By Dianne Lipson
It is the 19th day of court – in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
The day began with Nicole, the actress who was a DOS slave for little more than a year. She began her testimony on Thursday and ended that day be describing how she had been instructed to communicate with Keith.
She was ordered to do so by Allison Mack, her slave master.
Now, we begin her Friday morning testimony.
Nicole, as ordered by Allison, is supposed to send emails to Keith. Keith is not responding.
Finally, at one point, Allison told Nicole that if Keith didn’t respond to her by 3 am that morning that she, Allison, would have to take a cold shower as punishment.
Nicole communicated that to Keith in an email and Keith finally responded [thus sparing Allison from having to take a cold shower]. It seems possible, if not obvious, that Keith and Allison conspired together on this – which raises an interesting question – as to whether Allison will testify to her role in the abuse of Nicole.
In her email, Nicole asked Keith, “Why is there so much of a struggle to get to freedom?” Keith offered her some elegant word salad to the effect that “Freedom comes with commitment” and “Love is related to pain.”
In April and May 2016, Nicole’s feelings about DOS were stressful and scary. But Allison was nice to her and was helping her with her acting career. She set up an interview with a good agency and with an off-Broadway audition for Nicole.
Nicole, however, is working at a nightclub five nights a week in New York City. Then, when she’s done, she has to go to Clifton Park, [three hours away] by train to serve Allison. That was hard. She was exhausted.
When Nicole stayed in Clifton Park, she stayed with Allison, even sleeping in the same bed. There was no testimony to suggest there was any kind of sex between them.
At one point, Keith asked Nicole to go for a walk. He said she “earned” this. He said, “Isn’t this funny that this [the walk] is our first date?”
Nicole was thinking “What does that mean?”
Assistant US Attorney Moira Penza asked Nicole, “Were you ever attracted to Keith? Did you have any interest in dating him?”
Nicole said no.
Nicole was traveling back and forth from New York City to Clifton Park. She began to suspect that she was being set up – for Keith. She thought there was a plot. She communicated that to Allison and Allison said, “It’s so great that you trust me enough to tell me that, but that’s not true.”
Nicole wanted to believe Allison. But there were more walks with Keith – at three or four in the morning. These late night/early morning walks were set up when Keith would text Allison. There was a particular sound tone on Allison’s phone when Keith texted her.
Somehow, when Nicole heard that sound, her body went into a “flight or a fight” mode.
She noticed that Keith, on these walks, would speak about the same things Allison spoke about in DOS – such as commitment and trust.
Nicole wondered, “Is this a coincidence?”
She had been told Keith was not part of DOS.
Nicole had other concerns.
She said to Keith, “You know, Alison’s only four years older than me. How can she know what’s best for me?”
Keith told her, “If you can trust wholly in a person who is flawed, then you can find real freedom.”
Nicole didn’t know what the hell that meant.
Keith would also ask questions like: “What’s the worst thing you have ever done?” And “What are you afraid of?”
Somehow, it seemed like Keith knew what Nicole had been talking about with Allison, but Allison said that wasn’t the case.
One day, Nicole was given an assignment. Allison told her that she had to go on a walk with Keith and that she had to tell him that she would do anything he asked her to do.
Nicole felt she had no choice. But she was very nervous about saying this to Keith.
But, during their walk, she blurted it out, “I will do anything you tell me to do.”
Keith said, “I don’t think you meant that.”
Nicole said, “No, I don’t.”
Keith said to her to say it to him when she really meant it.
She did say it the next day.
Keith asked Nicole, “What’s the worst thing I could ask you to do?”
She had thought the worst thing he could do was to ask her to do something sexual, but then she realized that wasn’t the worst. Nicole felt really scared.
She looked at a roof and found herself thinking, “God, he could ask me to jump off that roof. He could ask me to hurt someone in my family or to hurt someone else. What if he asks me to kill somebody or never speak to my family again?”
She told this to Keith, who said, “Do you think I would ask you to do those things?”
That calmed her down a little.
He told Nicole to come back when she meant it and tell him that she would do anything he asked.
Allison also reinforced this.
One day after she said to Keith that she would do anything, he took to a house across from Allison’s.
Keith said, “You’ll do anything I ask?”
She said “Yes”.
He told her to take all her clothes off. She did. She’s totally naked. He’s sitting down. She’s standing. He made comments about her body including the fact that she hadn’t shaved her pubic region.
She said she’d been celibate for three months. Keith said the lack of shaving was fine.
He told her to put her clothes back on. Then he blindfolded her – very tight. Keith said they were going somewhere. He took her in a car and drove her somewhere. She didn’t know where. Nicole didn’t talk. He stopped the car and took her hand and led her through some woods. She felt branches under her feet. They went indoors into a room and he told her to get undressed again. She was told – still blindfolded – to get on a table. The table felt cold. She lay there naked and blindfolded.
Keith tied her wrists.
Nicole felt super vulnerable and exposed and was hoping this was all it was going to be.
Then somebody started giving her oral sex.
Nicole thought at first it was Keith, but then Keith started talking, while the oral sex was going on. Nicole instantly realized there was somebody else in the room. It felt terrifying.
She was close to tears as she testified about this.
Nicole, terrified, wondered, how many more people were in the room.
Still blindfolded and tied, with Keith walking around the table, talking about her, and someone giving her oral sex, she was in shock. Keith asked her questions about her sexual desires and history. He asked her if she’d ever been in a threesome and how many people she’d been with.
He also asked Nicole if she was okay. Nicole didn’t think there was any option but to say, “Yes, I’m okay.” But she wasn’t.
Finally, Keith untied her and helped her put her clothes back on because she was still blindfolded. He drove her back, still blindfolded, to where they started out. Then Keith took off her blindfold.
Again Keith asked if she was okay. Again she said yes.
Keith wanted her to know nothing bad had happened. She was a young woman who was not in a relationship. Keith talked about trust.
Nicole wanted to go. Finally, she asked if she could leave. He said yes but that she shouldn’t tell anybody.
Nicole asked, “Can I tell Allison?”
He said yes.
When she left, it was bright outside. She happened to see Emiliano Salinas.
Nicole is crying on the stand as she testified that she ran to Emiliano and hugged him. Nicole said she felt safe with him.