Why [did you not lose the weight], do you not care about me? You don’t care enough? You care more about food than to be with me.’ And I felt bad. … I didn’t see him on my birthday and I didn’t see him for the following days… I felt rejected over those [next] few days [after] I turned 18 and nothing happened, but then he did call me and it was time.
Stay tuned for Part 4