2020 has been a bad year for lots of people.
That includes Clare Bronfman – who is currently waiting to be sentenced for two of the criminal activities she participated in while she was a member of – and the primary financier for – the still-active NXIVM/ESP criminal enterprise (Clare committed lots more crimes than those two but, lucky for her and her accomplices, every law enforcement agency in the Northern District of New York had apparently been bribed, blackmailed or intimidated into submission when it came to investigating NXIVM/ESP-related crimes).
For Clare, the bad news in 2020 began when woke up back on January 1st and realized that she was still under house arrest (That has been her status since July 2018).
And it went downhill from there.
As previously reported in Frank Report, Clare recently learned that the government has recommended in its “Sentencing Memorandum” that she serve five years in federal prison – a recommendation that many courtroom observers who have been following this case believe will be imposed on her by U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis at her sentencing on September 30th.
Perhaps the most galling part of the government’s “Sentencing Memorandum” was the disclosure that Clare’s then-attorney, Mark Geragos, may have advertently or inadvertently helped set her up for the predicament she now faces.
As was noted by the government in its recent submission, “Unlike most plea agreements into which the government enters, the agreement the government negotiated with Bronfman in this case expressly allows it to recommend any sentence to the Court”.
The actual wording in Clare’s plea agreement is as follows: “The parties agree that either party may seek a sentence outside of the Guidelines range, suggest that the Probation Office consider a sentence outside of the Guidelines range, and suggest that the Court consider a sentence outside of the Guidelines range, based upon the factors to be considered in imposing a sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).”
Whether he intended to do so or not, Geragos set Clare up for the possibility of being imprisoned for 5-years by agreeing to – and then getting her to agree to – the unusual (to say the least) language in her plea agreement.
At the time all this was happening, Geragos himself was facing scrutiny from U.S. prosecutors for his potential involvement in Michael Avenatti’s attempt to extort millions of dollars from the Nike company.
The Nike Case
Geragos and Avenatti met with several of Nike’s attorneys at Geragos’ office in New York City on March 19, 2019 after claiming that they were representing Gary Franklin, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball coach who supposedly had information showing that Nike employees were making illicit payments to the families of high school athletes in order to influence what colleges the athletes chose to attend.
Their original proposal was that Nike pay them $20-$25 million to conduct an “internal investigation” regarding the alleged under-the-table payment scheme – and an additional $1.5 million to Gary Franklin (Per the deal that Avenatti and Geragos had struck, Geragos was supposedly going to get 20% of the payment from Nike).
Following the meeting, Nike’s attorneys immediately contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York – and explained what was going on.
On March 20th, the very next day, Avenatti called the Nike attorneys to discuss details of the settlement deal he and Geragos had outlined to them in their previous meeting. Federal law enforcement officials recorded that phone call.
Finally, on March 22nd, Avenatti and Geragos had a second face-to-face meeting with the Nike attorneys at Geragos’ office (This time, the Nike attorneys recorded the meeting). Undoubtedly following the script that had been prepared for them by SDNY law enforcement officials, the Nike lawyers asked whether they could arrange to make a payment without having Avenatti and Geragos actually do the “internal investigation”.
Per the transcript from the tape, Avenatti replied: “If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for $22.5 million and we’re done,” Avenatti is quoted as saying. “Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Avenatti set a deadline of Monday, March 25th, to finalize the settlement deal – and arrange payment. He was arrested when he showed up for that meeting based on a sealed indictment that had been approved by an SDNY judge on Sunday, March 24th.
Avenatti’s arrest occurred just hours after he had tweeted that he would be disclosing “a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball”.
Although Avenatti was the only one named in the SDNY indictment, that same indictment also mentioned another individual who was allegedly involved in the scheme to extort Nike – and while it only referred to that individual as “CC-1”, it described that person as “an attorney who is licensed to practice in the state of California, and similarly known for representation of celebrity and public figure clients”.
Lest anyone have any doubts, The Washington Post made it very clear that Mark Geragos was, in fact, CC-1.
Geragos later became a witness for the government in its case against Avenatti – and subsequently testified against him at his trial.
Avenatti was convicted on all four charges in the indictment after a 3-week trial earlier this year. He’ll be facing a maximum sentence of 42 years whenever he is sentenced.
Why Did Mr. Geragos Walk Free and Clear?
While Geragos’ testimony against Avenatti was undoubtedly helpful, it’s doubtful the feds really needed it in order to secure guilty verdicts on all four charges they had brought against him.
So, did the feds decide not to prosecute Geragos because they wanted to use him as an insurance policy in the Avenatti case – or do the feds, in effect, pull off a twofer here?
Part 1 of the twofer would have been Geragos’ testimony at Avenatti’s trial.
And Part 2 would have been his agreement to convince his client, Clare Bronfman, to accept the terms of the plea deal that the prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) had drawn up – including the highly unusual provision that allowed the government and/or the probation officer who drafted Clare’s Pre-Sentencing Report – to recommend any prison sentence term they deemed appropriate.
Clare Bronfman pleaded guilty on April 19, 2019 – exactly one month after Geragos had held the first meeting with Nike’s attorneys in his New York City office.
Is it not feasible that the feds convinced Geragos to recommend that Clare sign a plea deal that he knew contained a time-bomb in it?
How else can it be explained that this high-priced celebrity lawyer allowed his client, Clare Bronfman, to sign a plea deal that even the EDNY prosecutors now admit has a most unusual provision in it?
A provision that “expressly allows [them] to recommend any sentence to the Court”.
Either Mark Geragos sold out Clare to save his own ass – or he’s simply incompetent.
Either way, Clare should get back every penny she ever paid to Mark Geragos.
And she should sue his ass for malpractice.