Judge Rules Expert Witnesses Can Testify on Solitary Confinement [Dani] and Sexual Abuse

Dr. Dawn Hughes testified for the prosecution on sexual victimization.

Keith Raniere’s motion to preclude the prosecution’s expert witnesses has been denied.

Raniere’s arguments that the prosecution’s notice to him was late, and that the experts’ testimony is unreliable and prejudicial did not persuade Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

Dr. Stuart Grassian and Dr. Dawn Hughes will be permitted to testify and what they have to say might be pretty damning for the Vanguard.

Dr. Grassian is a board-certified psychiatrist who taught at Harvard Medical School for over 25 years. His expertise is solitary confinement, and the judge ruled this is relevant to “allegations in a racketeering act identified in the Second Superseding Indictment: specifically, that Jane Doe 4 [Dani] was confined to a room [for almost two years] while being subject to forced labor and document servitude.”

Dr. Stuart Grassian will testify on the effects of solitary confinement – something that Dani experienced for nearly two years – at the hands of Raniere.

Dr. Grassian is expected to testify that: (1) severe restriction of social, perceptual and occupational stimulation—including lack of human contact, restriction of physical activity, lack of occupational stimulation, repetition of routine, and stagnancy of environment—has a profoundly deleterious effect on mental functioning;

(2) individuals who experience environmental restriction often become incapable of maintaining an adequate state of alertness and attention to the environment and may experience agitated confusional states

(3) individuals who experience environmental restriction often develop severe anxiety and panic disorders

(4) individuals who experience environmental restriction may become suicidal and self-destructive

(5) there are documented examples of environmental restriction being used to weaken individuals and make them more susceptible to indoctrination

(6) individuals experiencing environmental restriction often experience fear and helplessness because they have to depend entirely on others.

It is not known if Dr. Grassian will also testify on the psychiatric effects of lack of sleep and severe calorie restriction.

Raniere argued that, because Dr. Grassian’s work focuses primarily on the impact of solitary confinement on prison inmates, his expertise is inapplicable to Dani’s case, since she was not a prison inmate.

Dr. Grassian’s work, the prosecution notes, includes non-prison settings, including isolation in aviation, small-group confinement (on expeditions, in submarines, and in Antarctic stations), solo voyages, medically required isolation like bed rest and tank-type respirators, and sensory deprivation laboratories.

The judge ruled that Raniere’s argument is an overly narrow assessment of Dr. Grassian’s expertise, and that “His curriculum vitae makes clear that he is an expert with regard to the psychological effects of restricted and isolated conditions of prolonged confinement.”

The second expert witness, Dr. Hughes, is a board certified forensic psychologist and clinical psychologist, a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an expert on sexual abuse, interpersonal violence, and traumatic stress.

She has had ‘extensive clinical experience treating hundreds of trauma and abuse patients over the past twenty years,” the prosecution says in its court filings.

Dr. Hughes is expected to testify

(1) the vast majority of sexual assault victims know their perpetrators;

(2) victims routinely fail to formally report sexual assault for a variety of reasons

[3] the evaluation of the “legitimacy” of a sexual assault should not be based on whether a victim reported the event to law enforcement;

(3) victims frequently utilize ‘informal strategies’ and disclosure to cope with sexual assault, including: revealing only partial details of their assault,  “talking around” assault and not labeling it as such, utilizing defense mechanisms of avoidance, dissociation and suppression;

(4) disclosure by sexual assault victims often unfolds over time and the process of disclosure is influenced by multiple and changing factors including the specific characteristics of the experience, the victim’s psychological vulnerabilities, the victim’s relationship to her perpetrator and her pattern of recovery and coping;

5) sexual assault can result in severe, long-lasting psychological consequences and related difficulties, and can complicate the choice of a victim to formally report assault;

(6) sexual assault victims may maintain relationships with their perpetrators and this is often influenced by the dynamic between the victim and perpetrator, including whether the victim and perpetrator are in intimate or work relationships characterized by abuse, coercion and/or dependence;

(7) false recanting or failure to cooperate with prosecution efforts may occur in situations of interpersonal victimization.

There is an eighth category that Dr. Hughes has been asked to testify about that is in dispute and Judge Garaufis has not yet ruled that she may testify.

That is that:

(8) perpetrators often use “grooming” techniques on adult and child victims to normalize sexual behaviors and make their victims more susceptible to assault.

Keith Alan Raniere sits at the defense table- he is the defendant in a federal trial now ongoing in Brooklyn. He faces a battery of charges including sex trafficking, forced labor, extortion and racketeering. His prospects for returning to his once lofty position as the Vanguard of Nxivm – holding dominion over scores of women – and as the Supreme Master of Dominus Obsequious Sororium – where he devised a MLM scheme of branding and blackmailing female slaves – look pretty slim.

Raniere takes particular issue with Dr. Hughes’s eighth opinion.  He pointed out that the first seven topics on which Dr. Hughes is expected to testify all relate to the psychology of victims, not perpetrators.  Raniere contends that the government has not shown any evidence that Dr. Hughes  is an expert on perpetrators.

Raniere also argues that Dr. Hughes’s proposed testimony on grooming techniques will be unduly prejudicial because it suggests “that persons who commit sexual crimes share certain characteristics or that there are typical circumstances under which sexual assaults take place thereby suggesting that the defendant is included in this group and meets the profile of typical sex offenders.”

The judge agreed in part with Raniere. The judge pointed out that Dr. Hughes, as far as he know, “has never testified in court or provided expert reports as to this opinion [about perpetrators grooming victims] before. … [H]er extensive academic and clinical experience appears focused on victims of sexual abuse, not perpetrators.”

Before deciding whether Dr. Hughes may testify as to the 8th opinion the judge will hold a hearing to determine whether Dr. Hughes’s opinion regarding sexual abusers’ use of grooming techniques is sufficiently reliable.

The other 7 opinions she is permitted to testify before the jury.

Raniere argument that Dr. Hughes’s testimony regarding delayed disclosure of sexual assault victims is unnecessary because “[t]he witnesses in this case are all adults who are capable of providing… reasons for their delayed or piecemeal disclosures and the jury does not need help from an expert to evaluate their explanations,” was also denied.

The judge ruled that “This testimony may be probative in that it may corroborate witnesses’ explanations for their delayed disclosures.”

Overall, this was not a very good ruling for Raniere. Two experts will take the stand – it is not clear when – and they will have a lot to say about solitary confinement – and how sexual victims – may have been damaged in ways that may have prevented them from making accurate or seemingly timely disclosures of their own victimization.

This may go a long way to upset the defense’s contention that everything was consensual – just a kinky fun group of now-regretful ladies and their fun loving teacher  – instead of one diabolical, perverted and brutal sex offender – who called himself Vanguard – using manipulation, deception, coercion, extortion, and with his Bronfman-funded fortune and his evil-minded little female minions – who cast a wide net of psychological terrorism – or worse  – over scores of victims for decades.

What might circumstantially appear as the actions of adult, intelligent women doing things consensually with their Vanguard may have been – every inch of the way – the exact opposite.

We will look forward to the expert’s testimony.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Frank,

    Great write up and good explanation of the legal issues regarding expert testimony.


  • At the end of the day, most people know DV, sexual abuse, torture, confinement, etc., are traumatic and damaging experiences.

    Unless the experts are essential to prove elements of the charges, the witnesses’ credibility so far has him nailed.

  • Keith practiced Domestic Violence with particular emphasis on sexual abuse. I believe he tortured women in every aspect possible.

    DV crosses all lines of economics, age and education. I have seen highly educated intelligent independent women victimized sometimes to the point of death.

    After these experts testify, I doubt Keith will ever see the light of day.

    These damaged women need help to recover. It would be great if the court could seize the Nxivm assets and use the funds to heal these women.

    I fear women like Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack will do evil unless they are deprogrammed of the warped teachings of Raniere.

    • Anyone who was in NXIVM for a long period of time needs to seek some form of professional counseling or help to deprogram themselves of its mind fuck. Otherwise, they’ll consciously or subconsciously carry the bullshit that NXIVM told them about faults, issues, problems, etc., into their lives and negatively impact other people’s lives due to it.

      Anything VanFraud and his minions directly or indirectly told them, or unconsciously programmed into them, had an underhanded, manipulative motive. Regardless of whether any of it is true or not, it needs to be looked at in the context of professionals who aren’t warped by the deviant context of NXIVM.

  • Ole Limpy the Ape can’t solve himself out of his own way.

    Sex addiction plus impotence are, IMO, part of Dark Triad narcissism in men (narcissist women are evil too, not picking on men). At first, I was waiting for Keith to switch from somatic to cerebral. But, I think he was an involuntary celibate (incel) “cerebral” prior to Consumers Buyline. The somatic was liberated and the tater tot cerebral maybe reminds him of his sad trombone incel days.

    Because, I was expecting the cerebral to emerge and fight back with a fair argument or two. Can’t believe I gave him any credit as a thinker. His motions thus far, for having all the time to strategize, amounted to nothing.

    All he’s shown is that he enjoyed Lauren’s pain and feels himself victimized. Keith, the OG of incels. Wonder if he’s worshiped by them for his revenge on the roasties (female species) and for cuckolding the Chads (men that easily approach women and get frequent sex). That would be their ultimate beyond kidnapping and enslaving minor girls (a la Jake Thomas Patterson). Keith be like “been there, done that.”

  • I think it’s a False Equivalence. The expert is not testifying about the Psychology of Child Predators that groom victims. Rather, the expert is testifying about the Psychology of HOW Child Predators groom victims. Such as 1) person in position of authority, 2) isolation, 3) pushes boundaries, 4) defines a new normal.

    These behaviors can be correlated to how Catholic Priests were able to abuse kids. It’s the same methodology.

    So, I think the Judge will allow testimony on item 8. Not as the psychology of Keith. But as the psychology of the process of grooming victims for sexual abuse.

  • Even if the judge doesn’t allow the “grooming” testimony from the expert, the victims should be able to get the point across and Dani already has done so. Agnifilo would agree with this.

  • So is Raniere claiming to be a criminal perpetrator, a misunderstood criminal perpetrator? That is good to know. Hahahahahaha.

    What is CreepBoy saying? It looks like he is so far gone into his disassociation that he is saying, “yeah, I’m a sexual abuser, and I have imprisoned and isolated people. I have acted criminally but I AM MISUNDERSTOOD.” This would be a very comedic admission, if not for so many people who have been harmed by his world of self-indulgence and psychopathy.

    Raniere’s unconscious arrogance is excellently exemplified here. In his dried splitpea of a mind, no expert witnesses are to be deemed qualified to analyze him. His self-help bullshit has not helped him at all. He has to be able to keep dreaming that he is beyond reproach.

  • If Raniere were innocent and it was all adult consensual sex play, the Vanguard Master with spiritual powers should have nothing to fear.
    His masterful powers will result in vindication and these ungrateful slave women can be disciplined as soon as the Master returns to his sex liar at 8 Hale Drive.

    Rot in prison Keith. May you live long enough to witness a second trial in NDNY along with all your accomplices and be brought to justice.

    Let the Public Integrity division prosecute all government entities that aided and abetted your crimes. The Capital District needs to be flushed of 20 years of corruption. Governor Cuomo lets make sure this is not a whitewash.

    John Tighe should be exonerated and compensated for his wrongful conviction.


    • John Tighe was convicted of child pornography because he is guilty of having child porn on his computer that was downloaded off the web by himself. This is direct evidence. The only person who ever said otherwise is Frank Parlato who only wants to see the good in Tighe to give himself vindication that’s he’s right. John enjoys child pornography.

  • Starvation, sleep deprivation, imprisonment, sexual abuse.. Popular with despots and tyrants in every era. How to rob a person of their personhood and sense of agency.

    “The sense of agency, or sense of control, is the subjective awareness of initiating, executing, and controlling one’s own volitional actions in the world. It is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that it is I who is executing bodily movement or thinking thoughts.”

  • Great ruling. Though grooming is also very relevant; if not Dr. Hughes, some expert should testify about it.

    This will help the jury understand and contextualize what they’ve heard. It should also be very interesting for observers, to hear an expert’s analysis of the situation.

    It also gets to one of the key issues here that I was hoping would be aired and addressed, the extent to which even adults – or perhaps, particularly, people transitioning from adolescence and young adulthood – can be subject to undue influence and control. We recognize that is the case with children and the elderly, and certain adults with obviously diminished capacity, but I think we need to consider whether it also applies to some adults, or adults in some situations, who may also somehow be vulnerable.

    • Wow you really love to over analize. You must really like to read your own words. You obviously have Narcissistic Personality Disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and most likely troubled relationships,

      • And aren’t narcissistic personalities very useful assets as Red Herrings or Scapegoats — whether they know it or not —when it comes to black ops? On any scale? Why, even an OVERSIZED ego might lend itself well to a well-financed scheme to acquire unwitting assets whose “weaknesses” might be made worse with a little tweaking.

        But there are some who shout for EMPHASIS, not to overpower, and others who economize in keystrokes the old-fashioned way bc you can’t italicize on here anyway so the * thing is a waste.

        Flowers “neighbor” checked in long ago to let us know how her “narcissism” vs. “malignant narcissism” — as Flowers herself edifies us — often gets her in trouble. Uh, huh. She emailed FR long ago when Frank was writing for his life, the lone blogger left after all other voices opposing NX had been snuffed out.

        But she could be onto some leads. IMHO.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

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.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
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