In a surprise move, Nxivm convict, Clare Webb Bronfman, has replaced celebrity lawyer, Mark Geragos, with well known Black lawyer Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.
Geragos, whose tenure with Bronfman came late in the game, negotiated a plea deal for Bronfman about a month before she was scheduled to go to trial.
At the time it seemed to be a sweetheart deal for the sinister heiress. She had been represented by Susan Necheles as lead attorney when she was arrested in July 2018. Geragos took over as lead counsel in 2019.
Bronfman was the top henchwoman for Nxivm leader Keith Alan Raniere and spent well over $100 million at Raniere’s direction, much of if used to pay for lawyers to sue civilly and to advance perjurious criminal complaints meant to indict enemies of Raniere and herself.
She seemed to have escaped more serious charges and the supposed sweetheart deal, crafted by Geragos, appeared to be a mere slap on the wrist. She agreed to pay a $6 million fine [about 3 percent of her net worth] and in return, or so it seemed, she would get about two years in prison.
The 21-27 month sentencing guideline estimated by the prosecution, however, turned out to be worthless. That may be because an estimated 100 victims came forward after her plea deal and wrote shocking victim impact statements, which were included in her presentencing report, describing, in horrifying detail, how Clare Bronfman destroyed their lives.
A sober assessment by Judge Nicholas Garaufis seems to have led him to announce late last year that he was thinking of making an upward departure in Clare’s sentencing. Some observers took that to mean he might give her anywhere from 4-7 years.
People wondered what the hell good did the millions she paid to Geragos do for her? Since when can’t justice be purchased at the Department of Justice?
The late innings hiring of Sullivan comes, in a sense, courtesy of the pandemic. She would have been sentenced by now – it was scheduled for April. But Bronfman refused to be sentenced via Zoom.
Her plea deal was not what she thought it would be. At the time, Geragos negotiated her plea deal, he was up to his eyeballs with his own legal problems. He had partnered up with shyster lawyer Michael Avenatti to extort Nike out of some $20 million. To date, Geragos has not been charged but has been identified as an unindicted coconspirator in the Nike case.
According to Wikipedia, Ronald Sullivan is 54, a law professor at Harvard Law School, who was elected President of the Black Law Students Association while he was a student there. He served as an editor of the Harvard Black Letter Law Journal, now known as the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice.
Prior to joining Harvard, Sullivan was the Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and worked at the D.C. law firms of Baach Robinson & Lewis and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Sullivan worked on high-profile cases, including those involving President Clinton.
At Harvard, Sullivan teaches criminal law and upper-level criminal procedure. He is the director of the Criminal Justice Institute. He writes on criminal law, criminal procedure, democracy, and race. He also serves as the official faculty advisor for Harvard Law School’s chapter of the Black Law Students Association.
Sullivan has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, and Fox News Channel as a legal analyst. He takes on pro bono cases, across the nation, in addition to cases he oversees as part of the Criminal Justice Institute.
However, his representation of the Seagram’s heiress Bronfman is not likely to one of his pro bono cases.
Among his high profile cases, he represented one of the Jena Six defendants and was part of the legal defense team for ex-NFL New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez in a double murder case. While Hernandez was serving a prison sentence for another murder, of which he had been convicted, he was found not guilty in the double murder case.
Last year, Sullivan joined the legal defense team of Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul facing multiple charges of rape and sexual assault.
Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein met with criticism from Harvard University students, faculty, and administrators, including an online petition by students seeking the removal of Sullivan as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House.
The Dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana, announced on May 11, 2019, that he would not renew the appointment of Sullivan as Faculty Dean when his appointment expired.
Sullivan had some tax issues. On November 19, 2019, the United States Tax Court ruled that over $1 million in unpaid taxes was owed by Sullivan, who had not filed income tax returns between 2005 and 2013.
If he still owes the money, Bronfman’s retainer may go a long way towards curing that.
What Can Sullivan Do for Clare Bronfman?
He might be able to try to undo the arguably lousy plea deal Geragos got her into.
Sullivan might argue that the 100 victim statements should have no bearing on Clare’s sentence since Clare pled guilty to only two felonies – involving only two victims – the estate of Pamela Cafritz and Sylvie, the DOS slave who Clare schemed to harbor illegally in the USA.
Due process seems to dictate that the other 98 victims should not have a say in her sentencing, for Clare never had a chance to confront them in court.
This is not to suggest that the other 98 or so victims were not brutalized by the monstrous Clare Bronfman, also known as Legatus in some Nxivm circles. But there is such a thing as due process and if they are to be victims, Clare, or any defendant, should have the opportunity to confront them and have a jury decide they were victims.
It is likely that Clare, if she knew her sentence could be impacted by allegations of crimes that she did not plead guilty to, might not have taken the plea deal Geragos served up for her.
Perhaps Sullivan may try to get her plea deal rescinded based on an argument of ineffective assistance of counsel. Geragos was undoubtedly distracted at the time, working to fend off his own felony charges in the Nike extortion case. Did this affect his representation of Clare?
Prior to the Nike case blowing up on him and Avenatti, it is believed that Geragos tried to negotiate with the feds to buy a better plea deal for Clare by providing evidence of alleged crimes of certain Nike officials. That backfired days later when Avenatti was arrested.
There is no doubt that Sullivan, a Democrat, close to Obama, and Clinton [Clinton appointed Judge Garaufis] will be taken seriously, no doubt a lot more seriously than an embattled Geragos was at the time leading up to Clare’s plea deal.
Sullivan is known as one of the leading law professors and one of the leading black lawyers in the nation. That alone will require special consideration by the court.
Bronfman may end up paying Sullivan millions for his services [on top of the millions she paid Geragos] and Sullivan may very well do what Geragos tried to do – get a sweetheart deal for the vicious heiress.
He may get a year or more knocked off her sentence and she may land where she originally tried to land – with about two years in prison.
He may even get her plea deal rescinded and start again, negotiating with the feds for an even better sweetheart deal for the unlovely heiress, who used perjury and her money to manipulate the legal system to destroy enemies of hers and her cult leader, Keith Alan Raniere.
Is Sullivan wrong to take on another client, as despicable as Weinstein?
Certainly not. In defending his role in representing Weinstein, Sullivan made an excellent point when he wrote, “It is particularly important for this category of unpopular defendant to receive the same process as everyone else – perhaps even more important. To the degree we deny unpopular defendants basic due process rights we cease to be the country we imagine ourselves to be.”
Good luck Ron, for you have now one of the most unsympathetic defendants one can readily imagine, a woman who had it all, and used her wealth in the most petty and sadistic ways to destroy other human beings.
There is a good reason why some 100 people came forward to state their lives were ruined by Clare Bronfman. What she pled guilty to was just the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe the Department of Justice will reconsider the charges they left at the table, including additional immigration fraud charges in the Northern District, and reopen the case against her.