This is Part #4 of our series on the testimony of Mark Vicente, the second witness in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
In this post, Mark explains the Society of Protectors or SOP, Keith Raniere’s group for men. He later admitted women to the group.
Ironically, SOP was owned by a woman, Pamela Cafritz. Despite that, Raniere was, of course, in control of every aspect of it.
Vicente is being examined by AUSA Mark Lesko.
Q What was SOP?
A Society of Protectors was, in essence, a men’s movement. The idea was similarly to the way that women had the Jness movement. This was a men’s movement to help build character, honor, ability, nobility, that kind of thing, and it, in essence, was to help toughen the little boys into men.
And it began, I think, in 2011…..it was founded by Raniere with the four of us as we would eventually term “The High Council,” and that …. [is] probably still running….
Q Who made the significant decisions regarding Society of Protectors?
A Raniere made the decisions and he’d have discussions but he had the ultimate control.
Q And along with yourself, who were the other founders of Society of Protectors?
A So, originally, it was myself, Damon Brink, Mike Baker, and Jim Del Negro.
Q And did the four of you handle the operations of the Society of Protectors?
A We did. We were … the public face interacting with the men; and [Raniere] was the philosophical founder, the creator, of the whole thing.
Q Did the Society of Protectors have a curriculum?
A Yes, there was different curriculum. There was an initial weekend that all men went through. The first time a weekend occurred, Raniere would teach it himself. The first one, I believe, was called the Commitment Weekend. It was generally two and a half days. Thereafter, men would watch …the same weekend…. [with] him on video.
So, that was one kind of curriculum. There was also monthly curriculum that was put out which was a series of questions. The men would get together, you know, once a week for different activities [and] include discussing the questions and at the end of the month they would then receive a recording of Raniere much like debrief/disposition of him discussing the concepts.
Q Who developed the questions that were asked in SOP?
A Raniere did.
Q Did SOP involve drills of any kind?
A Yes, there were things called readiness drills. There were two kinds. A readiness drill was basically a drill to see, are you ready. At an appointed time every day, I believe it was … 3:00 p.m., Eastern. A message would be sent. So all the men were on different teams with a head of teams and this was all on Telegram, and basically, what would happen is I ran the standard drill. I would send a message at precisely 3:00 p.m. saying, in essence, “Ready?” And that would go to a number of the leaders, that would go to their people, and their people and their people and all over, in essence, the world. And the idea was that everybody had to report back to say that they were ready and then that was sort of tabulated to see how long did that take….to see if the network was ready for whatever it could be. So it was basically a drill to see how responsive you could be.
And then…it evolved into another kind of readiness drill … which was termed, “Random Readiness.” I think the term was “C Level Readiness.” Random Ready was, in essence, you were on stand-by seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We went through a lot of trouble to make sure our equivalent of an air raid siren going off, and then you would get a random message from — … Marianna who would send a ready to the High Council.
And ….this could happen any time of the day or night and then it was the scramble to reach everybody and, of course, find people who weren’t responsive.
Q Did you have an understanding as to who decided when to send the random readiness message?
A Well, Marianna was the person deciding when. How exactly she did, I wasn’t entirely sure. At one point, she mentioned about a bowl of papers that times written on them and she would pull them out. You could receive two in one day or nothing for seven days. But you were permanently on stand-by.
Q So, in essence, was there a network of members that were communicating by Telegram?
Q Was there ever an instance where the network was mobilized for a certain purpose?
A There was a missing man at one point somewhere in Europe; and so, the network engaged to try to find out where he was. Where he was staying, where his family was, and trying to find him. We eventually did. And there were certain instances where somebody went missing and the idea was, you know, the idea as was, in essence, leave no man behind. Nobody rests until that person is found.
Q You mentioned weekends. Is that when people would typically participate in the Society of Protectors?
A Yes. Typically. Mostly, it was … weekends once they did the Commitment Weekend. They decided they wanted to become members, they would then join a team that they would meet … at least once a week to do various activities.
Q And these sessions, where were they held?
A Typically, they were held at… 455 New Karner Road in the ESP training room.
Q Were sessions held in other centers?
A They were. Not with [Raniere] but videos sessions. They’d be run by a man who would run the session with video. But they were held in many different countries.
Q How did one become a member of SOP?
A Well, you had to take that first weekend and then you had to be a paying member in good standing. You would pay… $50 a month … membership and that, in essence, qualified you to become just a member.
Q Were there other fees or tuitions associated with Society of Protectors?
A There were for other forms of curriculum. The weekends with the founder [Raniere] were typically more expensive. The weekends with just one of us were substantially cheaper. I think it was… $300. The Weekend With the Founder [Raniere]… was a thousand dollars or higher.
Q Was SOP a company?
A SOP was a company. Society of Protectors, LLC.
Q And who owned the company?
A Pam Cafritz owned that company.
Q Why did Pam Cafritz own Society of Protectors, LLC?
A It was a request Raniere made of us, of the High Council. He was the boss, so…
Q When you and the other founders were developing the SOP concept, did you meet often?
A We did. At the beginning, we met… every night and early on then up to three times a week. We’d usually meet at around 1:30 a.m. and typically we were done by 3:00 a.m.
Q Did the defendant join those meetings?
A He did.
Q Getting back to Pam Cafritz being the owner of the Society of Protectors, LLC, did you object to her being an owner?
A Yes, I did. He asked us one night do we mind if she’s the owner and we said, no, whatever you want.
Q Were you compensated for your work in Society of Protectors?
A I was compensated for running trainings. There was a certain percentage that would go to the men running the trainings. Again, there was a hierarchical tree-like structure. So if you had a bunch of men you enrolled, and then each of them became a team leader that enrolled a bunch of other men, you would get a certain percentage of the $50 a month. So that was another way. But for the High Council, it was mostly running trainings is how we were paid.
Q And how were those percentages calculated, if you know?
A That was a bit of a mystery to me. I had asked a few times. Jim Del Negro was running the accounting. I wasn’t entirely clear. It was a bit of a mystery to me.
Q Were there times when you were not paid for your work in SOP?
A There were two weekends that we were not paid for. One was a weekend that was cancelled, and then because of this thing we had done that was a problem we then did not get paid for the next weekends.
Q … Was… the defendant compensated by SOP?
A There was a percentage… I know there was money in the bank. I don’t know exactly how it got to him if it did.
Q Did you have an understanding… what the percentage was?
A My understanding was it was ten percent.
Q Did you have an understanding as to why the defendant received ten percent?
A … My understanding was that it was towards the research he wanted to do. That was my general understanding…..
Q Did Society of Protectors actually generate revenues?
A … at one point Raniere told me there was a… million dollars in the bank….
Q Was the system or formula used to pay you and others at SOP clear to you?
A Not at all.
Q Who handled the books for Society of Protectors?
A So that was Jim Del Negro. … I had a concern about him doing the books because this wasn’t his field of expertise. I spoke to Raniere and I said, you know, it seems to be a better idea to actually have somebody to do this that knows exactly how all this works and Raniere preferred that he do it.
Jim Del Negro, I think, at times was confused and uncertain. I just couldn’t get any clear answers and I looked at the Excel sheet sometimes and I was just baffled.
Q At some point, did the leadership of the Society of Protectors change?
A Yes. I don’t recall the exact date, but Mike Baker and Damon Brink basically fell out of leadership and then Anthony Ames came on board.
Q And was this the point when the leadership was referred to as the High Council?
Q Did the defendant’s role change when the High Council was reconstituted?
A No, it was the same.
Q So you mentioned previously a time when you weren’t paid at SOP at a specific instance?
Q Do you recall an instance be where the defendant called off an SOP training?
A Yes. … we were holding a [weekend] training in 455 New Karner…. the requirement [set by Raniere] was there should be a hundred paying men in the room and I believe we were slightly short. And I think it was the high 90s, and a few men were enrolled that were close by [last minute additions to meet the 100 quota] and I think the number went up to maybe i… 102 or 103 perhaps.
We began, the training …. Raniere came out, did the disposition, we went into the back room which was the ESP Proctor room. [Raniere] said, “I have disturbing information. I heard that some men were put into this training in a way that wasn’t ethical [last minute] and so, you know, I have to make a decision and I’m not going to continue running this training. So I’m leaving and you guys can do whatever you want.”
Q So what happened next?
A The High Council had to go out, and basically… face a hundred-something men and explain that we had done this very bad thing and that we were going to run a weekend anyway from the existing curriculum and that we would repay all the men their money in some form.
Q Did that happen?
A … yes.
Q Did you keep some of the fees?
A Yes. …. we gave the men an option: Either we pay them back, or if they wanted to leave their money in the system, we could use it for a future weekend. I don’t recall how many wanted each but we gave them the option.
Q Do you recall how much money was either repaid or credited towards other programs?
A Well, [it was] a thousand dollars [each] and a hundred members, so a hundred thousand.
Q Did you get paid for this weekend?
Q Were there any other consequences that flowed from the defendant leaving this SOP training?
A Well, … the guys were very, very unhappy and a lot of anger came to us. See, part of what you did in this kind of structure is you protect the leader at all costs, so we had to make sure that they understood that it wasn’t him [Raniere]. We agreed to protect him at all costs and it was us; we were the problem. So we took a lot of hits, a lot of people were extremely angry at us because they had flown there from distant places around the world to be there, to be with Raniere. So that was one consequence. And then also there was kind of a penance, we wouldn’t be paid for the following weekend as well…
*** After a break, Vicente continued to explain SOP. He testified:
[Regarding] SOP weekend activities. There was … something…. called “BS sessions.” BS standing for bullshit. And BS sessions were basically held with other SOP members at first with only men and then eventually both sexes.
And a BS session was basically that you were to come to this group, the group with some problem you had some issues you had somebody you were upset with. And basically, the other three were to call you out on your BS. In other words, how you understand or how do you try to understand that you’re actually responsible for this thing that you’re complaining about.
So the whole idea was, you know, for you to get your authorship over every single event in your life that you felt upset about and basically own them and that it was actually you that caused the problem and only you. That was the nature of what we call BS sessions.
Q … Was the term “collateral” used in the Society of Protectors?
A Yes, it was.
Q And was it used in reference to funds paid by leaders of SOP?
A Yes. … at a certain point, it was suggested to see if people were really serious about enrolling and serious about their commitments…. if there was a meeting among men saying “I’m going to enroll five people.” Well, the idea was that … it means a lot if you put some collateral behind it. So if you pay a certain amount of money, and what we did was we paid money into the system… so we have our credit cards be charged for a certain amount of money. If you did indeed do the thing you said you would do, you would get that money back. And if you didn’t, you would lose that money. So that’s the way collateral is used.
Q Did you do this?
A I did.
Q And what sort of amounts are we talking about?
A It depended. For me, it was somewhere, I think, around $1,500. For other men, I think it was actually more, and for some, it was less.
Q Did you, in fact, lose some of that collateral?
A I did.
Q Who suggested this collateral arrangement?
A The collateral idea was something that was … suggested by Raniere.…
Q Initially, was Society of Protectors only offered to men?
A Originally, yes.
Q Did that eventually change?
A It did, yes.
A …. Raniere said to me that he thought it would be good to offer what we were doing to the women as well. I had some concerns. I didn’t think that was necessarily a good idea. He said to me, well, they want it and then he referred me to talk to Pam Cafritz and Marianna. And I spoke to them on the phone. They said … we think it would really help us. I said, I don’t know this is a very different thing than what you’re doing and they insisted, and they thought it would be very helpful. I said, Do you have a vague understanding of what this is? And they said, We believe we do. And I went back to Raniere and it appears they do want it, and if you think that’s the way we should go, okay.
Q … was there a new Society of Protectors course developed that included women?
A That was called “SOP Complete,” and that it was basically the existing curriculum…. it was a six-day training…. taking two of the weekends, but it was run more like a boot camp. There were a lot of… rules and regulations. There were… physical things you had to do if you failed. … it was like boot camp hazing discipline.
Q Was the defendant present during this initial SOP Complete training?
A He was always present at the very first one because that’s how we would figure out how the trainings would go. He would give us a general idea, you know, we’re going to start with this and then we would go through the existing curriculum, but then he would figure out during the six days what additional things would be done. We were to write everything down. We were to make a note of the times, the kinds of things that were done, and, of course, we video-recorded the whole thing as well and that would become a template of what we would do from that point forward.
Q What was your role in that first thing?
A So my role was, along with the other High Council, was basically running the training to some degree. We were like the sergeant majors. He was the general… Everybody else [were] privates basically.
Q And how long … was this first SOP Complete training?
A So it was six full days, as I said, comprising of the existing sort of existing intellectual material and a lot of practical things peppered in between that we would do with the students.
Q So, in this boot camp format, I think you used the term “where hazing occurred.” There were physical activities?
Q Could you describe those?
A Basically, what he told us was that woman lacked discipline and that the issue is that most men had never really grown up into men, they were boys themselves. This was the experience of what it’s like it be a little boy in a man’s world.
So the metaphor being when you’re a young boy, you get teased by all the other older boys and you get basically teased and teased and teased and pushed and pushed and pushed until you finally man-up and stop crying. And it’s like “man-up, stop being a child.” He [Raniere] said that’s in essence what we’re going to do. We are going to help them find themselves by pushing them the same way that many of you were pushed which turned you into who you are today. So that was the idea that we were going in with….
So, basically, as opposed to, you know, the normal type of SOP training where, you know, you’re sitting in a circle with questions and that kind of thing. The whole idea was sit up straight, and if you’re not sitting up straight, there would be… various consequences…. anything from you get singled out in front of everybody to your entire group of people here has to go and do planks… for a minute, two minutes whatever. So much like the army, you know, when one guy screws up, everybody else has to go do the thing. There’s that and with men and women.
There was one thing also — eventually people would get … nicknames, be teased about some aspect of yourself. There were various props that were used that people would wear. There were, you know, mantras given. In other words, something you had to say all the time. You know before you spoke, you had to sit up straight and you had to repeat this thing that you’ve been told.
And basically, the idea was that the first training Raniere and us, the High Council, would walk around observing are people sitting up straight? Are they being too deferential? Is somebody…. kissing ass too much? Well, they have to be singled out for that. Are they defiant and prideful? and they have to be singled out for that.
And the whole idea was that the woman had to learn…. [that] no matter what you do, you’re going to be wrong, so keep taking the hits until you grow up and stop being a baby. That was very general.
Q So the planks were used as punishments of sorts?
A Yes, consequences. Yeah, punishment…. The planks or wall sits or holding weights up for extended periods of time. A lot of different things that you would do.
Q Nicknames were used?
A Nicknames were used.
Q Were costumes used?
A Yes. I recall at one point somebody was given, like, angel fairy wings to suggest that they were a princess. Somebody was given a jock-strap once. A woman was given a jock-strap.
Q Who was given a jock-strap?
A That was Clare Bronfman. She was given a jock-strap for being bossy, like, she was in charge of everything. People would get wooden stakes. If somebody was seen as particularly aggressive, they would be given a wooden stake. And we would say to them, well, every time you speak, hold [it] up like you’re about to hit everybody because that’s the way you’re behaving. Yeah, that name tags and, you know, being singled out a great deal.
Q Did the defendant ever indicate to you that this SOP Complete experience was intended to address a woman’s sense of entitlement?
A Yes. It was spoken about a great deal in the SOP training in general even before this, that the issue with women is that they’re entitled. And he … told us a story once that he went to college with a woman because he opened the doors all the time, she was so blind to the fact that he did it that, in essence, she thought the door was opening automatically. That he said that women had been coddled their whole life, and because they’ve been coddled their whole life, they had no understanding of reality whatsoever and that men are arbitrators of reality. We understand reality et cetera, et cetera.
So he spoke a great deal about their entitlement. He spoke a great deal about their misusing their sexuality to gain advantage in the world which he said men couldn’t do in the same way.
He spoke about them being chronic complainers. He would say, for instance… do you ever see a woman accused of something and a group of men are blaming her? No, it’s the other way around. One man being blamed by all these women. Women are complainers and they’re whining and basically entitled. And they think they should have a bunch of things they really shouldn’t have and that this training will address their entitlement.
Q Were any of the nicknames sexual in nature?
A There were. … I recall one Boobiana. That was somebody who wore very tight clothing…. And so, a woman was teased for the kind of clothing they wore. If it was too tight-fitting or if they were showing too much of their… rears or their boobs … they were teased for that a lot.
Q Getting back to Clare Bronfman and the jock-strap. Who made her wear the jock-strap?
A … Raniere had the idea and then I believe we implemented [it].
Q In your opinion, was the SOP Complete program demeaning to women?
A Horribly demeaning.
Q And who designed this program?
Q Was video used as part of this training?
Q Were any of the videos unflattering to women?
Q Do you recall anything in particular?
A Yes, there were a number of videos. I recall in the first trainings where Raniere would suggest, you know, take photographs of the women that are addressing a certain way and let’s make, you know, make a video… of… them…to reveal what they’re doing; or if somebody was very, very prideful that a video be made of them to show them their pride and show it to everybody, in essence, embarrass the person and hopefully the theory was, you know, they’ll have a sense of oh, God that’s how I’ve been behaving.
Q Did any of the women who participated in SOP Complete complain about the curriculum?
A Yes…. I do remember that Esther Carlson had an issue, stood up and had an issue. She was concerned about what was going on here. She felt it wasn’t right … Raniere who was in the front of the room at the time, in essence, talked her down and then she was pretty quiet after that. There were other times where some of the women expressed to me their concerns and I would express them to Raniere and he responded in such a way that I thought you know I probably shouldn’t mention this to him anymore.
Q How did he respond?
A Well, in one particular case, when the Society of Protectors was first formed, there was the High Council, which was the four of us, and our… wives/girlfriends were spending time together because they were struggling with how to deal with …us who were in this… militarized system. And my wife at some point said to me, you know, we’ve been talking and we have concerns about what’s going on. We’re not sure this is a good thing. And I remember calling Raniere and saying, you know, there are some women who have concerns about this, and he immediately said, “I need to know who they are.”
And the way he said it made me realize, Shut up. Do not say another thing…. I made some excuse, because I certainly didn’t want to call out my wife, and the other women. But they got the impression they should probably just shut up.
Q Has your perspective on SOP Complete changed over time?
Q And how has it changed?
A I believe [at first that]… the reason it was being created [was] because the women wanted to feel stronger and that maybe this would help in some ways. My experience of the women over time is that they became shells of themselves. They … almost looked like they were beaten in submission, and in essence, I believe that’s what SOP Complete was doing. It was trying to make these women submit to men to be obedient to the point of potentially being dangerous, following orders no matter what. And my experience of the women is that it kind of broke them and they would just do whatever they were told. So I now have grave concerns about what it was actually doing.
And, you know, I find there’s layers to these things. There’s a layer of what you’re told of what this is doing. And then there’s what it’s actually doing, and I don’t think it was good for them at all.
Q How do you feel about your participation in SOP Complete?
A I feel very ashamed. … I… try to protect and take care of people. And to see that I was basically enforcing this kind of really dark, hateful misogyny was deeply upsetting to me. And also it goes opposite to every single thing that I actually believe.
But I don’t think I was told the truth about what this really was. I know I wasn’t, because these women were broken. And I saw later that they were shells of themselves, that something inside them was gone. And I do believe that that SOP Complete had a lot to do with it.
I admire Vicente’s candor. Raniere started SOP to indoctrinate the men and get them to protect him at all costs. Even when he acted like a complete prima donna leaving 100 men who paid $1,000 each to see him, because the High Council fell short by one or two men who did not enroll in advance, the men took the brunt. They chose to protect him and take the blame. It was good training.
But the real dark secret of SOP was it was to break women. First by training the men and then by admitting women, who were beaten and bullied. And these women paid for such a course, thinking that it was helping them by following the world’s smartest and most ethical man.
It is ironic and now amusing to listen to Raniere’s teachings about women being entitled and selfish when he was that himself.
Raniere told a story about a woman who thought the door opened automatically. Yet didn’t Raniere think the clothes his followers bought for him appeared just magically?
Wasn’t Raniere coddled his entire life, starting with his mother, and then by women in college and at Consumers’ Buyline, where he had his first harem and, of course by all the followers in Nxivm. He was always coddled and never required to face the consequences of his own actions. It was always him blaming others and no one ever blaming him [or if they did, he would sue them with Bronfman money.]
Vicente said Raniere “spoke a great deal about [women’s] entitlement”. Yet he was the most entitled person. “He spoke a great deal about their misusing their sexuality to gain advantage in the world which he said men couldn’t do in the same way.”
Yet Raniere used his sexuality in a remarkably horrifying way. He taught women that he could have sex with anyone and everyone and that they could not have sex with any other man ever.
He was also the chronic complainer. And so he created this curriculum to “address their entitlement.”
Now, he is in prison where he has no entitlements at all. And his complaints will not be heeded. He is actually getting now the training he so eagerly desired for women, and getting it in spades.
Viva Executive Success!