This is the next in our series on Lauren Salzman, as we cull her testimony in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
Lauren was a witness for the prosecution.
In our last post in this series, Lauren spoke about how Daniella, a Mexican woman who was in the country illegally, was to be confined to her room until she healed an ethical breach.
At this point in her testimony, Lauren had not explained Dani’s ethical breach, the reason why she had to be confined to a room.
I think it is best that readers know what it was. This way they can better judge the actions of Ranere, Lauren and Dani herself.
No one knew, including Lauren and Dani’s family, what Dani’s breach was. Lauren only knew it was severe and constituted an offense against the godly Raniere and also harmful to the community and, of course, to Dani herself.
Only Dani and Keith knew that her ethical breach was that she had kissed another man – Ben Myers.
Keith demanded that she agree to never be with another man for the rest of her life.
Dani said that if Keith could have other women, she too could have other men. She was repudiating Keith’s essential teaching that men are polygamous and women are monogamous. She was repudiating Keith’s vital teaching that once his miracle sperm was given to a woman, it set up a lifelong spiritual communion between them so deep and esoteric that being with another man could create a cataclysmic shift in world energies and result in grave harm to Keith.
For her part, as Dani told me herself in an interview long before the trial, she was willing to continue to have a relationship with Keith knowing he had a harem, but she was not willing to give up the chance to find a true relationship with another man.
She had kissed Ben Myers and planned to kiss him again and maybe do more than just kiss. Ben seemed interested in a relationship with her.
Keith was extremely wroth. This was a huge ethical breach. He did not want to drive Ben away from Nxivm for he needed him to illegally hack into his enemies’ and even his own follower’s computers.
So Keith demanded Dani never be with Ben or anyone else. She refused. Consequently, she had committed the most severe ethical breach.
But no one knew this. Dani did not tell it for reasons best known to herself, perhaps because she did not want her family to know she had been having sex with Keith since she was 18. And that her sisters, Mariana and Cami, were also having sex with him. The parents did not know that any of their daughters were receiving the miraculous sperm of the master.
Keith confidently knew Dani would not tell anyone about the real reason she was being sent to her room. They would all think it was something much more devious – like her stealing or lying.
Keith could play the upright savior, putting Dani in her room for her own good, for what was supposed to be a week or 10 days, but which strung out to 700 days, for Dani was stubborn and Keith even more so.
Perhaps he would have let her rot there for the rest of her life, if need be. He wanted to own Dani and destroy her of course, which was what was meant by his ownership of a woman. If he could not own her, he would punish her. She would have to leave Albany and go back to Mexico and never speak to him, the Nxivm community, or her family again.
What is interesting here is not so much Raniere’s cruelty; we all know and expect that. But Lauren’s willingness to go along with it.
In her testimony, she almost makes a clean breast of it, admitting she was a monster to Dani. She lets its slip as to the reason why: This was her project – assigned to her by Keith – to get Dani to heal her breach, without her even knowing what the breach was.
And Lauren was mostly worried that if she failed Keith, he would not have a baby with her. Once again, Lauren put her own self-interest, her desire to have a baby with Keith, ahead of all humanity.
She let a woman rot in a room for 700 days, barely even seeing her after a time.
Imagine moving on with your life, doing your day-to-day events, and letting a woman remain alone, in solitary confinement, a woman you are assigned to help out, and not caring, only caring if you can get pregnant by your lordly master.
Not thinking one bit about the woman whose life is being wasted in a dull room month after month.
This is the true Lauren Salzman. Skip the tears that made the judge stop the cross-examination; skip the mea culpa, the ‘I thought I was doing right’ nonsense of her oft word salad testimony.
This is a woman who let another woman fester in her lonely cell and who went about gaily in life, thinking only of having the chance to be the incubator of his sperm.
Sick little Lauren Salzman.
As for Dani, the force for her being there was not a lock on the door, but the knowledge that she would never speak to her family again. Ever. If she left. Lauren knew this. They did not need a lock and key.
The punishment for not agreeing to be with Keith was the loss of her family and to be alone in the world, for she had devoted her entire adult life to Nxivm. She had no other friends, no money and she was not legally in the USA.
Dani’s family seems as villainous as Keith and Lauren. The parents had not one iota of protective instincts. They loved and trusted their Vanguard more than their own daughter.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar is examining Lauren.
Lauren had previously testified that Keith had spoken with her about accepting the “project” of overseeing Dani in her room.
Q … I agreed to take the project based on what he laid out; he told me he was going to call me back, and then he called me back and told me that the family wanted to go forward with this plan [of Dani being confined to her room] and the parents came over to my house and met with me.
Q The defendant told you that the family wanted to go through with this plan?
Q What happened when you met with the family?
A Hector and Adriana [Dani’s parents] came to my house and they told me that they felt that this was a good option because Daniella – they didn’t know how to handle her, basically; that they felt that it had gotten to the — it had gotten out of control and they felt responsible for her being this way, and so they thought that this was a good option and that they were going to present her, basically, with the ultimatum that she would go into her room until she came up with something that was acceptable to them and — or go back to Mexico.
And then there was an additional conversation that I had with Keith before they actually presented the plan to her that he said the family was concerned that she might extend the time in the room or view it as a type of vacation; and so in order to make it less comfortable and to inspire her to want to get out of the room quickly, they were going to remove anything comfortable from the room.
So the idea was that she would go into a room with nothing in the room except her bed — like, bed on the floor, paper and pencil, and nothing else — her clothes, you know, and not come out until she had met these conditions of satisfaction.
Q The defendant told you that the family had that concern?
Q What was the family’s — the members of — what was their demeanor as they were discussing this with you?
A That they seemed sad and ashamed about their participation, but that they felt that this was an important thing to go forward with, but there was trepidation; they weren’t — they were going to go forward with it, but they didn’t seem — they did not come across to me as super confident and secure in the choice or understanding of how their actions really related to what was going on with her and how this would fix that.
Q Did the defendant appear confident and secure in that choice?
Q Did the defendant ask you to keep this project a secret?
A Yes. He told me not to tell anybody about it, not to discuss it with anyone.
Q What about your communications with him about it?
A When I would check in with him about it, he would suggest I come over and check in in person. He told me to: ‘Better not talk on the phone, come over. Do you want to come over?’
Q As to the initial plan, how long was Daniella supposed to stay in the room?
A Keith told me initially he thought it would be, like, a weekend but that she might extend it to a week or ten days.
Q And what happened?
A She stayed there for 18 to 24 months, somewhere in there, a year and a half to two years. [actually 22 months]
Q Can you describe how Daniella entered the room?
A Yeah. Well, she — so the parents gave her this option, she decided she did want to go — that she didn’t want to go back to Mexico, so she agreed to go into the room, and I think she also seemed sad about what was being presented, but she did go in.
Q Was it your understanding that if she went to Mexico, she would no longer be able to have contact with her family?
A At some point, that became what my understanding was and hers. I think initially it wasn’t, but I think it became that; that if she went back, she believed that they would — she would lose her relationships with her family, and she was very concerned about that, losing their love, which to her was both the relationship with them and the love of their relationship and their support, which she had never lived without — their financial support. She had never lived on her own without that.
Q What was in the room?
A A bed on the floor and that’s it. I mean, she had paper and — access to paper and pen, pencil, and she was brought food three times a day. She was told that she was allowed to — she could request food from her family members and they might honor those requests or not; she could communicate with them through notes; and the family said they were not going to communicate with her — later some of them did, but that was it.
Q Was any furniture in the room?
A No. Just the bed on the floor, mattress on the floor.
Q Was Daniella permitted to leave the room?
A Only — she was permitted to go in her room and the bathroom, which was a shared bathroom with the family.
Q Aside from her room and the bathroom, was she allowed to leave?
A No, not if she wanted to stay in the United States.
Q And did you tell her that she would be — that she would have to go to Mexico if she left?
A Yes. I told her that ‘this was the agreement that you made, that you would complete this. If you want to stay, you complete this.’
Q And did the defendant tell you that?
A Yes. And he [Keith] told me to tell her that she didn’t have to stay in the room, she could just go back to Mexico.
Q Did Daniella have any human contact during the time that she was in the room?
A Only with me and then later with some — with her siblings at the end, only towards the very end.
Q What did she do during the day?
A Different things: She — she wrote to Keith every day, sometimes multiple times a day; she did exercise; she cleaned her room and the bathroom. She thought. Sometimes she did propose things that she thought could rectify whatever her infractions were that she had, you know, done or allegedly done, and that she — and a lot of times she watched her sister [Cami] outside the window, but sometimes she told me she wasn’t doing anything and she had various — there were different things she was going through in the room. She had different health struggles in the room, and emotionally it was very difficult for her at times. Sometimes she was more resolute about being there.
Q The things that Daniella proposed, did you bring them to the defendant?
Q What did he say?
A It depended on the thing, but, I mean, there were different times where I would spend with her and I thought that we had made progress and he told me that she had just been manipulating me for hours and I couldn’t see it.
Other things that were proposed, he said she was trying to get around having to really do what it took to fix it. Certain things she was expressing he told me were temper tantrums, but that a lot of this was just game-playing and that it was very difficult for him, basically, that I wasn’t able to negotiate this or figure this out and that the family also was not able to negotiate this.
You know, so I felt that somehow I was screwing it up in my ineptitude and my failure to be able to see what was going on, which he seemed to think was so obvious was thwarting the process somehow.
Q The things that the defendant said about Daniella game-playing, did that correspond to what you were observing?
A It didn’t initially, and then I came to see everything she was doing as game-playing, and I — it’s my experience that the family did, too.
At some point, almost everything that initially we had thought were her efforts and we had raised as her making legitimate attempts to meet the requirements, later, all of us, almost everything she said, we were like, ‘No, no, that’s not the measurable thing; no, you’re not doing what’s required, no,’ and we saw everything that she was doing at the end as game-playing.
Q You said that Daniella’s siblings brought her her food.
Q Could they interact with her when they did that?
A No. The agreement was that they were not supposed to interact with her.
Q When you say “the agreement,” what are you talking about?
A They made an agreement with Dani that she was going to go in and they weren’t going to communicate with her until she came out, but when Adriana, the mom, was communicating with her, Keith would tell me that that was not what was agreed upon and that Adriana was going back on what she said and that she was thwarting the process.
Q So when you say “the agreement,” are you referring to the fact that if Daniella left the room, she would have to go back to Mexico?
A Yes, and the conditions of that, which were that she was to go into the room with no contact with anybody but me.
Q Was Daniella sad?
A Often she was sad, yes. It was really — it was really — those relationships were very important to her, and she — it was very hard for her to not have communication with her family during that time. She expressed that she didn’t know how to heal things if she wasn’t interacting with them, and so she felt like she didn’t know how to make things better without the relationships, and she didn’t know if she could be okay or survive without the relationships emotionally or materially. So that all was very upsetting to her.
Q Did she tell you she wanted to leave?
Q Did she tell you she was afraid?
Q Of what?
A She was afraid of losing the relationships and she was afraid of what would happen if she went back to Mexico. She was afraid if she went back to Mexico, that she would lose the relationships. And she was afraid that she wouldn’t — didn’t know how to survive without her family. And also she, I think, viewed failing, this is — as she didn’t want to lose the relationship with Keith either and she still very much wanted that.
Q Did you threaten her that if she left she would be sent to Mexico?
A Yes, I did.
Q And during this period of time, did you report to the defendant?
A Yes. Every time I interacted with her, I did report to him.
Q And what did he tell you in these reports?
A Similar to what I said before. I mean, that, you know, sometimes he would be thinking about what — what should be done. And sometimes I would ask him for direction. Often he would say that I couldn’t tell her what to do, but that there were these markers we needed to look for and everything that we presented as a marker was not a marker and not being a marker and was just more game playing.
Q Can you explain what that means?
A Yeah. That there were measurable things that we were supposed to be looking for. And like at one time he was like, ‘Well, if I was in the room I would be writing letters to everybody, you know, and doing things.’ But she was writing letters and she was also told that she wasn’t supposed to be communicating with anybody. So there are contradictory signals, but she was writing him every day, sometimes multiple times a day. And often he didn’t even read those letters. He asked me to hold the letters.
So I don’t know how he would have known if there were markers if what I was communicating were not markers and there were these markers that could have been seen. And she was trying to write to him consistently, and he wasn’t looking at what that was, how he would know if really she met the markers.
Q What happened to the letters that Daniella wrote to the defendant while she was in the room?
A Well, initially, me or her family members would photocopy them for her to keep a copy and then I would take a copy to Keith, but he asked me to hold them. So I held most of them. And he gave some to Nicki [Clyne] after he was — or after he left — or when he left for Mexico. And then after he was arrested, I photocopied and made them available [to the prosecution].
Q Were some of those letters unopened?
A Most of them were unopened. So I opened them, you know, and provided them as material [for the feds].
Q How long did Daniella stay in the room?
A More than 18 — around — or more than 18 months. It could have been up to two years. She was in there forever — I mean, a really long time.
Q How often did you visit her?
A At first I visited her every day. And then I went less, once a week. And there were times, you know, and then less and less and there were times where I didn’t go, honestly for — for a month or more.
Like I — I was really mad at her for not figuring out whatever she was supposed to be doing to end this for herself and for all of us, and I was mad because I thought she was playing games and being manipulative with me and I couldn’t figure that out. And I felt mad that now I was in a position to fail again and be the reason that nothing can move forward, or that I’m blamed for the bad things that are happening in the community or for the fact that we [Keith and Lauren] can’t have a relationship or kids.
And honestly, I was very incredibly discompassionate with her and I was unkind often. At time I punished her. You know, it was terrible.
Q How do you feel about participating in this now?
A I think it’s horrendous. I — of every — of all the things that I did in this case and the crimes that I committed, too, I think that this is the worst thing that I did. I — I don’t know what to say. I kept her in her room for two years, and I didn’t even go visit her most of the time. And I wasn’t that nice to her and it’s awful.
And the family, they were close as a family when they came to us. And those relationships were incredibly severed through this and other things that happened. And I don’t know how you can ever recover from that. And I don’t — it’s something I really struggle to come to grips with and figure out how to fix. I think it’s terrible.
There it is, “Of all the things that I did in this case and the crimes that I committed, too, I think that this is the worst thing that I did.”
A couple of other points: Lauren testified that Keith told her that it was Dani’s family’s idea that there should be nothing in the room except her bed on the floor, paper and pencil, and nothing else.
I suspect that it was Keith’s idea and he suggested it and they went along with it for they knew he knew best.
When Lauren testified “I would check in with him about it, he would suggest I come over and check-in in person. He told me to: ‘Better not talk on the phone, come over. Do you want to come over?'”
He knew what her answer to that question would be. Did she want to come over? She lived for that one word of being called.
Lauren never missed a chance to come over or be with him. In this respect, that she had a chance to come over more often made the confinement of Dani an attractive thing for Lauren.
Keep in mind that all the while Dani was in the room, as Lauren knew, Keith was living with Dani’s older sister Mariana.
And later as it developed that Dani was not going to get out of the room soon, and Keith was no longer interested in having her come over to discuss Dani’s situation, Lauren visited Dani less and less.
For why waste time on a little girl in a room when Lauren had to connive other ways to please her hoped-for avatar baby father.
God, what an awful mother she would have been.
With all this said, by the way, and although I am no fan of Lauren Salzman, I do not think she should be harshly punished. She is what she is, and a prison cage is not going to change that.
Nor is she a terrible menace to society.
There is a chance she might hook up with another psychopath and do foul deeds for him. But she is now well known and beyond the avatar baby stage. She is too well known as a freak, or a crazy to ever win back obscurity.
She will be always known as a fool and a weasel who would do foul deeds for her slick advantage.
But at the end of the day, is she really someone that society needs to cage for an excessive period of time? It might be far more productive to get her serious therapy.