As we get ready for Keith Raniere’s sentencing which is but 18 days away, it is incumbent on Frank Report to provide readers with as much info on Raniere as possible in order to be prepared for the outcome. In a sense, October is Vanguard Month at Frank Report.
Lawyers for Keith Raniere have submitted to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis an 86-page sentencing memorandum on behalf of their client.
In it, they seek to persuade the judge to sentence Raniere to 15 years, the minimum required by federal law for Raniere’s conviction on sex trafficking charges.
Most of their arguments center around their assertion that Keith Raniere was wrongly portrayed by the prosecution. According to them, he is, in fact, a good guy, an ethical leader, and a man who developed a course of study that helped humanity.
Raniere is scheduled to be sentenced on October 27 and if the harsh sentence handed out to Clare Bronfman is any indication, Raniere is going to get a lot more than the 15-year minimum he is already facing. Quite possibly, the judge will prepare a powerful memorandum of sentencing to explain why he is sentencing Raniere to life.
This is the sixth in our series based on Raniere’s lawyers’ filing:
Here are the earlier ones:
This latest post is about the value of Nxivm.
My comments are in [brackets and bold].
By Marc Agnifilo and Paul DerOhannesian II
The Business of ESP and NXIVM
Before examining the teachings of ESP and NXIVM, there are several issues to be addressed as the Presentence Investigation Report contains information about ESP and NXIVM that requires correction.
Specifically, the report states that “Nxivm operated largely in secrecy.” This is, most respectfully, not true.
Nxivm was a thriving, well-advertised business with offices and websites and all the components of a going concern very much open to the public and looking for new members. However, like many businesses that develop and maintain intellectual property, the business had a policy that people could not steal or misappropriate the intellectual property. This policy was reflected in non-disclosure agreements.
[One of the chief complaints I heard from dozens of Nxivm students is that Nxivm never gave students a copy of their NDA and most students did not have the temerity to demand one. When they lef and Nxivm threatened them about disclosures, the students invariably did not know what they signed.]
As described further below, Nxivm developed what it believed to be valuable and novel curricula that was the life-blood of the company. As was made clear in the trial evidence, the curriculum, lessons, forums, modules and all the intellectual content of NXIVM and ESP were created by Keith Raniere. It was largely this intellectual property that people were paying for when they signed up for classes.
Accordingly, students receiving this material agreed to not use it inconsistent with its purpose.
However, just as the Google algorithm, the secret spices used by Kentucky Fried Chicken and the recipe for Coca-Cola are secret, those companies, just like NXIVM, are very much public and subject to scrutiny.
The report errantly states that “members were recruited via promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme.”
[Take note of this sentence, for in a little bit, Raniere’s lawyers will be naming a list of people who were benefitted by Nxivm courses and then we can judge the sentence “members were recruited via promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme” a little better.]
This is inaccurate and misleading. As an initial matter, members were not recruited via promise of payment or services for enrolling others.
Rather, people took NXIVM curriculum on their own for the same reasons people join other human potential organizations. What’s more, the approach developed by Raniere and others in ESP and NXIVM was novel and highly effective. The testimony of every witness, even those highly negative toward Raniere and NXIVM, was that the curriculum was potent and brought about positive changes in people.
Moreover, to the extent that the report uses the word “scheme” in connection with the NXIVM teachings, there is no evidence in the record or anywhere else that students did not get their money’s worth from the programs. To the contrary, the record is consistent that people taking the programs were impressed and satisfied with their results.
The Intellectual Content of ESP and NXIVM
In 1998, Raniere helped create Executive Success Programs (ESP), a series of intense, demanding workshops designed to actualize each person’s full potential. The focus of the program was to allow people who believe they are hampered in the way they think, react, and make decisions to eliminate whatever is holding them back.
A premise of the program is that people learn how to react to stimuli and to make decisions when they are children. However, the perception, intelligence and experience of a child are very different than those of an adult.
Nonetheless, we bring into adulthood many of the same thought patterns, reactions and decision-making tendencies that we developed as children, ones that we never revisited to update and change as we grew. The idea behind ESP, and later NXIVM, was to revisit those thought processes and, where appropriate, to update them to better reflect who we are as adults, rather than who we once were as children.
As part of ESP, Raniere created something called Rational Inquiry, the premise of which is that the more consistent a person is in their thinking, the happier and more successful the person will be.
Rational Inquiry is the vehicle that allows us to revisit the beliefs and mental processes we formed in childhood, to essentially dissemble them, and then to reassemble them consonant with adult life and experience. At the most elemental level, the theory is that people develop fears, limitations and reactions to certain events that serve as triggers and that these fears, limitations and reactions are non-rational and based on a sort of conditioning that is then reinforced as we continue in this mindset. The challenge is how do we focus on the triggering event and come to realize that we are free to react to it any way we want, and not only in the way we have been conditioned.
One of the differences between childhood and adulthood, which should be reflected in how a person reacts to a situation or makes decisions, is that adults tend to have clearer conceptions of their place in the world and are more stable and grounded than are children, who are still growing and changing, and therefore less certain of who they are and where they fit in.
Accordingly, one of the goals of the ESP or NXIVM program is to help each person develop the clear, honest knowledge and awareness of one’s place and value in the world. Another goal is to acknowledge one’s own responsibility for the way one reacts to a situation. As a person develops an awareness of her place in the world, refines her reactions and thought processes consistent with that awareness, and embraces the responsibility for her reactions, that person becomes more ethical. By being more ethical, more consistent and more responsible for one’s own actions and reactions, one will also be more joyful.
However, ESP and NXIVM were not just looking to help each person improve in these areas. They also sought to make a better, kinder, more ethical world. The idea was that as each person made herself more ethical, that person should likewise endeavor to similarly influence those around her. The teachings were that as society came to be increasingly controlled by ethical people, who were free from envy, greed and insecurity, the world would become more peaceful and generous.
Poverty, wars, killing and the other ways in which people were inhumane to each other would all be reduced. Ghandi [sic] famously said, “it is possible to live in peace.”
Raniere and the others of NXIVM were helping people live up to that ideal.
Just as the twelve-year-old Keith Raniere was determined to stand up to the reality that he would lose his mother, the adult Keith Raniere devoted his life to creating a community that could bring peace and joy to a world so full of violence, grief and unhappiness.
ESP and NXIVM in Practice
While the goals of ESP and NXIVM are admittedly lofty, and while achieving those goals requires an immense amount of work, in the estimation of countless people, these goals were met.
On or before October 9, 2020, pursuant to the Court’s scheduling order, the defense will be submitting letters from people who experienced first-hand the NXIVM curriculum and whose lives were improved as a result.
As but a few examples of the letters we expect to submit, Jim Del Negro, a mechanical engineer working in the insurance business, will advise that he was introduced to Executive Success Programs at a one-day seminar hosted by the Saratoga Springs, NY Chamber of Commerce back in 2002 and that he experienced a profound deepening in his understanding of morality and ethics in the seminar and how these values would help him in his life.
He will explain that Raniere’s teachings helped him develop greater empathy for others which helped him in every area of his life.
Brian Elliot echoes these thoughts, explaining that as an entrepreneur interested not only in business but in helping people that he has started several nonprofits. He was introduced to Executive Success Programs (ESP) while he was running an LGMT advocacy organization that he founded in NYC to help win marriage equality in New York.
Having recently graduated with an MBA and MPA from Harvard University, he took the ESP course because he was struggling to manage the day-to-day stresses and demands involved in leading an organization. His first ESP intensive was transformational in a lasting way. His stress level plummeted and his confidence and ability to fundraise dramatically increased, and he became more compassionate with others with whom he disagreed. He attributes this to Raniere and his teachings.
In explaining why she wanted to be close with Raniere, Lauren Salzman (who would later become the Government’s only cooperating witness) said she formed opinions about him based on his teachings, specifically that “he was humanitarian, that he had this vision for how we could all be, the word we used was interdependent but worked as a team as kind of a collective humanity and learned to be compassionate and care for each other and support each other in non-violent ways with ethics, and I wanted that.” ….
There is value in highlighting Ms. Salzman’s testimony on this point because when the Court fashions an appropriate sentence for Raniere, we ask the Court, most respectfully, to start from the premise that NXIVM and the core teachings and curriculum that Raniere created were undoubtedly meant to be positive.
Indeed, the vast amount of information that the Court has received – in the form of testimony, letters and otherwise – all consistently provides that people joined NXIVM because of their belief that it was a humanitarian organization that could help them achieve their personal goals as well as contributing to the improvement of society in general. This fact by itself distinguishes this case from virtually all other RICO cases, and we ask that the Court consider this unrefuted premise in arriving at an appropriate sentence.
Other government witnesses testified along these same lines.
Daniela [the woman confined in a room for almost two years because she kissed another man], for instance, said she was so impressed with Raniere’s teachings that she decided to forego boarding school in Switzerland to be part of what she called “the mission,” which was to change the course of human events.
It’s worth mentioning that at the time Daniela made this decision, there was no sexual activity between her and Raniere. In fact, her early impressions of Raniere were that he was geeky, soft spoken, “odd but in a good way,” and with a “sweet presence.”
When asked what she meant by “a sweet presence,” she said it was his attentiveness and soft spokeness. Her position that she wanted precisely what NXIVM was offering was informed wholly by her experience taking the intensive in Mexico and her familiarity with the NXIVM program.
[The relationship changed with Raniere soon after she joined. Shortly after her 18th birthday, he had sex with her. He was in his 40s. Soon after that, she was required to perform fellatio for him on demand, was coerced into threesome with Raniere and another woman, and was forced to have an abortion when he got her pregnant. He also confined her in a room, this Gandhi-like leader]
Doctor Brandon Porter, MD, PhD, [Are his lawyers trying to destroy Raniere? Porter lost his medical license because of human fright experiments Raniere devised – and for covering up a curious outbreak of disease or poisoning at Raniere’s birthday celebration in 2016], a man with a great deal of education and real-world experience, maintains that NXIVM was an organization that valued people and helped to serve as an example for a humanitarian organization.
Christopher Pearson-Smith, an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School, states that his ESP trainings put him through the intellectual and emotional ringer, and that he was introduced to the most valuable education he had ever had. He explains that he learned how to connect and communicate with people from all walks of life, which has brought him cherished new acquaintances and deepened existing friendships.
Linda Chung, graduate of Dartmouth College, Cornell Law School and Columbia Business School, explains that she has taken many of Raniere’s trainings and she believes they were more valuable to her than all of her formal education at three Ivy league schools. It bears noting that while several of the Government witnesses complained that the coursework was too demanding and that it even amounted to some sort of abuse, Doctor Porter, Mr. Pearson Smith and Ms. Chung, each of whom were accustomed to the rigor of top echelon educational institutions, appeared to thrive in this intellectual environment, as did many others.
Nicole Clyne, [yes, they are trying to destroy Raniere] a 36-year-old woman who has been associated with NXIVM and DOS, writes about the profound impact her experiences had on her, saying:
Perhaps most significant for me, I learned to be a loving daughter before, during and after the death of my father. My dad had made a lot of questionable choices in his life, especially as a father, but thanks to NXIVM’s introspective tools, the support of my friends in the community, and my personal relationship with Keith, I was able to forgive my dad for his shortcomings, see his struggle as a human being, and become his best friend in the final years of his life. Its [sic] possible that my relationship with my father, despite whatever other successes I have in life, will remain one of my proudest achievements.
The above sentiments are but illustrative examples of the endless ways in which the ESP and NXIVM curriculum helped people with the most important, difficult and defining challenges of their lives. The trial evidence showed that without contradiction everyone who took the NXIVM courses believed they were effective. This is important because the Government maintains that many of the people in NXIVM remained committed to the group because they were motivated to participate in a criminal organization designed to render sex partners for Raniere.
Even given the jury’s verdict, this is simply not what the trial evidence and other sentencing information shows at all. Rather, it is clear that people pursued and remained in NXIVM because they genuinely believed that they were involved in something positive, something that would help society and help themselves.
At the trial, the Government questioned many of the practices that NXIVM followed – the handshake, the sashes, the paying tribute to people with longevity in the organization. While the Government has recast the notion of paying tribute to Raniere and Nancy Salzman, the creators of ESP, as a form of oppression, the notion of being actively grateful for the gifts and blessings one has in life is as old as civilization itself. Virtually every discipline, whether it be the military, martial arts, sports, dance, musicianship, or education is structured in a way where the less experienced members show due respect to the more experienced members charged with teaching or guiding them.
Showing respect to our teachers, elders, judges, generals, and leaders is one of the great pillars of civility and one of the most important aspects of being a person of good character. Far from reflecting weakness, acknowledging and demonstrating respect for those guiding us is a gesture of supreme strength and confidence. In a society that has strayed from notions of honor and respect in favor of personal aggrandizement, popularity and being “liked” on social media, NXIVM’s teachings, vilified as they were by the government, are more
timely and important than ever.
[Are either of these distinguished lawyers planning on taking the Nxivm courses?]