This is the next in our series on the testimony of Lauren Salzman.
The last few posts were comprised pretty much of Lauren’s description of the imprisonment of Daniella for some 700 days at the command of Keith Alan Raniere. She was imprisoned because she had kissed Ben Myers – and then refused to come up with a plan for making up for that transgression.
Raniere’s rule for his harem members was that he could be the only man ever to touch them. Each of them had to pledge life-long loyalty and sexual exclusivity to The Vanguard.
At this stage of the testimony, we have learned that Daniella finally left the room and was driven down to Mexico from Albany by her father, who left her there without ID and with just $200.
She had no job, no home and no friends in Mexico. She was told if she did certain things – like write book reports and follow the path that would please Keith – she would be permitted to return. She had not healed her ethical breach for kissing Ben Myers, despite being in solitary confinement for 700 days.
When her father dropped her off, he deliberately refused [perhaps following Keith’s orders] to give her her ID papers. Here is where the actual crime comes in. It is called document servitude – refusing to give this woman, who had been imprisoned for almost two years her necessary paperwork, is a crime.
Keith was charged with it. It seems her father and Lauren and others were co-conspirators.
In this excerpt from her testimony, Lauren admits that the righteousness they all collectively felt about what they were doing is now something she realizes was wrong.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar is examining Lauren.
Q Can you explain to the jury what you knew of what happened to Daniella when she was –
A When she went to Mexico?
A My understanding is that they drove her down to Mexico, that she crossed the border and her father had given her a certain number of Pesos that were like 200-ish dollars, maybe, give or take. And that they had left her with the father’s accountant and that the accountant drove her to a city where — I think she chose to stay, but where she wanted to go. And they left her and initially that when her dad left he said that he would help her in any way that he could to — to do whatever was needed to come back [to Albany] as long as she was willing to do the work, he would support her.
And then later that plan changed. And he didn’t provide the documents, the document — providing the documents and we all weighed in on it basically, but she was down there because she didn’t have her documents. She didn’t have, I think, her birth certificate. She didn’t have a passport. She didn’t have what she needed to be able to establish a work situation or get a visa or do any of the things she needed to come back.
And so a lot of her time was being — she was reporting that it was taking her so much time to be able to try to find work and find a place to live without the papers that she needed to do that. It was taking too much time to get what she needed to get the papers that she didn’t have time — she was so busy trying to survive that she didn’t have time to do the book report and all of us interpreted it as her making up stories, being unwilling to do what she needed to do, and lying about what was going on.
And at one point she had like said that she — you know, had gone to a festival or something and we all jumped on it like, well, instead of healing she was just going to a party but she had just spent two years in a room and lost her whole family and got shipped across the border with no papers and almost no money, I don’t think it’s — for her to take time to process what happened and figure out what she was going to do I don’t think is the way we were interpreting it at the time and I think at that point almost anything she would have done we were like, no, no, no. Nothing she did was — was meeting the requirements.
Q Did she have the financial support of her family?
A No. Her father withdrew the financial support and she was writing e-mails saying I don’t understand why you said you would do this and I don’t know why you changed and I don’t — I can’t — there’s nothing I can do in the circumstance that I’m in to be able to meet the requirements that you’re imposing without the papers to be able to even get a job to pay for what I need to pay for to get what is being asked.
Q And were her identification documents being withheld from her?
Q Do you know what documents they were?
A I don’t. She mentioned a birth certificate at least in one e-mail that I remember, but I don’t…
Q What about the other family members, were they permitted to contact Daniella –Marianna and Camila?
A I don’t believe so. I mean, I don’t think anybody –she was communicating to or through, I believe, her father and I don’t think anybody else was speaking to her. They took a stand against it.
Q Who was the book report for?
A For Keith.
Q How did — you said Kristin Keeffe and Daniella’s father took her across the border?
Q How? Can you describe what you know of that?
A I know that they drove by car.
Q From New York?
A From New York down to, I believe, Texas and then crossed at a border down there. I don’t recall which border or what city. And Kristin watched her cross, as I understand. And along the way Kristin said that she searched Dani’s things and found that Dani had stolen some money and things and then later Kristin reported that Dani had hacked into e-mail and Facebook accounts, but I don’t know about that other than what Kristin said about it. So they were also asking her to turn over all passwords to all accounts.
Q Were you aware if Kristin Keeffe was in contact with the defendant [Raniere] on the way to Mexico?
A Yes. I heard she was but I can’t remember if Keith told me or Cami told me.
[Hajjar shows Lauren a letter and asks her what it is.]
A This is a letter from Hector, Dani’s father, to the family members, just the siblings, so Marianna, Adrian and Cami [Dani’s sisters and brother] and Kristin and I are cc’d on the e-mail and it’s –the subject is “Dani update,” so it’s an update about Dani.
Q What’s the date….
A February 27, 2012.
Q And do you see where it says she had “ten weeks to do three tasks while in Mexico?”
Q Can you read those three — the three things?
A [Hector, Dani’;s father wrote] “One earning her living down there. I just gave her 1660 Pèsos cash, around 128 US dollars and I paid the bus ticket to Merida; two, deliver book report results; three, getting her USA visa. I would pay the fees but Dani needed to do all the paperwork.”
Q Showing you the bottom part of this exhibit. Can you just read the text that you see right here (indicating)?
A Yes. “She said she chose a book in Spanish called Sensations and Perceptions to start book report. KK,” which is Kristin Keeffe “thinks that she is still playing games with little or no conscience. KK has proof that Dani hacked the Greathead account. KK had changed the password previously.”
Q Now these book reports, are these the assignments that you were referring to before?
Q Do you know what the Greathead account is?
A It was an e-mail account of Dani’s.
Q ….I’m showing you what is in evidence as Government’s Exhibit 1488R. This is a series of e-mails. Can you read the bottom e-mail?
A [Hector wrote to his daughter] “Dear Dani, The family no longer has the heart to keep calling you out on your destructiveness and playing your games. Please send a book report and all the e-mail accounts and passwords you had access to in the last year to me within 48 hours. This report needs to based on a book that is 250 pages or more and must be a minimum of 10,000 words. Thereafter you will need to send one new book report by midnight Eastern Standard time every seven days. If you do not complete these tasks without exception or excuse it will demonstrate to us a lack of care for the family and therefore we cannot support such difference in values. Additionally you need to legitimately return to Clifton Park by Wednesday, April 4, 2012, unfortunately we cannot consider sending you any of your requested documents. With Love, Papa, Marvy, Fluffy, and Cami.”
Q What did you understand any of her requested documents to be?
A That they weren’t going to send her, her immigration documents, her birth certificate or — and whatever else they had.
Q Do you recall if this e-mail had been drafted previously?
A Yes, I recall that Kristen Keeffe had drafted the letter previously.
Q “This report needs to be based on a book that is 250 pages or more and must be a minimum of 10,000 words.” What is that describing?
A The book that she would do the book report on.
Q That e-mail was sent on February 29, 2012?
A This one in front of me?
Q The one that Daniella’s father sent that you just read.
A Yes, correct.
Q And did Daniella respond?
A She did respond.
Q And can you read her response?
A “Papa, I don’t have a book report now, I will not have it ready in 48 hours. I started working on the one I told you and it is about 600 pages long and in a large textbook like format so it doesn’t fit my measurements and I started it just on Saturday. Also I have sent you all the accounts I had access to. There’s nothing more I can send you. I didn’t open a Facebook or Skype account yet as I said I would because it would be pointless since I have no money to pay the cyber to use them. Without my papers I cannot do anything about my visa at all. I’m so sad, I cry every time I’m alone. You haven’t answered my constant questions about being able to write Keith and Cami and Fluffy and Marvy. I have so much I need to say to each of you, this really seems impossible now. Why won’t you send me my papers? You said on the last talk you and Kristin had with me that you would help with me with my visa in every way you could. Sending me what I needed even economically and I’m not asking for anything but my papers. I will pay you for sending them if that is what you want. There is nothing I can do without them. I cannot renew my passport yet because I have no money. I cannot open a bank account to begin building the basis for a tourist visa because I have no proof of address.
“I cannot begin applying at Au Pair institutes because I have no proof of any education. I can do nothing. What is this? What did I had do? I have been trying to survive and just as I’m getting started what am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do?
Q When Daniella writes “you have not answered my constant questions about being able to write Keith and Cami and Fluffy and Marvy,” what did you understand her to mean?
A That she was asking for permission to do that because she had been told she couldn’t.
Q And what reference to her papers, what did you understand that to mean?
A Whatever the immigration documents she had or that, that her father had in his possession that she was asking for.
Q Now, on February 29, 2012, did Kristin Keeffe respond?
Q And can you just read the first paragraph?
A “Hi All, I think this is total fabrication. Dani has been stealing in mind about book reports since before Gaelyn was born. In all these years, she has never produced one book report that was adequately done and submitted in a straightforward fashion. Does she really expect us to believe that after all these years of not producing and now when she had a full time — oh, I’m sorry, my screen went black — now when she has a full-time job for the first time in her life, allegedly, she chose to do a book report on a book that is the three times the minimum length, a 30,000 word report? She is such a liar, it takes my breathe away.” Continue?
Q When — at the bottom of the e-mail Kristin Keeffe writes, “Whatever we decide to do I think it’s really important everyone stay strong and holds the line.” What did you understand that holding the line to be?
A Not giving her what she was asking for and not changing the conditions under which she could have what she was asking for.
Q On February 29, 2012, did you respond?
A Yes, I did.
Q Can you read your e-mail?
A “I’m in agreement with all of you. Not one apology to anyone since she left. I think this is all gameplaying. In the least, she could send a well-formed outline of the steps it would take for her to legitimately get her papers and ask for an extension as needed. That’s what a responsible person would do, figure out the data, make a proposal, keep everyone apprised of progress. Saying I can do nothing is a lie.
“Also if is she wants to write people she could just write a letter, send it to Hector and request that he forward it. Victimizing herself when she’s been totally passive other than to make requests and demands is not the behavior of someone who is making a proactive effort in any forward moving direction.”
Q What did you mean by this e-mail?
A Well at the time, I was looking at it that what she was saying was not as it was and that if she really was committed to come back and really committed to healing, she would be doing the things that I listed.
Q What was “the steps it would take for her to legitimately get her papers?” What did you mean by that?
A Well, she did lay out the steps that it would take for her to list the demands — we got per papers in the first e-mail.
Q What — what does that mean?
A Well, so there’s two things. There’s her getting the papers back from her father by doing his steps, which she was explaining why she wasn’t able to do because she was laying out the legitimate steps it would take her in the circumstance she was in not being able to meet the deadline to get the request from her father.
Q What’s your view now of this response?
A I think that we were being incredibly abusive. Like the circumstances that she was left in were horrendous. She was describing to us what they were and everything she said — and the whole time that she had been in the room she was writing things she could do. She wrote a letter to her mom or she wrote a letter to Keith or she wrote proposals to me. Everything that she did we told her — we shot down and we told her it was manipulative or it was gameplaying or it was just trying to get something. So after you beat that into somebody until they finally submit and now they’re asking permission of what’s okay to do, all of a sudden saying, well, why are you asking for permission to everything? Why don’t you just do it? Because everything that she had already done, we were saying, no, no, this is an example of a problem. This is an example of why you’re in the room. This is bad behavior. So like at some point, nothing she could do was the right thing, and she got no help and was just cast out of the family.
Q Who told you her behavior was manipulative and game playing?
A Keith consistently told me that until we all started to see it that way. When I look back and read the things she was writing there were legitimate attempts to do the things that were being asked, that we were saying no, no, no at the time.
We have to keep in mind as we read Lauren’s mea culpa that Lauren is testifying as part of a cooperation agreement that she hopes will spare her years in prison. I think it probably will spare her prison time.
When it was going on, when Dani was a captive, nobody thought for a moment how awful it was to place a woman in solitary confinement in a room for 700 days and none of them even knew what the real reason was for her confinement.
Of course, what stands out in this excerpt is Dani’s father. He was so enamored or hypnotized by Raniere – and so unaware of the real reason his daughter was being punished – that he supported her captivity and then blindly put his daughter in a very dangerous position.
He gave her $200 and left her without ID, without a home or a job – left her at the U.S./Mexico border, out on the streets like she was a feral cat – to fend for herself.
This is an unnatural kind of father. And clearly, he was a co-conspirator in the document servitude crimes against his daughter. He wanted to testify for Raniere – to try to explain how Raniere helped his daughters – but chose not to do so because he knew there was an excellent chance that the DOJ would arrest him if he came north.
In the end, we have to give a little dose of self responsibility to Dani. She chose not to tell her father what really happened between her and Keith – and between Keith and her two sisters. Maybe she couldn’t. Maybe the father would not have believed her. Certainly, her sisters would have lied for Keith.
But to Dani’s credit, she finally set out and launched her own life – and now she has a splendid career in a management position wih an international company based in Mexico.
Viva Dani’s Success!