Despite her often inarticulate, run on, and rambling sentences, here is more of Lauren Salzman’s strangely effective testimony.
In this post, she explains how she continued to support, follow and obey Keith Raniere, even as Nxivm was crumbling, following the revelation of DOS by Frank Report, and her increasing awareness that something was amiss in Keith’s ethics and veracity.
In this post, which is part of our ongoing series on Lauren, comprised largely of her testimony as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of Raniere, we also get Lauren’s view on the departure from Nxivm of Emiliano Salinas and a hint that Alex Betancourt was a coconspirator in the Nxivm racketeering enterprise who may be guilty of extortion. Betancourt has not been charged.
We also see Keith lying [no surprise] about DOS slave, Nicole. He tells jealous Lauren, who still thinks she is going to have a child with Raniere, that he did not have sex with Nicole. Then, when it was clear he was lying, he claimed he did not enjoy it because, of all things, she smelled – a typical Raniere deflection. Then, of course, in Raniere fashion, he twists it back on Nicole accusing her of being a thief.
His playbook is awfully thin.
None of this is shocking to those who know Raniere. But our case study is Lauren and how she processed his lies and accepted it blindly, and, of course, of how, when on the witness stand, she hoped for years of reduction of a prison sentence.
She is, it should be kept in mind, cooperating with the prosecution to bury her former master. She cannot afford to look dishonest or too self-serving. She tries to explain her angst and suffering, and his villainy without seeming to be a villain herself.
She was out to get the judge and the jury’s sympathy. She did so effectively. In the end, the jury declared him guilty and the judge declared her – as he halted her cross examination – to be a broken woman.
Home run for Lauren.
Keep in mind, when you read about Nicole, that the incident of her being tied to a table while Camila Fernandez performed oral sex on her, as Keith watched and commented [occurring in May 2016] that this was a crime of sex trafficking for which Raniere was convicted and must get a minimum sentence of 15 years. The judge has no discretion to sentence him to a day less than 15 years for that single half-hour long event.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar is examining Lauren.
Q At some point did you become aware that NXIVM sent letters to certain DOS slaves in an effort to prevent them from speaking publicly?
A Yes. I was aware that some cease and desist letters had been sent, yes.
Q Do you know who at NXIVM sent those letters specifically?
A I believe they came from Alex Betancourt as representative of ESP Mexico.
Q Ms. Salzman, at some point did you have another conversation with the defendant about Nicole?
Q Can you tell the jury about that?
A Yes. So Alex Betancourt, who was one of my closest friends, came to me at one point in time, I think, in like February 2018. And said that Emiliano [Salinas], who is another one of our closest friends, had come to him, had come to Alex and was upset because a women who had been one of Allison’s [Mack’s] former slaves had confided in him that she was tasked to have sex with Keith and that she felt forced to do that. And that Alex had suggested that Emiliano come and speak to me about it. And so Alex was giving me a heads-up that Emiliano was going to come raise the subject with me so that I was prepared to discuss it with him.
So I asked Alex, is it Souki [ a DOS slave], and he said no. And so I said, is it Nicole and he said yes. And so then I went to Keith to find out how to address this.
Q Why did you ask if it was Souki or Nicole?
A Because I wanted to understand — well, because they were the only two slaves of Allison’s who had left and who were speaking, who were raising concerns or bringing –raising that there had been issues and everybody else — it could only have been attributed to them and I wanted to know who it was, so I understood what kind of a conversation I was walking into.
Q What happened after that?
A I spoke to Keith and I told him about this, and asked him what to do, what should — what do I tell Emiliano?
Q What did he say?
A He told me that there had been no sex between him and Nicole and that he had given Nicole three trust tests and cited at least one that he had shown her a place in 8 Hale Drive which was the townhouse that was — that he — that was his, that he lived in, the executive library at one time, that he had shown her a bag of money and then left the money and later counted the money and saw that she had taken money and that he had given her three such tests and she had failed all of the tests and that she knew the truth, that she was misrepresenting the facts and that it would be good if Emiliano or somebody would bring this to her that she was not being truthful and urge her to tell the truth, change her story.
Q And how did you understand that direction to you, that it would be good if someone spoke to her?
A He was telling me to do that. Keith’s suggestions weren’t suggestions because if you didn’t do the suggestion, then there was feedback about why didn’t you do the suggestion and how you were making his life difficult and why this is really problematic. So, he wanted me to go talk to Emiliano and get Emiliano to talk to Nicole and to get her to be on the other side of this.
Q Did you meet with Emiliano Salinas?
A I did, yes.
Q What happened?
A We did discuss it. I mean most of the subject of my meeting with Emiliano was he was leaving the organization and didn’t want to be affiliated with NXIVM anymore and he and I were very close friends over many years and so that was very sad for me in the context of our relationship, so most of what we discussed was that but we discussed Nicole and what he communicated with me was that Nicole told him that —
[Raniers’ attorney Marc Agnifilo: I’m sorry, I’m going to object to this as hearsay.
THE COURT: Sustained. Sustained.
HAJJAR: Your Honor, may I just take one moment to confer with my colleague?
THE COURT: Sure.
(Pause while government counsel confer.)
HAJJAR: Thank you, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Go ahead.
Q Ms. Salzman, without going into what Emiliano Salinas told you Nicole said, was whatever he said consistent with what you heard from the defendant in terms of what Nicole was saying?
A More or less, yes, and I communicated to Emiliano that I thought Keith would like it if somebody would talk to Nicole and get her to change her story. [She had given her story to Frank Report]
Q These were instructions you conveyed to him that you got from the defendant?
A Yeah — well, I told him that that’s what I thought Keith would want. I didn’t instruct him to do it and he wasn’t going to do it, he was leaving ESP, but I didn’t want to go back and tell Keith that I hadn’t raised it so I communicated that I thought Keith would want that.
Q To your knowledge, did Emiliano Salinas approach Nicole?
A No, not to my knowledge.
Q At this time do you know whether Nicole had ever spoken to the press or media?
A I don’t — I don’t know. I don’t have knowledge that she spoke to the press or media.
Q Did you have a later conversation with the defendant about Nicole in Mexico?
A I’m sorry, I was just trying to think if I had knowledge that she had spoken to the media.
Q Do you believe she did?
A At one point I believe that there was something attributed to her that was anonymous [on Frank Report] but I don’t recall what time period it was.
Q But it was anonymous.
A It was anonymous. She was not publicly identifying herself in the press.
Q Did you have a subsequent conversation with the defendant about Nicole in Mexico?
A I did, I wanted to know who the woman was who had performed oral sex on her while she was blindfolded and I had asked if it was Allison and he said it was not Allison and I asked who it was and he said it was Camila.
Q How did he express this to you?
A That it was something that Cami was interested in exploring and — I don’t know if he thought it was — I mean he expressed it to me on a walk, he was like smiling and laughing when he said it.
Q Prior to this had you been told about this — how did you know to ask him that, when did you first learn —
A Because Nicki had told me after interviewing India that Nicki had had to do this, she had had a test.
Q Let’s back up, Ms. Salzman.
Q When did you first hear about what had happened with Nicole?
A It was in the summer following when DOS became public [by Frank Report], I’m not sure specifically what month, but Nicki [Clyne] went to interview Allison’s slaves to find out from a different perspective than Allison’s what had taken place in the group because there were assertions of sexual relationships with Keith and coercion coming out of that group, so Nicki – we all thought it was good but Nicki specifically went to find out what the other women’s perception was of what happened.
Q What did you hear?
AGNIFILO: I object.
THE COURT: Sustained.
THE WITNESS: Okay.
Q You testified, Ms. Salzman, that the defendant stated that Camila had performed oral sex on Nicole?
A Yes, he did.
Q Did he express whether Nicole knew that Camila was — had performed or — that Camila had performed oral sex on her?
A He did not and I didn’t ask. I was more concerned with whether it had been him.
Q Did the defendant make an insulting comment about Nicole at this time?
A Yes, he did.
Q What did he say?
A I mean I had gone to him several times now about his relationship with Nicole which he had continued to misrepresent as non-sexual but then over time it started to be, well, ‘it’s different than, you know, that it kind of was sexual’ and then he said basically but she smelled funny which I thought was derogatory and placating that he was trying to somehow make me feel better that this is who he was choosing to have a sexual relationship with instead of me because he really didn’t like it anyway.
Q Did your conversation with the defendant disturb you?
A Yes. All of the things that I was learning were disturbing me and at the same time I compartmentalized all of them and I couldn’t believe that these were the things and that it was — that it could be what I was hearing or interpreting and at one point I even raised with him that I could see why other people were upset about the seduction assignments, like this was, you know, an upsetting thing and he was — I said ‘if I did this, like if… you found out that I went and seduced some guy under a collateralized vow, I think you would have a problem with it.’ He was like, ‘no, I wouldn’t because I trust you.’ And I was like that’s not believable to me. It wasn’t believable to me what he was saying and I still couldn’t come to grips with all the inconsistencies that I was seeing between what I — what he was representing he was doing and what I — all the information that I was getting about what was going on and I could not come to grips with this and I just kept shoving it aside and insisting that ‘it’s Keith, it’s got to be good, it’s got to be ethical, it’s got to be right’ and going forward but it was — it was starting to get to the point where I had real concerns.
Q Why did you stay?
A It’s a hard thing to explain but I mean I was with – in NXIVM and with Keith as my teacher, as my mentor and as the person I looked to for how to be a good person and how to be effective and successful at negotiating the world for 20 years, I mean like almost half of my adult life. I never worked outside of NXIVM or outside of a company that my mom was the head of. I had never been on my own outside of this — I had signed extensive noncompete agreements in my own field, so I didn’t know — when I considered or entertained the idea of leaving the relationship, I had to consider and entertain the idea of leaving NXIVM because I didn’t see how I could leave the relationship and still exist in the same way in NXIVM and so that was very difficult and I couldn’t really deal with the — I couldn’t figure out how I was going to make that work. I didn’t want to be away from my mom or away from my sister and I — but more than anything I didn’t — I wanted — the things that I thought about Keith and all the things that he promised me to be true, I wanted to believe that all of this was for my growth and that this was — that the relationship that he was saying we were going to have really was something that he meant and that he had promised it legitimately, that all the things that I had traded to try to prove to him that I was a good person and I was all the things that he would want me to be to feel proud to call me his partner and to have a child with me rather than saying that I was so far below his ethical standard that I couldn’t even understand how far below I was which was something he said to me and like constant feedback about how I was responsible for all the problems that we were having or the failures that we were having and I needed to prove to him that I could be that. I needed — and I thought that if I could prove that to him, then I could believe it about myself and I just couldn’t justify how I — everything and all the choices that I made in the last 20 years, if everything I was seeing was bad and so I told myself it wasn’t and went forward continuing to support him and to try to prove that everything we did was not what the allegations were and it was getting harder and harder to think that what we had done was not what the allegations were.
Lauren’s last answer was 470 words. A lengthy answer to a single question, and yet, within it is revealed Lauren’s life story.
This is a true cult education. Lauren follows him knowing in her heart he is wrong, as her head tells her he must be right.
Let’s break down that last answer. I’ll rewrite it, eliminating useless repetition and shortening sentences:
It’s hard to explain but Keith was my teacher, my mentor and the person I looked to to know how to be a good person and how to be effective and successful at negotiating the world for 20 years, almost half my life.
I never worked outside of NXIVM or outside a company my mom was not head of. I was never on my own.
I signed extensive noncompete agreements in my field. When I entertained the idea of leaving my relationship with Keith, I had to entertain the idea of leaving NXIVM. I didn’t see how I could leave the relationship and still work for NXIVM.
I didn’t want to be away from my mom or my sister either.
More than anything I wanted what I thought about Keith, and the things he promised, to be true.
I wanted to believe this was for my growth and the relationship he promised we were going to have was something he meant and that he would keep his promise.
I had given up a lot of things to prove I was a good person. I wanted him to be proud to call me his partner and have a child with me rather than saying I was below his ethical standard. So far below I couldn’t even understand how far below I was, which was something he said to me.
He gave me constant feedback about how I was responsible for all the problems Nxivm was facing.
I needed to prove to him that I could be ethical and worthy of him. I thought if I could prove that to him, then I could believe it about myself.
I couldn’t justify the choices I made in the last 20 years, if everything I was seeing about Keith was bad. I told myself it wasn’t bad. I continued to support him and to try to prove that everything we did was not what the allegations were against us. But it was getting harder and harder to believe that what we had done was not exactly what the allegations were.