By Dianne Lipson
Keith was in his royal blue sweater with a white shirt underneath. This may be our last chance to see him prior to the announcement of the verdict. The jury will begin deliberations tomorrow morning at 9 am.
Today began with Marc Agnifilo completing his closing arguments. I will paraphrase in order to give readers a general sense of what Raniere’s high-priced and extremely persuasive attorney had to say to the jury.
Agnifilo spoke perhaps two hours yesterday and he started off in the morning with gusto and spoke for more than an hour.
This morning, Agnifilo said the government witnesses all said they had friends and people they cared for in the community of Nxivm/DOS.
Agnifilo strongly disputed that DOS had any of the elements of commercial sex and that people did well – for instance, Sylvie was close to Clare Bronfman who took good care of her and even paid for her horse to come from the UK to Albany.
And Keith only had a single sexual episode with Sylvie – where he performed oral sex on her. And Agnifilo points out that Sylvie never had an orgasm before but she did have one through Keith’s oral sex.
But Agnifilo stressed it was only once — nothing else ever happened again, one incident of oral sex and nothing else.
Agnifilo said, “Here’s what I want you to think about. I suggest to you the ratio, the ratio of talking about sex and actual sex is 100,000 to one.”
“Keith is interested in what opens people up. How do you get people out of themselves? What is Keith pursuing? This thing that happens when people are attracted to each other? Attraction brings people out of themselves. Things change. You’re having an interaction that people who are not attracted to each other. I think Keith was not really looking for the actual act of sex. He’s looking for that special thing that happens when people relate in that way.”
Agnifilo explained that the many text chats and text messages with Keith were exhaustive. It was day and night, intense and unrelenting.
“It’s the connection. That’s what he’s chasing after. He was Sylvie’s Grand Master. He can have sex with her as much as he wants, but it’s only once, so it’s not about sex. There’s a feeling around sexual attraction that may have nothing to do with sex. You share yourself. … That’s what keeps us chasing after it; that’s what every piece of evidence points to. Commercial sex is in a different universe. Commercial sex clearly is not this.”
Agnifilo said that Keith’s close companions, Barbara Jeske died and Pam had cancer and was going to die. But Keith loved to empower women. Agnifilo showed the chart with Keith in the center and mostly women around him that the government has used as an exhibit. This indicates women had important roles, he said. Nancy Salzman was president of Nxivm.
Sure Keith had sex with multiple people. Before DOS – which was created with the best of intentions – he had all the women he would ever need. True, in Allison Mack’s slave pod, sex was more common. That because Allison could feel free to experiment with Keith. Maybe this was a safe place where Allison could be sexual
But it was not across the board [the other slave pods did not have sex with Keith, he said].
Then along comes Mark Vicente. He is concerned about this thing called DOS – which he doesn’t know about or understand and it sounds bad. He’s concerned. He’s worried. He wrongly thinks there’s something nefarious going on. He contacts Catherine Oxenberg, which brings this to another level. Catherine Oxenberg is concerned that her daughter India is in DOS.
“I think a battle ensues. Whose side you’re going to be on? What often happens is both sides become entrenched. Vicente is convinced DOS is evil. It’s not a matter of opinion. This is evil to him. Everybody starts talking. Then Vicente calls Frank Parlato who seems to be involved in something legal with Nxivm.
“The reason this is all relevant is there’s no middle ground anymore. It’s black and white. A battle is going on. Nicole says she has a conversation with Frank Parlato. She says Parlato wants her to go to law enforcement. He is pushing people to go to law enforcement. Yeah, there’s a tremendous change in perspective.
“DOS is about vulnerability and trust. If you play with trust, you’re playing with fire.”
Agnifilo then tells a story about a father – an analogy – who forces his child to study hard and the child hates it but ends up being a lawyer. At the time, the child was angry at the father but then after the child becomes a lawyer, the child is pleased with the father. There’s a change in perspective.
Agnifilo then described a tender, loving Keith Raniere. A Raniere who could be hurt by women.
He spoke of the long-term, intense relationship with Cami. He also points out that Cami stands up to him. She is no shrinking violet. She stands up for herself.
“Keith is not this wizard behind the curtain. When you see the evidence, you see the exact opposite. You see Keith locking himself in the bathroom [because he was hurt by Daniela]. He is racked with jealousy and is hurt [by Cami’s affair with another man.]
“Keith wants Cami to tell him about her affair in detail. Keith is beside himself. That’s the exact opposite of a man manipulating women.
“And then there was that last, sad meeting with Nicole. Keith is not godlike. He asks Nicole ‘will I ever see you again? Will I ever speak to you again?’ Keith looks for relationships with people.”
Agnifilo also spoke about the hard drive where Cami’s pictures were found. He pointed out that the government did not charge Keith with making or possessing the photos [which were nudes taken of Cami when she was 15]. They charged that Keith made and possessed these photos as part of a [racketeering] enterprise.
“But there’s no evidence these photos were ever looked at. They were not shared anywhere. They were not shared or viewed. How do they play a role in a racketeering enterprise? You know, if they weren’t shared with anyone? There is no enterprise. In a pattern of racketeering, there has to be a common purpose with others. Regarding Cami’s photographs, nobody else knew about it. It’s an absolute secret. For a pattern of racketeering, there has to be a related interest with others. The photos have no common or related purpose.”
Then Agnifilo summed up. He called upon the highest virtues of courage and honor which he expected of this jury.
He said, “Ultimately, you, the jury, have to find that your proof of the charges is beyond a reasonable doubt. If you look at the elements and the evidence, you may say about a lot of the evidence, ‘Oh, you know what? Sorry, this is not proven.”
Agnifilo praised the jury. “You’ve all been here every day and on time. I want to say ‘thank you.’”
Then he admitted that Keith – vulnerable and loving though he may be, perhaps doing some things wrong, perhaps more than a few.
Agnifilo admitted, “There were so many things that Keith did wrong, in a sense. But if you go through the elements of the criminal charges, it’s not commercial sex. And if that is the case, which it is, you must find the courage to find Keith not guilty. It will take courage to find him not guilty. You may wish you didn’t have to that, but that is your duty [to find him not guilty] based on the evidence.
“Yes, you might think a lot of things Keith did was distasteful. But these things are not part of the charges. Laws are passed by Congress. A disgusting lifestyle is not criminal. Disgusting behavior is not criminal. What’s criminal is specific acts passed by Congress.”
And in so many words [remember I paraphrased] Marc Agnifilo summed up his remarks.
Mark Lesko for the prosecution would be up next.
[Keep in mind that the jury begins deliberations tomorrow – and that the court will not be in session as they await the jury’s verdict.]