Moira Penza on Daniela
Let’s travel far away from Clifton Park, New York for a minute to the small ranching town in Central Mexico where Daniela is from. … if you had looked behind the closed doors of her childhood home: A happy family, successful, joyful…. her family was the type of close, tight-knit family everyone yearns for. But then her parents were introduced to NXIVM.
Daniela [was] set to attend a prestigious Swiss High School on scholarship when her parents gave her the NXIVM 16-day Intensive as a going away present….
Daniela… wasn’t impressed with much of the [Nxivm] course, but she was completely taken by the Mission Module. She went into the course hoping to change the world through Green Peace or something similar. But in that module, the defendant’s curriculum taught her that all those things were worthless. That the only way to save the world was through his Tech. And that if people didn’t get integrated, the world was going to end.
She was even taught that the defendant who’s billed as the smartest man in the world … had come up with a mathematical formula for the End Times…..
After taking that first class, Daniela … came to believe that all of her dreams were worthless. And when she was given the opportunity to forego her scholarship and work for the Mission, as she called it, the mission in Albany, she thought hard, sought the advice of her parents who, I submit, had already been sucked in by the defendant’s teachings and the parade of wealthy and influential Mexicans who were taking these courses and changed her plans.
Within a few months, Daniela was in Albany, 16 about to 17 turn without her family, without any friends, and she’s handed a data entry job in the admin office. It was not the life she expected and it certainly wasn’t the life she had given up her fancy Swiss school for.
But one day, the defendant took an interest in her after she solved a series of difficult brain teasers and that changed things. He promised he would tutor her, give her an education that would surpass the Ivy League education she dreamt of. But rather than tutoring her, the defendant began grooming her.
Now, around that time, something… happened that … would … change her life.
Daniela testified that at one point when she was 17, she stole $6,000 in cash from the admin office. She put the money back a day after, but she ended up confessing this to the defendant. Although the defendant acted as if the incident was over and forgotten when she confessed, the next day she was berated by Nancy Salzman and humiliated to learn that everyone in the Intensive that was going on knew what she had done.
This is Daniela’s testimony about that incident. She said: “At the time, he [Raniere] felt like the only person who was on my side. In fact, because of that hell I went through, everybody thought I was bad and he didn’t adopt that stance, I thought he was understanding.”
When asked what she thought about the incident looking back, Daniela said, “I think he set it up.”
“I think he set me up.”
I submit the defendant made himself the hero of that story to get closer to Daniela….
One night, Daniela was in a NXIVM education center and she confided in the defendant that her parents were going through a divorce. How did the defendant react? He kissed her. Daniela was 17, he was 43. That was her first kiss….
When she got home that night, the defendant called her and told her she should keep it a secret….
You might remember when I asked her, “Daniela would you keep additional secrets after that?” And she said, “Everything about my personal life was a secret from then on.”…
After that kiss, the defendant’s sexual behavior towards Daniela escalated. He was asking her personal questions about her sexual background of which there was none, which he liked.
And he asked her about her pubic hair. She didn’t even know that grooming it was a thing [that people did]….
Then, a week after Daniela’s 18th birthday, the defendant performed oral sex on her on a dirty mattress on the floor of the offices of the defendant’s old company, CBI.
But did he have intercourse with her? … Daniela testified that she was confused for years because she knew the defendant hadn’t penetrated her that night, yet he insisted he had….
From some time around then… Daniela was part of the defendant’s inner circle.
Allowed to be present for the most sensitive meetings and expected to take on sensitive criminal tasks. During that time, though, something else happened… that marks a key point in her story…
The defendant’s agreement to have Daniela cross into the country.
Now, at the time she entered the United States, Daniela was making that choice voluntarily knowing that it was wrong, but her illegal status in the United States would become a major tool of leverage used by the defendant.
On October 26, 2004, Daniela was denied entry into the United States and was told she would have to wait another year to reenter.…
Daniela wanted to return to Albany and the defendant wanted her to return to Albany. After all, he was used to her providing him with sex and with work. Daniela was in regular phone contact with the defendant and eventually… the defendant came up with a plan which he explained to her over the phone. He told Daniela she should fly to Toronto, Canada on Christmas Eve where Kristin … would meet her with a fake Sheriff’s I.D. in the name of an Alaskan woman who died but who, according to the defendant, looked similar to Daniela. Daniela would do some shopping and she and Kristin would cross over the border making it look like they had popped over to do some Christmas shopping.
Daniela flew to Canada as planned but when she got there, Kristin was not. Instead, Kathy Russell met her and handed her the fake I.D…. that the defendant … had arranged for her to have.
She and Kathy Russell crossed over the border with Daniela distracting the officer who was looking at her I.D. and drove down to the Christmas get together in Clifton Park….
Daniela gave specific details about Kathy Russell’s involvement including Kathy Russell’s frequent retelling of the adventure especially when Kathy Russell, who is also in her 40s, was trying to persuade Daniela to participate in a threesome with her and the defendant….
When Daniela returns to Clifton Park, the very night she is bought back across the border, the defendant tries to persuade her and her sister, Marianna, with whom she knows he was having a sexual relationship, to engage in a threesome with her. It ends with the defendant naked and Daniela and Marianna crying.
After that Daniela, is left all alone on her first night back in the United States. With no legal status in the United States, Daniela is now beholden to the enterprise….
From December 2004 until fall 2006, Daniela was the defendant’s workhorse…. She did everything the defendant desired from organizing his library to working on book reports. And she also had to sexually perform on the defendant’s command giving him oral sex up to two times a day….
Daniela… was a very productive member of the enterprise: She recorded the defendant’s words for posterity; she organized his book collection; she digitized his music collection; she cleaned; she taught herself to hack into e-mail accounts of NXIVM’s enemies.
She did whatever was asked her for all from her perch at 3 FlintLock Lane where the defendant lived with Pam, Marianna, Kristin, and Karen ….
…the defendant controlled and manipulated her during that time. Her weight… was a constant focus of the defendant and he would tell her that she was hurting him by not dieting. She was given book reports on graduate level topics that she had never studied and was not paid if she couldn’t complete them. Even if she got 75 or 90 percent of the way there. In fact, she was never paid for a book report at all. And she wasn’t allowed to make money except by working for the enterprise.
They never paid her. Always one excuse after another. She was in a state of financial dependence.
Economic control. Notably, Daniela also spent her first years of young adulthood in a world where other women were treated that way. Oinked at when they went to the fridge. Spied on.
Groped in front of other women. And you heard this type of talk from the defendant’s own mouth.
… When the defendant impregnated Daniela at age 20 after not allowing her to use birth control, Pam Cafritz paid for Daniela’s abortion. … she monitored her at the clinic to make sure Daniela delivered the coverup story that would protect the defendant. She said she’d only been in the United States for two to three months and that she was considering college in the United States….
After her job protecting the defendant was done, Pam left Daniela to experience the abortion alone despite instructions from the clinic that Daniela should be monitored throughout the process.
Then, in fall 2006, Daniela kissed Ben Myers and that was the beginning of the darkest turn she had at the defendant’s hands.
With Ben, Daniela finally experienced actual romantic interest. Actual sexual desire. Something she never had for the defendant.
And naive Daniela, she made the mistake of telling this to the defendant. She actually thought he’d be happy for her. But he lost it. You heard he locked himself in the bathroom. He threw her across a room. After that night, they never spoke in person again.
After that fight, once again, Daniela’s world was shaken. From then on Daniela, had an ethical breach and was under strict monitoring by the inner circle.… Nancy Salzman started monitoring her program which, of course, again, focused on her weight and having her complete book reports for the defendant’s benefit as well as breaking what was termed her “pride” and her defiance.
For the next two years, e-mails between Daniela and the defendant showed the never-ending abuse and manipulation she suffered after that kiss.…
You might remember the graphic questioning about what she had done sexually with Ben. The defendant commenting that she was making him appear to be an ogre, keeping her locked in a castle. And during this time, Daniela was threatened with being sent back to Mexico. Mexico without any contact with her family. Mexico with no identification documents. Mexico with no money.
These pictures and the scribbling from her journal from that time perhaps give the best insight into her mind.
On [one note she wrote] “I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want to kill myself.”
On [another note] a self-portrait captioned “Horror Story of Failure.”
Then, in March 2010, the defendant ordered Daniela confined to a room or otherwise she would be sent to Mexico. Perhaps the saddest part of this episode is that Daniela’s parents were turned into co-conspirators, too. And they’re at fault. At fault for letting that man convince them to help hurt their daughter. But make no mistakes, it was the defendant who was in charge….
After that point, the defendant approached [Lauren Salzman] with a plan regarding Daniela…. He proposed that Dani be given an ultimatum that she go in her room with no distractions and come up with a plan for how to fix this or be sent back to Mexico. The defendant also made clear to Lauren Salzman that this was to be kept a secret. He didn’t even want her to discuss it on the phone….
[There was a conversation which was recorded and played in court]… between the defendant and Daniela’s mom, Adriana. And the whole time, Marianna, Daniela’s sister, who is also in a sexual relationship with the defendant is translating.
The defendant says, “If you killed someone’s child, is it right that the family comes and begs you to do something about it or apologizes to you for being so bad to you.’
Her mother says, “No.”
[Raniere says] “If the world were like that, it would be very beneficial to kill other people’s children, and as they would help make you into a monster.” “If I went and spoke to Dani, I would be doing my part in helping make her monster.” “If I was Dani’s parents, and going back to Mexico, I would make her choose between doing the right thing and staying here or losing communication with me or whatever.” “Sometimes it has it be that strict.”
Verbal abuse. Daniela’s was constantly being told she was pride and destructive. Isolation. Daniela went months without any human contact. Poor living conditions. She had a phone foam pad on the floor and nothing else. Blacked out curtains, dirty clothes, denial of adequate food…. sometimes the food was old or moldy.
Daniela … was on the verge of suicide before she left her room.
… writing … letters was the only way Daniela knew to try and avoid being in the room any longer and bearing additional psychological harm.
… And there were the letters, hundreds of them. So many of them where she drafts a program. So many of them where she begs to be let out. All addressed to the defendant….
Daniela was in that room for 100 weeks. There were no locks on the doors but there were security cameras and, as Daniela explained, as someone illegally in the country, there were a number of fences keeping her where she was as well and all that time she was writing hundreds of letters to the defendant as she was ordered to until finally on the 705th day, having stored up enough cleaning supplies to kill herself, Daniela decided she was going to live and she did….