Clare Bronfman apparently has grown comfortable being locked down in her luxury Brooklyn apartment for all but a few hours each week (She currently gets to leave the apartment three times per week: twice for 90-minutes and once for 120-minutes).
Earlier today, when U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis scheduled her sentencing for September 30th, she immediately asked for a further delay so that her mother, Georgiana Bronfman, and her sister, Sarah Bronfman-Igtet, could be in attendance.
Her new attorney, Ronald Sullivan, told the judge that the additional time would help to ensure that Georgiana, who lives in England – and Sarah, who Sullivan said lives in France – would both be able to come to New York City for the sentencing hearing.
Judge Garaufis, however, wasn’t buying what Sullivan was trying to sell, noting that because the pandemic is still so unpredictable, international travel may remain uncertain “for years”.
It does not appear that there are currently any travel restrictions that would bar either Georgiana or Sarah from traveling to the U.S. as of today. But given the European Union’s current travel ban on people traveling from the U.S., they would not be able to return home right away.
Georgiana did attend some of the hearings in Clare’s case back in 2019. But Sarah reportedly fled to France to avoid getting ensnared in the prosecution of the top leaders of the NXIVM sex cult (Since then, she reportedly moved to Portugal after French authorities shut down her version of NXIVM’s Rainbow Cultural Garden child exploitation scams).
Clare is Facing Several Years in Federal Prison
Clare was originally charged with racketeering conspiracy – and conspiracy to commit identity theft. Those charges exposed her to a maximum sentence of 20 years.
But back in April 2019, she pleaded guilty to two lesser charges: conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain – and fraudulent use of identification.
At the time, it appeared that her then-lead attorney Mark Geragos had cut a great deal for her.
Per that deal, Clare had to forfeit $6 million – and pay $96,605.23 in restitution to the illegal alien she had harbored at her home. And per the applicable sentencing guidelines, she was also subject to a sentence of 21-27 months in federal prison.
But Judge Garaufis blew that deal up several months ago when he announced he was considering an “above guidelines” sentence for Clare. That decision was apparently based on information that was contained in her “Pre-Sentencing Report”.
Whether he is still considering such a sentence – and just how much above the guidelines he might go – won’t be known until September 30th. But a 3-4 sentence would seem pretty reasonable.
It is also not known whether he will allow Clare to return home for several months after she is sentenced to get her affairs in order – which is what usually happens in cases like this – or he will remand her on the spot to the custody of the U.S. Marshals who will be sitting behind her at the sentencing.
Other NXIVM Defendants Will Likely Be Sentenced Soon
During today’s hearing – which was done remotely via videoconference – Judge Garaufis indicated that in-person appearances at the Eastern District of New York courthouse will probably resume shortly after Labor Day.
That likely means that all of Clare’s co-defendants – Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Allison Mack, Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell – will be receiving new sentencing dates sometime in the not too distant future.
Raniere will be going away for a minimum of 15 years – but he’ll get more than 2 years of credit for the time he’s served at the Metropolitan Detention Center since his arrest in March 2018. Most court observers think that he’ll likely get 25 years or more because he was convicted of all seven charges he faced at his trial last year.
Nancy Salzman, who was the first to plead guilty in the case – and who did so apparently without any plea deal in place – is expected to receive a sentence of 2-4 years. She pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy.
Allison Mack and Lauren Salzman both pleaded guilty to two counts – racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Per the sentencing guidelines, they will likely receive sentences of 3-5 years unless Judge Garaufis decides “below guidelines” sentences are in order for one or both of them. Many have argued that Allison is as much a victim as she is a perpetrator – and Lauren was the star witness for the prosecution at Raniere’s trial.
Kathy Russell, who only got indicted because of her bumbling testimony before the grand jury in the case, pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud. Per the sentencing guidelines, she will likely receive a sentence in the range of 6-12 months.
Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect the Sentences?
It is not known whether the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the sentences for any of the defendants.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons has furloughed approximately 7,000 prisoners because of their potential vulnerability to the disease.
In addition, more than 100 federal prisoners have died in prison due to COVID-19.
There have not been enough new sentences since the onset of the pandemic to determine if it causes judges to be more lenient.
But many court observers think that, consciously or unconsciously, judges will tend to dish out lesser sentences because they know that federal prisons are virtual Petri dishes for the coronavirus.
Since April 1st, most federal prisons shave been on some sort of “lock-down” in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. In some facilities, this has meant that prisoners are spending 23-hours per day in their cells – and it others it has meant that prisoners are only allowed out of their cells for 1-hour three times per week.
Except for meetings with their attorneys, federal prisoners have also not had any visitors since April.
And in many prisons, the amount that inmates can buy on commissary has been reduced by 50% or more.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ADDED ON JULY 29TH
The spread of COVID-19 in state prisons has continued to escalate – and state inmates are now four times more likely to be infected than the general population. Between July 13th and July 26th, COVID-19 cases in state prisons increased by 21.4% – from 52,901 to 64,208.
Many believe – myself included – that the BOP is grossly under-reporting COV ID-19 cases in federal prisons. Thus, the likelihood that one or more of the NXIVM defendants may become infected while incarcerated is probably much higher than the reported data would otherwise suggest.