Clare Bronfman, 40, may be going to prison for a lot longer than she thought!
According to an order released today, Judge Nicholas Garaufis is “considering an above Guidelines” sentence for Clare Bronfman.
The Seagrams heiress and top leader of Nxivm is set to be sentenced on Jan. 8, 2020.
Her sentencing guidelines are in the 21-27 months range for charges she was convicted of – the result of a plea bargain made with the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in April 2019.
She could face as much as 25 years if he chose to give Bronfman consecutive sentences on her two felony counts, which is unlikely. Her two counts come with a maximum a maximum of 10 and 15 years.
Here is the judge’s exact order:
ORDER as to Clare Bronfman: In advance of Clare Bronfman’s sentencing hearing scheduled for January 8, 2020, Ms. Bronfman may make a sentencing submission by no later than December 30, 2019, the Government may respond by no later than January 3, 2020, and Ms. Bronfman may reply by no later than January 6, 2020. The court advises the parties that it is considering an above Guidelines sentence. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 12/17/2019. (Davis, Eleanor)
This is bad news for Bronfman who paid $6 million in fines – in part to limit her exposure to a more lengthy prison sentence.
Now, it seems she is likely to get a longer sentence anyway.
Bronfman, an heiress of the Seagram’s fortune and the Director of Operations for Nxivm, pleaded guilty on April 19, 2019, on Good Friday, in Brooklyn Federal Court. Celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, along with attorney Kate Cassidy, represented her.
Bronfman, a high school dropout, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor an illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification.
Her charges essentially arose from:
Count 1: Between October 2015 and January 2018, there was an agreement between Clare Bronfman and others to conceal or harbor Sylvie, an illegal alien, for financial gain. Sylvie obtained a work visa procured through false statements made by Bronfman – and Bronfman’s housing of Sylvie facilitated her ability to remain in the United States. Sylvie provided labor and services for Bronfman, DOS and NXIVM.
Count 2: Between November 2016 and March 2018, Bronfman, with others, transferred, possessed and/or used without lawful authority the identification and credit card of the late Pamela Cafritz in violation of federal law.
By facilitating Keith Raniere’s use of Cafritz’s credit card, Bronfman aided and abetted tax evasion by Raniere, as part of a scheme to allow him to falsely portray himself as a renunciate and not pay taxes on his income and assets.
Bronfman signed an 11-page plea agreement on April 19th, 2019.
Here is what the judge said at her hearing where she pleaded guilty on Good Friday 2109:
“As to Count One, conspiracy to conceal and harbor aliens for financial gain, the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years…. there is no minimum term of imprisonment….
“With regard to Count Two, fraudulent use of identification, the maximum term of imprisonment is 15 years. There’s no minimum term of imprisonment…..
“Sentence is imposed … on the two counts can run consecutively or concurrently….
“Now, the government has made a prediction as to the calculation of your guideline….. Assuming the defendant pleads guilty today and accepts responsibility, the government is predicting that the defendant will have an adjusted offense level of 16, and assuming she is in Criminal History Category I, that her guideline would be 21 to 27 months in the custody of the Attorney General. Is that your current prediction?…
“Now, in this plea agreement letter that’s dated … April 19th, 2019 … there is an agreement regarding your [Bronfman’s] right to appeal your sentence.
“The agreement letter says, and I want to make sure you understand this, that by signing this agreement, you agree not to appeal, or in any other way challenge the sentence I impose upon you if it is 27 months or less. If I were to sentence to you more than 27 months in jail, and you believe there was a legal or other error in my doing that, you would then have the right to appeal your sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Do you understand that?
“THE DEFENDANT: I do, Your Honor.
“THE COURT: Do you understand that you have the right to appeal only if I sentence you to more than 27 months?
“THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
“THE COURT: Do you understand that even if the sentence I give is you more severe than what you may be thinking or hoping you will receive, you are still going to be bound by your guilty pleas and not permitted to withdraw them, and you will not be able to challenge or appeal that sentence as long as it is 27 months or less, as we have discussed?
“THE DEFENDANT: I do, Your Honor.”
So what does this new order mean?
The government and Clare will both be permitted to submit information or evidence to persuade the judge as to what they think is a proper sentence.
Clare must have her initial argument submitted by December 30th.
The government will then have until January 3rd to respond to Clare’s submission – and she will have until January 6th to submit her final argument to the Court.
The fact that the judge announced in advance he is considering an upward departure on sentencing guidelines not only bodes ill for Clare, but it may also be sending a message that the judge may be contemplating the same for at least some of her co-defendants.
Bronfman will be the first Nxivm defendant to be sentenced. Raniere is next (He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17). Raniere will be followed by Kathy Russell.
It is my guess that the judge was horrified during the trial to learn about the brutal nature of Nxivm and the monster Raniere. He also became aware that Bronfman funded and enabled the entire Nxivm operation. Without her, there would have been no Nxivm at the scale of harm it achieved.
I suspect the judge has received numerous victim impact statements and letters from interested parties concerning Clare and the other defendants’ sentences.
No doubt many of these were heartfelt letters from victims and many mentioned the brutal and sinister role Clare Bronfman played in Nxivm.
No one who knows how Nxivm operated, could fail to have been aghast that Bronfman was facing one of the lightest of sentences among Nxivm defendants when her plea deal was announced.
That has changed now. There may be true justice coming for Clare Bronfman and for her victims.
I have heard it perhaps 100 times, from victims afraid to come forward: They admitted Raniere was likely to be in prison for a long time but again and again they told me that Clare will be out in just two years and she will be – knowing her nature – out for blood and vengeance.
Now the calculus may be different. The brutal female monster of Nxivm may be sequestered from harming others for longer than 27 months. This would be true poetic justice since next to Raniere, she was the most dangerous and wicked.
The crimes she admitted to are but a tiny fraction of the crimes she committed.
If she is sentenced to more than 27 months, Clare will be able to appeal her sentence. It might even mean – though I personally doubt it –that she will remain free pending appeal.
I think the most likely outcome is that Clare will be sent to prison upon or soon after sentencing.
If she gets a longer sentence, her many victims will sleep much better in their beds that night.
A source tells me that the presentencing report may have gone badly for Clare which might be reason the judge has announced the possibility of an upward departure from sentencing guidelines in advance.
Another media source told me that in all his years of covering the courts, he has never seen a judge announce in advance an intention to give a defendant an upward departure.