Here is a supplemental report on Clare Bronfman’s sentencing.
Brooklyn, September 30, 2020.
Susan Dones was walking towards the Federal Courthouse, being filmed as she walked by a crew from HBO’s The Vow, [presumably for season #2] when she spotted Clare getting out of an SUV. She told the crew to film Clare instead of her. And they did.
Clare Bronfman arrives at the Brooklyn courthouse with her attorneys. Note her skinny neck, the result of years of a semi-starvation diet under Raniere’s direction.
Clare was wearing a face mask, and a pink sweater she had worn in a previous court appearance. She was also wearing her favorite necklace, [one which you can see in many of her photographs] which suggests her attorneys advised her that she would likely be given a future date to report to prison, sometime after the sentencing, which is the norm with white-collar criminals.
You can’t wear jewelry in prison.
Clare walked into court holding hands with her lawyer, Ronald Sullivan.
In the courtyard in the park across the street, about a dozen Nxivm/Clare supporters, including Danielle Roberts, Marc Elliot, Michele Hatchette, and others, including a Mexican contingent gathered.
Some of her supporters may have come up from Mexico for the hearing.
They came across the street and stood by the courthouse.
Esther Chiappone Carlson was there and in tears. Jim Del Negro, her longtime Nxivm boyfriend, had his arm around her, comforting her.
Michele and Marc, and possibly others, went inside the courthouse.
The hearing was held in the Hon. Jack B. Weinstein Ceremonial Courtroom, 2nd floor, North Wing, the largest courtroom in the building,.
There were also two overflow courtrooms: 2E North and 2F North, where the public and some members of the media could watch the proceedings live from TV monitors.
Inside the main courtroom, were about eight reporters, including Rob Gavin of the Albany Times Union, who had been pre-approved to attend the live proceedings. The Albany Times Union, the newspaper of Nxivm’s hometown, has covered Nxivm leader Keith Raniere and his heiress financier, Clare Bronfman, longer than any media.
Also inside the main courtroom was attorney Neil Glazer, who represents some 80 plaintiffs in a massive civil lawsuit against Clare Bronfman and 14 other Nxivm defendants. With Glazer was one of his clients, Daniella, the Mexican woman who testified so effectively at the trial of Raniere about how she was confined to a room for nearly two years because she kissed another man.
Also seen was Moira Kim Penza, the AUSA who was lead prosecutor in Raniere’s trial. She is now in private practice, and was in the courtroom as an observer.
None of Clare’s family attended the hearing. They had sought to watch and possibly participate viz teleconferencing, but the judge denied their request.
The proceedings began at 11 and, after a few remarks by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, he permitted statements from victims. Some of these spoke from the courtroom and some by prerecorded video.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar, who was part of the prosecution team in the Raniere trial, was there for the prosecution.
Bronfman sat between her most recent pair of high-powered attorneys, Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and Duncan P. Levin, and listened to her victims describe in excruciating how she and Keith Raniere ruined their lives.
Many of the victims ended up in tears.
Among these victims was Toni Natalie, who never met Clare, but considers herself a victim because Clare funded repeated litigation efforts against her and made multiple attempts to imprison her.
Toni was a former girlfriend of Raniere’s, back in the 1990s and Raniere never quite quit trying to destroy her.
She said, “Clare Bronfman was a pivotal part of trying to destroy my life” (Toni is the co-author of the book “The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of NXIVM”). She said that NXIVM employed a “scorched-earth” approach to all of the lawsuits that were funded by Clare.
“I was not scorched. I was incinerated,” Natalie said.
Barbara Bouchey, another former girlfriend of Raniere’s also spoke. She had been the financial manager of some of Bronfman’s funds. She had asked the judge for more time than the allotted 10 minutes so she could detail some 10 years of abuse. He denied her request.
In a fine effort to condense a decade of suffering into 10 minutes, she told the court how Bronfman destroyed much of the financial consulting business she had built up over many years.
“I have endured hundreds of headline news stories. All I did was decide to break up with Keith Raniere,” Bouchey said.
Bouchey said directly to Bronfman: “Clare, do you realize they lied to you? You thought you were in the inner circle. You were six layers out. He used you. He pawned you. He made you feel special.”
Although she did not mention it at the hearing, Bouchey had asked the court to award her $14-million in restitution as a result of Bronfman’s destructive actions against her.
Susan Dones, who never had any sort of personal relationship with Raniere, told the court how the cult doggedly pursued her in various legal actions after she resigned – including an attempt to interfere with her bankruptcy proceedings. [read her statement here.]
Bronfman tightly held her lawyer’s hand as Dones criticized her in a powerful and riveting speech.
Ivy Nevares, another victim who had a personal relationship with Raniere, spoke by video [read her speech here.]
Sally Brinks, who left in 2016 after 13 years in Nxivm, spoke in the courthouse.
She said to Clare, “As long as you support KR (Keith Raniere), there is no forgiveness for you. You’re not going to heal with KR in your life. You have to take back your power. You have no sense of self without him.”
Sarah Edmondson was heard on a video.
Sylvie, Clare’s immigration fraud victim, who testified during the Raniere trial, was heard by video, as was another former DOS slave.
Another former DOS slave, a Mexican woman, [I believe Jane Doe 12] spoke in the courtroom. She chastised Clare for bringing her into the country and cheating her out of money.
Kristin Keeffe, another former high-ranking member of the cult, who fled when she became concerned about the way in which Raniere was raising their son, also spoke.
(Raniere was the founder of the dangerous childhood experiment, Rainbow Cultural Garden, a combination daycare and school program that was premised around the idea of having children raised by several nannies – each of whom would speak to the child in a different language each day).
Keeffe said, “I saw Clare mentally descend over several years into a dangerous megalomaniac.”
She also claimed that Bronfman launched a financial attack on her when she protested litigation against Barbara Bouchey.
Bronfman began billing her rent for a Nxivm townhouse she and Raniere’s son lived in and slashing her $55,000-a-year salary to $13,000.
“She was trying to psychologically break me,” Keeffe said.
Meanwhile, Keeffe said, Clare “rode a $1 million horse, bought a 6,500 square foot mansion and flew in her $11 million private jet.”
Keeffe also spoke about how Keith never offered to support their son, after she left, while providing hundreds of thousands of dollars [of Clare’s money] for his youngest son, three-year-old Kemar. [Kemar’s mother is Mariana, the sister of Daniella, the woman who had been confined to a room.]
Keeffe was the last victim to speak.
[No one spoke on behalf of Clare]
After Keeffe gave her emotionally charged speech, the courtroom fell silent.
Surprisingly, the judge himself was speechless. He observed a long period of silence, perhaps lasting three or four minutes. He just sat there staring at Clare.
Then the judge ordered a half-hour break.
After the break, some of the Nxivm-5 burst into the overflow courtroom where people could watch the proceedings on TV monitors. They were almost not admitted. They had to split up and sat apart, acting as if they did not know each other.
In the main courtroom, AUSA Tanya Hajjar spoke, arguing for five years of prison time for Clare.
The defense spoke, arguing for 36 months of probation. Her attorney spoke of how Clare invested millions in the Ethical Science Foundation, and of how it helped people suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome.
When Marc Elliot, who believes he was cured of Tourette’s Syndrome by Nxivm teachings, heard this in the overflow courtroom, he was beaming.
Clare’s attorney said that she never funded DOS, the sex-slaver sorority, though she faithfully lent money to Keith, some $65 million in fact for losses he incurred in his commodities market investments.
The judge asked, what’s this about commodities? When was this?
Sullivan leaned over to Clare and asked her and then told the judge “2005.” [That information is incorrect – the losses occurred well before then].
The judge said something to the effect of, “Anybody who would lend somebody $65 million in commodities and he lost it, I don’t care how much money you have, you would think that that would raise some questions about this person’s character.”
The attorney also had the audacity to say that all of Clare’s litigation was valid litigation. Saying this in front of a group of women who have all suffered from Clare’s litigation created an odd and awkward moment, an insensitive moment.
Next, Clare rose to speak. She looked like she weighed under 100 pounds. Her voice was very soft and hard to hear. She was crying at times, feeling quite sorry – not for those she hurt, but for herself.
She said at one point to Judge Garaufis, “I’m immensely grateful and privileged because all over the world people are praying for me because they know my goodness. I hope you see a glimmer of what they see in me.’”
In the overflow courtroom, Michele and Marc Elliot wept as Clare spoke,
Clare also made some sort of apology to Jane Doe 12, the Mexican woman who had spoken earlier.
The judge seemed displeased by the apology and interrupted her to roundly chastise her.
He angrily said, “I see you and I see what you did just now.”
Jane Doe 12 didn’t like the apology either.
The judge was so angry at Clare, it took him a couple of minutes to compose himself. Clare was pretty much silenced at this point, and sat down having spoken for only a minute or two.
In the overflow courtroom, Michele and Marc used hand signals to communicate with each other, while waiting for the sentencing.
Then the judge read his sentencing memorandum [read here] wherein he recited a litany of Clare’s crimes. He concluded by sentencing her to 81 months in prison, three times the high end of the Sentencing Guidelines range.
When he gave the 81 month sentence Clare looked shocked. Everyone was shocked.
Michele Hatchette, in the overflow courtroom, started crying. Marc Elliot seemed to be in a daze, almost comatose. The funder of the cult would be out of commission for years, not months.
Inside the courtroom, after the initial shock wore off, the victims seemed elated and relieved. They knew that their two worst fears – Raniere and Bronfman – would be tucked away for years – and that they would be safe – for a time.
In the main courtroom, there were six US Marshalls. The judge said he was remanding Clare into custody.
[Quite likely the judge did not want to risk a woman with a $200 million net worth – and a surprisingly high sentence – to be free to possibly flee the country.]
The judge also added that Clare, while in prison, was to be monitored at all times, her finances watched, and that she was not permitted to put money in any prisoner’s commissary – a common ploy that rich prisoners use to buy service and favors from other prisoners.
Somehow, Clare did not understand what the judge meant by remanded. She got up as if court was over and she could go home and rest after what was probably the worst four and half hours of her life.
Her attorneys understood and protested her immediate incarceration asking the judge that she be allowed to go home to settle her affairs and then report to prison on a certain date. The judge snapped that she had plenty of attorneys who could settle her affairs.
The marshals led Clare out of the courtroom and handcuffed her.
Everyone else left the court.
The Nxivm diehards were standing outside the court. Danielle Roberts, Marc Elliot, Michele Hatchette, and the others.
Times Union reporter Rob Gavin asked them if they wanted to comment. They declined.
They just remained standing outside, waiting for Clare to come out with her attorneys.
Toni Natalie came out and saw them. She called out to the Nxivm members and told them bluntly, “She’s not coming out.”
And she wasn’t.
Clare went that night to MDC in Brooklyn, the prison where her Vanguard resides, as well as Ghislaine Maxwell.
She will likely be there for a few months, while she awaits a permanent prison assignment.
Prior to her sentencing hearing, her attorneys informed the court that Clare had a liver ailment and should not go to prison since she needed medical treatment.
While the judge disagreed that Clare should not go to prison, despite her last-minute liver problem, he still wanted her to get proper medical treatment.
On the day following her sentencing, he issued this order:
ORDER: On September 28, 2020, Defendant’s counsel filed a  letter apprising the court of the Defendant’s recent medical testing. The Government is DIRECTED to advise the MDC of this letter and request that the MDC arrange for medical follow up to determine if further tests and treatment are warranted. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 10/1/2020. )
Assuming Clare doesn’t do anything to lose any of the “good time” she would otherwise accumulate, she could knock off about a year of her 6.75 year sentence. She is 41, and could be out when she is 47 with perhaps much of her money intact.
Of course, she may get out sooner. Clare will undoubtedly appeal her sentence – at least the portion of it that’s over 27 months – because her plea deal agreement gives her that right.
What her chances are is anybody’s guess. There are some possible legal arguments, possibly good arguments she could make, which we will try to explore in a later post.
Nationally, about 4% of the appeals in federal criminal cases are upheld.
But that percentage has been slightly higher in the 2nd District – which is where Clare’s appeal will be heard [The same is true for Raniere].
Unfortunately for Clare, she can only appeal the portion of her sentence that is above 27-months. That’s because she signed a plea deal agreement that eliminated all of her other appellate rights.