As readers know, Sylvie, the long time Nxivm member, Clare’s assistant, got permission to marry John, another Nxivm member.
In Nxivm, you needed permission from the leader, Keith Alan Raniere, to get married. He gave consent with a condition – that the two of them were not to have sex for two years. This would permit Raniere to try to seduce Sylvie. The marriage was convenient for Raniere too since Sylvie needed to get a green card and remain in the USA to be under Raniere’s command. John was an American.
Sylvie evidently did not know Keith’s secret plans for her – and she was completely absorbed it seems in the self-destructive, confidence-eroding Nxivm classes. By this time, she had become a coach and worked for Clare Bronfman.
Like most women deep into Nxivm, she was unhappy. This was the state that Raniere worked to achieve for women and, of course, for them to have large self-doubt, to blame themselves for their misery and lack of health, and to believe that only Nxivm and the profound Raniere could ever get them out of it.
Sylvie was married and not having sex with her husband. She was being monitored daily and – despite the fact that she sounds like a weak-minded person with no grit or pluck to stand up to her rules – she had been in for about 10 years and was now around 30 years old – she had given all her adult life to Nxivm.
This is what she knew. By the time these events occurred, she had been slow-boiled – indoctrinated to obey Nxivm like a robot – while being taught that whenever she had good common sense ideas – like having a normal marriage or normal ambition – she was told by the Nxivm wolf pack that she was being a robot.
In fact, they denigrated her with the nickname Slyvie-bot [meaning Sylvie the robot] for her desire to lead a normal life. But I wonder if Keith did not secretly laugh at the nickname for he had succeeded almost in making her a robot.
But not quite. As we shall see in a later post.
This is first day of the trial of Keith Alan Raniere, May 7, 2019. Sylvie is on the witness stand being examined by AUSA Moira Penza.
Sylvie will now describe how, being unhappy, she bought into hearing about an idea from her Nxivm friend Monica Duran.
Before we proceed to the testimony, readers will learn that Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, objected to the government’s deciding which Nxivm women would have their first and last names revealed to the jury and the public and which ones would have first names only.
In my opinion, Agnifilo makes a very good point. The prosecution seems to have just decided – without any specific rationale or standard – which women would be referred to by first and last names and which ones wouldn’t.
It was entirely arbitrary and capricious and gave the prosecution a powerful tool since the natural inference was that anyone whose last name was used was likely a bad person and anyone whose first name only was used was likely a victim.
Now it may be true, but this was done not by a finding of the court, but by the prosecution, without any input from the defense, or for that matter, it seems, from the judge.
We find the prosecution simply declaring during testimony who can be referred to by first and last names and who to refer to by their first name only. It is certainly not due process and it certainly gives Agnifilo another argument on appeal.
In this excerpt, Sylvie gives an account of her marriage to John, who was also a Nxivm member.
It helps us understand the level of control that Keith Raniere and his top minion, Clare Bronfman, [and her wealth] had over those who were committed to Nxivm.
Sylvie had to seek Keith’s permission to get married – and was also instructed by him not to have sex with her husband for two years.
As we shall see in a future post in this series, Keith had a hidden agenda in preventing Sylvie and John from consummating their marriage. It had nothing to do with their spiritual growth – and was much more about getting Slyvie legally into the country so he could have her for himself.
Sylvie was the very first witness in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere. She gave jurors their first impression of what a victim of Raniere looked like.
An attractive, honest, and clearly sincere person, one could wonder why she would consent to such strange control, but nevertheless she made an impressive and sympathetic witness. A woman who came with good intentions from the time she was just 20 until she was a woman in her 30s – 12 years of life with Nxivm.
This is Part #7 in our series on Sylvie, the longtime Nxivm member who became a DOS slave.
Q Turning your attention next to Jness training in, I believe, around October 2015.
Q Did something happen there?
A Yes. So I was in the Jness room and I think I was …. at [the] time just trying to figure out how to be a wife without being told I was acting too much like a wife [by Clare Bronfman, etc.]….. and I was just having a hard time figuring all of that out and I was approached by Monica.
Q You can use the last name.
A Duran. And she said to me, like, “you seem really unhappy,” ….she was just talking to me about that, and I was… thinking, “oh, yes, I am quite unhappy.” She said, “Well, there’s something that I have for you that’s basically going to–” — I don’t remember her exact words, but I got the impression …. that she had this special project that could change everything for me and that it would help me be the person that I’ve always wanted to be …. That gave me some hope that there was something that … potentially … would make everything better.
Q Who was Monica Duran to you at that point in time?
A Well, it wasn’t like we were super close then, but when I had been anorexic…. I needed people…, the way it was set up [By Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman] was that people were monitoring my meals within the community. Clare put Monica in charge of taking care of me and so, me and Moni — Monica became close during that time because she was almost like a big sister or a mother to me. She would cook meals for me. I went everywhere with her. She would take me to the salsa club. We went salsa dancing. She was really fun. … she was someone that I felt… I could trust and … she was fun to be around and nice to me always.
Q I think you referred to her as “Moni” at one point?
A Yes, Moni. I used to call her “Moni.”
Q Did people in the community call her that?
A Yes, people that were close or knew her called her Moni.
AGNIFILO: Your Honor, before we go on, can we have a sidebar?
THE COURT: All right.
(The following occurred at sidebar.)
THE COURT [Judge Nicholas Garaufis]: Sir?
AGNIFILO: So I have objected to this whole “You can use her first name,” “You can’t use her first name” basis. I’m moving for a mistrial. I think what’s happening here is unprincipled. I think it’s destructive. I think it is absolutely going to be leaving the jury wondering why do we use some people’s full names, why do we use some people’s half names, first names.
This is exactly the issue I raised in writing. I said, in practice, this is going to be very difficult and I think what’s happening here is this is becoming — I don’t like this procedure. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair for the government to basically be in this cat-bird seat about how people are referred to at this trial and they give dispensation. You can say her full name. You can’t say her full name. There’s been no factually specific finding made as to any specific person and I think this is a violation of due process.
These are the issues I raised in my motion. I think it’s a violation of right to a fair trial and I’m moving for a mistrial and I think we’re playing games with the presumption of innocence and I think we’re impeding on the province of the jury in terms of there’s been no specific finding [of who should use first names only and whose last name should be used] and we’re being fast and loose, in my opinion, with how we’re making these decisions and I raised all this before the trial started and the way it’s playing out is exactly what I was afraid of and exactly what I warned about and I’m moving for a mistrial.
THE COURT: All right. We will take it up after the jury leaves for the day. Thank you.
THE COURT: All right. You may continue your examination.
BY MS. PENZA:
Q So when Monica came up to you, what else did she say to you?
A Yes. She told me that she had this special project and that it had nothing to do with the ESP or NXIVM but it was something that could really help me, but if I wanted to hear what it was, she needed [for me] to give …some collateral.
Q When she told you it had nothing to do with NXIVM or ESP, what assumptions did you make?
A I was intrigued… I was, like, ‘wow, this is a whole new thing that has nothing to do with the community or Keith or no one.’ It was, like, a new thing, and I’m pretty …. sure she told me at that point, it’s free. So I was, like, wow, this is not something to do with Nxivm or anything of this structure.
Q … what else did she say to you?
A … that if I wanted to [learn more], she couldn’t tell me … unless I was willing to provide some collateral.
Q Had you heard the term “collateral” before?
A Yeah. I’m pretty sure it was either introduced in Jness or The Ethicist. So I had heard it… multiple times before, so it wasn’t a new thing to me.
Q All right. Can you explain what your understanding of collateral was?
A … the way that I remember it being taught was that, say, if [I] had… agreed to cut your lawn, then I would give you the keys to my….house and … if I don’t cut your lawn, then you have my house. So it’s kind of used to make you do the thing that you said you were going to do.
Q So what happened next?
A … she [Monica] gave me some ideas about what the collateral should be and that it should be something that was… extremely embarrassing or … ruinous, like, something that you would never want somebody to know about you and if they did, then they would think completely differently about you and it could, like, destroy your relationship with them. So it should be something, like, so strong that, you know, not even your family would look at you the same way. That was the kind of thing that she said.
Q And how did you feel when she said that?
A I was sort of, like, oh, wow, like, this must be, like, that could be a very special project or, like, a big deal because, I don’t know, it just sounded quite extreme, but I was up for doing it. So I came up with an idea and I presented it to her …- and she [went] away for a night and … came back the next day and [said] ‘Lauren told me it wasn’t strong enough’ and I thought it was pretty extreme so I was surprised it wasn’t strong enough.
Q And then what happened next?
A I think I presented at least one more idea that… I was told wasn’t strong enough and then she [Monica] gave me some … direct ideas about what I should use. … I think she said… “why don’t you say, … that you want to be a prostitute or that you are a prostitute” ….. And she suggested that I write it, like, in a letter to my parents, that I put it in a stamped addressed envelope so that all she would have to do is send it to my parents if I was ever to, you know, break the collateral.
Q And is that what you ultimately provided?
A Yeah. I wrote a letter … that I was a prostitute and I made it… really detailed and …. reflecting really badly on me …. and it was addressed to my parents.
Q And Monica thought that was strong enough?
A Yes, she thought that was strong enough.
So let’s recap here.
I imagine some readers are thinking that Sylvie agreed to everything – and every inch of the way.
She was excited about the prospect of learning about this “special project” which we will soon see is DOS, the master /slave women’s group, headed by a man, Keith Raniere.
Of course, she was lied to by Monica. She told Sylvie it had nothing to do with Nxivm or Raniere when she knew full well that Raniere was in charge of it all.
Duran was one of the First-Line slave masters.
Duran is, of course, guilty of the same racketeering crime that Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack were charged with. Both admitted at their hearing to enter a guilty plea that they induced women fraudulently into giving collateral by lying about Raniere’s true participation in DOS.
Duran probably should have been charged as well, but the prosecution, much like they picked and chose whose last name would be used, picked and chose who would be charged.
There seems no doubt that Sylvie, at least at this point, being familiar with collateral as it is applied in Nxivm, was willing to falsely confess that she was a prostitute, something that certainly would have shocked her parents since Sylvie was a very straight-laced woman.
A partial justification for this bizarre letter that Sylvie fully agreed to write, exists, in my mind, because Sylvie had such faith in the Nxivm community and had for years depended on others to solve her problems, problems which just always seemed to get worse and worse – that she latched on to this special project as her best hope for things to get better.
Like Nxivm, as we shall see, DOS was a slow boil. It began with hope – that she could find the balance of being a good wife [who was not allowed to have sex with her husband] and to enjoy the glow or happiness that comes from such loving unions without appearing to be too happy, or as she described it “acting too much like a wife” in front of Clare Bronfman, and other Nxivm leaders, who wanted her to act like a female Nxivm community member – who, for the most part, were unmarried and secretly enslaved to Raniere.
All of the DOS First-Line slaves were under orders from Raniere to recruit slaves and Monica, who knew Sylvie from the days of helping her with her anorexia, seized the opportunity to recruit her as her slave – based on the unhappiness she felt because of the rules Raniere had placed on her.
A perfect scenario and a delight to Raniere: He created the problems that made her unhappy in the first place and now he had one of his slaves offer her hope to solve those problems.
As we shall see, and certainly as Raniere planned, the cure for her unhappiness – DOS – would make her much more unhappy.