By: Omar W. Rosales
[Omar Rosales is author of ‘American Cult’ and a former Marine. Rosales has been featured in the NY Times, People Magazine, The Economist, and Fox News.]
As Keith Raniere, aka Vanguard, aka Prisoner #57005-177 approaches his sentencing, the question on everyone’s mind is – what will the great one say?
For years, Raniere sought to capture the attention of millions around the world. Well, he finally has his opportunity. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Because what is at stake is his future, his legacy, and, most importantly, his life. So, what is a convicted swindler to do?
In the Federal system, sentencing is rote. The District Judge (also called The Court) has read and reviewed the PSR/PSI (Pre-Sentence Report, Pre-Sentence Investigation), the Probation Officer has made their recommendation, the attorneys on both sides have either agreed with the PSR or filed their objections.
The Court calls the hearing to order, the Defendant is asked to rise. Both the prosecution and defense then comment on the PSR. The Probation Officer and Government then note the recommended sentencing range in months. After the recommended sentence is explained to the Court, the Defendant is given the chance to address the court in what’s called the allocution.
At this point, most defendants are faced with three choices: 1) say nothing, 2) deny everything, or 3) accept responsibility and ask for leniency. Each choice has its risk and reward. Let’s go through the scenarios.
- Say nothing. Keith Raniere can just choose to stay silent. By keeping quiet, Keith would be hoping not to ignite the Court’s fury with his denial of the entire episode. He would also preserve all his appellate rights. This would be the smart thing to do.
- Deny everything. Keith could go out in a blaze of glory. By denying all the charges, proclaiming his innocence, and speaking about the usefulness of his technology, Keith could remain defiant to the end. In Keith’s mind, he could try to save his reputation, preserve his “good” name, and portray himself as a political prisoner – buried by a corrupt government conspiracy. Keith would note that he didn’t do the branding. Keith would claim that he didn’t confine Dani in her room. Keith would point out that he didn’t smuggle cash and people across the border and into the United States. All these criminal acts were done by others.
And Keith is poor. He has no assets. Doesn’t even own a car. Clothes used to just magically appear for him. Never mind that he wears thousand-dollar custom-tailored suits and Gucci loafers. These lavish items just show up for him.
- Accept responsibility. Raniere could also accept full responsibility and beg the Court for mercy. Keith could finally ‘come clean’ and admit to his role in the cult. He could acknowledge his crimes, apologize to his victims, and apologize to the Court for all the trouble he’s caused. I think the chances of this are very low.
So what will the Vanguard do? Will his skills at Rational Inquiry be effective? Will the self-proclaimed World’s Smartest Man try to save his skin? Or will he utter nothing, and maintain the illusory sanctity of his teachings, a la Ted ‘the Unabomber’ Kaczynski with his treatise on the ills of technology?
I think Keith will make a short statement. He’s such an egomaniac, I don’t think he can resist saying something. And it might be short. I think Keith will say something close to, “I’m completely innocent, I never branded anyone, my teachings and philosophy helped hundreds of thousands of people. We are building a new World. And I will never be ashamed of my teachings.” Or something to that effect.
Will it make a difference? Probably not. Will it affect his appeal? Probably not.
But, like most flimflam men and con-artists, he cannot keep his mouth shut. It isn’t in a crook’s nature not to be a crook. That’s in his blood. Keith Raniere cannot simply accept his fate. Everything is someone else’s fault. When in reality, the person that trapped and killed Keith was Keith Raniere. There is no other ending to this story.
Keith will probably die in prison.
Alone. Forgotten. Discredited. Ashamed.