This is the next in a series on the sentencing of Clare Webb Bronfman on September 30, 2020. It is important because Clare is now appealing her sentence and her codefendant, Keith Raniere, is about to be sentenced. Raniere is set to be sentenced on October 27th.
As I reported earlier, Raniere has made contact with me via members of Nxivm and has asked that I review evidence of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. I have agreed to do so – and will be reporting on this in detail shortly. My agreeing to look at the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct is not to be construed as my endorsing or supporting Raniere in any way.
In the meantime, we must study the one sentenced member of the Nxivm defendants, Clare Bronfman, to determine how it was that she was sentenced to 81 months in prison when the applicable sentencing guidelines suggested a 21-27 month sentence and the prosecution recommended a 60-month prison term.
The judge, in his exclusive discretion, chose to sentence her to a longer term than anyone asked for.
At the sentencing hearing, after nine female victims were heard in the morning, a recess was taken. Following the recess, the prosecution read a note from another victim, Sylvie, the Nxivm coach and DOS ‘slave’ who testified in the Raniere trial.
Sylvie’s statement was read by the prosecutor, Tanya Hajjar, as follows: “Whether Clare intended to hurt me, my family and many other people who were affected by her actions is irrelevant. The impact of the psychological, emotional, and physical abuse I and many others experienced at the hands of Nxivm has been devastating.
“My family deals with this pain on a daily basis and, yet, we are so incredibly grateful for all of the love, support and healing we have received since leaving Nxivm behind. We will never be able to fully convey our gratitude to the Government for their tireless investigation of this case in their pursuit of justice. I personally hope that Clare Bronfman can find peace and repentance by facing the dark truth of Nxivm.”
The prosecution also told Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis that, in addition to Sylvie and the nine other victims who read statements in court, there are 92 additional victim impact statements. Most of them directed at Raniere.
If what happened to Clare is any indication, Raniere will be sentenced to life in prison.
To recap, the other victim statements for Clare Bronfman are.
- Sarah Edmondson: here.
- Ivy Nevares: here.
- Jane Doe 14: here.
- Jane Doe 12: here.
- Toni Natalie: here
- Sally Brink: here
- Susan Dones: here
- Barbara Bouchey: here
- Kristin Keeffe: here
After Sylvie’s statement was read, Clare’s attorney, Ronald Sullivan, addressed the judge to argue for probation. Some of the things Sullivan told the judge about Clare were, based on my knowledge of the heiress and her affairs, factually untrue.
I doubt that Sullivan knowingly lied to the court. I suspect he may have been misled – and that he did not take the time to do his own independent research.
[My comments in bold and brackets.]
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Your Honor. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to be heard on this. We… are asking the Court to issue a sentence… of three years probation…
[W]ith regard to the victim in this case, Jane Doe Number 12, [read her statement] …. Clare … would like to express her deep, deep, sorrow for any and all pain caused to Jane Doe 12.
She considers, present tense, Jane Doe 12, a friend, a person who grew up through the Nxivm program with her, growing together in certain very important aspects of life and she is deeply, deeply sorry, and begs the Court’s pardon, begs Jane Doe 12’s pardon for everything that she did to cause her pain; no excuses, just a flat-out apology to someone whom she cares deeply about…
Clare Bronfman… is a 41-year-old woman who before this had absolutely no criminal history. She spent her youth as a professional athlete and then was introduced through her family member, her sister [Sara] and father [Edgar Bronfman, Sr.] to Nxivm, where she began to find a purpose in her life.
Clare Bronfman has wanted to and still wants to help people, and plain and simple, that has been her mission.
She has made mistakes… but her mission in life has been to help people. She is privileged and has unearned wealth which she freely admits through inheritance and she thought and thinks she ought to use that in a way to help humanity.
That is what appealed to Clare when she was introduced to Nxivm. She and some 17 or 18,000 additional people [who took Nxivm courses] found success through Nxivm in terms of being a better person an ethical person, a humanitarian. That was her goal. That’s what she wanted to do with the gifts that she had and in very many respects, Your Honor, Clare was successful in helping people for a long time…
So, with no criminal history prior to this, Ms. Bronfman has been on house arrest as Your Honor knows for 26 months. No problems. She has been perfect with respect to her pretrial reporting… She’s been diligent… abiding by everything that this court ordered. She is a good risk, Your Honor, to abide by anything that this court decides to order, should Your Honor grant this probationary term that we are requesting…
Clare knew nothing about DOS… Clare Bronfman denounces and renounces in all of its forms any sex trafficking, any human trafficking, or any sort of sex cult, whatever the terms are…
It was a secret organization. She was not told about it and… there is no way she would know about the branding… everything having to do with DOS, including the branding, was secret…
Ms. [Barbara] Bouchey… said that many were directed, and I’m quoting, to lie to Clare: “You thought you were in the inner circle, you were six layers out,” end quote. People were directed to lie to Clare to keep certain things from Clare and all of the issues about DOS simply were kept from Clare…
Next, with respect to the money that Clare spent over the years, I fear that Your Honor may be left with an impression that Clare just sort of willy-nilly gave money to Mr. Raniere to do as he pleased and…. that Ms. Bronfman enabled Mr. Raniere in all sorts of ways with the funds.
The truth of the matter, Your Honor, is that the money can be separated into three distinct areas… not one dime of Ms. Bronfman’s money went to DOS, there’s no wire transfer, no check, no cash, nothing, zero…
The first category, about $67 million went to paying calls on commodity trades, not as the Government puts it, 67 million to Keith Raniere to go and play in the commodities market. These were calls on previous investments. 67 million went to that.
[This is simply not true. Clare did not put $67 million into covering Keith’s commodity losses. She and her sister lost $67 million combined – losing about $33.5 million each. This is a serious misrepresentation.]
That had nothing to do with the operation of Nxivm. Nxivm had, as I mentioned, 17 or 18,000 people. It made millions of dollars, even tens of millions of dollars over the years so that was one category of money, a big chunk. [The IRS agents who worked on this case must have perked up when they heard this claim because, insofar as it is known, Nxivm never paid one dollar of federal income taxes throughout its almost two decades of operations.]
THE COURT: So whose trades were they?
MR. SULLIVAN: Some were Keith Raniere’s and others were friends [The trades were controlled by Raniere through a “formula” he had conceived to win in the commodities market, particularly corn futures.].They were involved in Nxivm, but friends of Clare, who were investing in the commodities market… And [Clare] covered them, fully expecting, as the way calls work, fully expecting that he would recoup, but —[This is another mishmash of truths and untruths. Clare and Sara never covered any of the losses that other people sustained when they covered other losses that Raniere sustained in the commodities markets. Their $67 million merely covered the losses he incurred in his attempt to beat the professional traders at their own game.]
THE COURT: Well, Mr. Raniere didn’t have a job, as far as I can tell. He wasn’t earning a big, big paycheck and he had $67 million worth of calls at one point on commodities trades?
MR. SULLIVAN: No, Your Honor. Not as I understand it.
THE COURT:… Wouldn’t that tell someone, a person of means, a multimillionaire, that something is wrong here; that someone invested all of this money and now they owe $67 million in commodities trading? What does that tell you? That is a rhetorical question. What does that tell you about the individual [Raniere] who you are doing business with or who you are associated with? I think it is strange.
MR. SULLIVAN: It could be, very well. The first point is that it wasn’t all calls from Mr. Raniere. There were other people involved. [Though it might be what Clare told her attorney, Raniere controlled every aspect of the commodities trades regardless of whose name he put the trades in.] The second point is that as far as Clare knew, that Mr. Raniere was supported by his longtime life partner [Pam Cafritz] who was a woman of independent means.
[Pam, whose parents were wealthy, had a monthly stipend of about $20,000 per month and Pam left him $8 million when she died. Interestingly enough, it is believed that this “woman of independent means never spent one dollar covering any of Raniere’s losses in the commodities market.]
How those people involved invested in the market was not Clare’s doing, but they were in the market.
[Nancy, Pam and Clare did not know anything about commodities. Clare told me that she had no idea what trades Keith made or how her money was lost. I started to investigate this matter before being suddenly fired as a Nxivm consultant.] There were calls. If calls are met and if it works out, as Your Honor knows, she would have gotten her money back. She didn’t. She lost a lot of money. She was not happy about that at all.
THE COURT: What year was that. I do not recall?
MR. SULLIVAN: ’05. [That date is also incorrect – and further demonstrates just how little Clare’s lawyer knew about her case. The actual commodities losses occurred in 2002 and/or 2003.]
THE COURT: She was upset, but she continued to have a relationship with Mr. Raniere until 2018 when they were arrested. I wanted to understand what’s at play here. I am just following up on your issue.
MR. SULLIVAN: Indeed. Perhaps he and others were not good commodity investors. She also made more money than she lost in that period investing and other things personally
[It is not true that she earned more money than she lost. I examined her net worth statements provided to me by her in 2007 and 2008. The reason she can say she made more money than she lost is that she concealed her losses in the commodities market. She listed on her net worth statement that she did not lose the $33.5 million invested in commodities. She listed the $33.5 million as an asset – an interest-bearing loan to First Principles, Inc., one of Raniere’s companies. Yet she knew she would not get the money back. I asked her why she showed her loss as an asset and Clare told me “To hide the loss from my trustees so they won’t tell my father.” B believe it or not, she even falsified her tax returns by claiming that she was paid interest on the First Principles, Inc. loan – and then paid taxes on the non-existent interest.]
Not only did she not make money at that time, she and her sister ran through their first trust fund money [$135 million] – and had to borrow against a future trust. Clare apparently did not tell that to her attorney – or she did, and he lied to the court.]
THE COURT: I see. Go ahead.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. But to say that he and others may have been bad investors in the commodities market is not to say that she was aware of a RICO enterprise in Nxivm per se. $30 million, Your Honor, went to The Ethical Science Foundation. If Your Honor has had a chance to look at the “My Tourette’s” documentary that we submitted. From Clare’s vantage point, she was able to see how her investment in a scientific endeavor played out. [This appears to be a total fabrication – or Clare’s attorney just admitted that Clare lost another $30-million that was not previously disclosed. One thing is for certain: The Ethical Science Foundation has nowhere near $30-million in assets – which raises questions about what happened to those funds.]
[Sullivan does not mention that Clare also funded human fright experiments where women were subjected to snuff films and films of gang rapes while being monitored by an EEG for their reactions, which resulted in Brandon Porter losing his medical license.]
Viewing the [Tourette’s] video, which I have certainly done many times, the results were incredible. These were people with severe Tourette’s Syndrome who – Clare is not a doctor. She didn’t do the doctoring part of it. She was an investor, but these are people with severe Tourette’s Syndrome who, in the end, were speaking more fluently than I am speaking today. It was simply, simply an incredible change. And that’s the bulk of the money; responding to calls and the money for The Ethical Science Foundation.
[The $100 million really went into five places – paying for lawsuits; funding Raniere; funding Nxivm; covering commodities losses and other Raniere investments, mainly real estate in Albany and Los Angeles; and The Ethical Science Foundation, which was used in part as means to bring women into the USA from foreign countries, sometimes illegally.]
Now, there were — the remaining had to do with litigation and I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate now and I don’t intend to go litigation by litigation and talk about that, but, yes, she did fund lawyers in her capacity as a board member of Nxivm where she thought that intellectual property and the like of Nxivm was stolen…
[Sullivan makes it sound like her investment into litigation was just a few million. This is because he misstates her commodities losses as $67 million when it was $33.5 million. The other $33.5 million or so of the $100 million went into litigation. Clare obviously knew this but she allowed her attorney to misrepresent her use of money to the court. Downplaying her role in funding litigation, she doubled her true commodities losses and minimized her $30 million spent on lawsuits and investigations of enemies as just a few million. When I was her consultant, Clare and her sister Sara were spending hundreds of thousands a month – millions per year on litigation. Add that up over 15 years and they may have spent more on lawyers and investigators than they lost in commodities.]
THE COURT: There is nothing in this record in particular about the advice that she was given by attorneys as to whether these cases were serious cases that – where the rights of the plaintiffs were significantly affected which would cause a mature, wealthy individual to provide funding for an extended litigation. I mean, all we’ve got is they brought this case and they brought that case and then we hear from victims of these lawsuits …. but… I have never been provided with any kind of professional statement of counsel as to the kind of advice that was given to Ms. Bronfman….. if you are saying that these were bona fide lawsuits against people who had done wrong, civilly or otherwise, then this was an opportunity to clarify that; and you have not clarified that because these lawyers have not come forward to tell me, like the lawyer in Mexico, [who Clare retained to threaten DOS women who wanted to leave] to tell me that this lawyer counseled Clare that there was something awry that caused her to bring – to threaten litigation against people who she used to have relationships with. So why are we even talking about it other than she paid for litigation? I heard that.
[Sullivan was clearly failing to persuade the judge that Clare’s litigations were meritorious and mostly successful litigation.]
MR. SULLIVAN: I will make three points in response to Your Honor’s concerns. First, with respect to every jurisdiction of which I’m aware, an attorney has an ethical obligation that prohibits him or her to bring suits or institute legal proceedings just to vex an innocent.
[Sullivan is naïve if he thinks a wealthy person like Clare Bronfman could not find attorneys to engage in vexatious and abusive litigation] I’m not aware of any jurisdiction that allows that. That’s an inference that Your Honor can draw.
THE COURT: I do not draw that inference without evidence … because you are asking me to believe that there was a bona fide reason for, you know, writing a check [to lawyers] which had an adverse effect on certain people for years and years and years and that it was a – that it was done in good faith, all right? The question of good faith is something that I can take into account [in sentencing]. I can take good faith into account, but there is no way for me to infer that there was good faith here because no effort was made by your client to associate her actions with the claim of good faith…
[The judge wanted evidence from Clare and her lawyers that the lawsuits were meritorious, with statements from attorneys and with the results of the litigation, something that Clare or her attorney did not provide.]
MR. SULLIVAN: May I just clarify the record with my final two points?
THE COURT: Sure.
MR. SULLIVAN: The second point is… that most of the litigation claimed to be vexatious was, in fact, successful in courts of competent jurisdiction; another basis for the Court to draw an inference [that the lawsuits were meritorious, not meant to destroy enemies by using Clare’s wealth to legally crush her opponents].
[Of the 40 lawsuits, Clare was only victorious in three cases. Most were dismissed sometimes after years of heavy litigation. The results of 40 lawsuits and over $30 million in legal fees for Clare racked up 3 wins, 36 losses, and one pending case.]
MR. SULLIVAN: …. almost 100 million went to two things clearly unassociated with Nxivm as an organization…
[Commodities and The Ethical Science Foundation. But again, this is false. About a third of the $100 million went into litigation and more went to funding Nxivm.]
THE COURT: Counsel, Raniere was Nxivm and if your client was bailing out Mr. Raniere, she was in effect bailing out Nxivm, no?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t agree with that as I understand the corporate structure of Nxivm, Mr. Raniere could have issues. He certainly was the founder and the charismatic leader and, yes, if he failed, I suppose Nxivm would have failed. My simple point was that 100 million didn’t go to the corporate entity itself; that it was quite well self-sustained and, to my knowledge, none of the earnings from the corporate entity went to the commodities or anything like that [When I was a consultant, Clare and Sara funded the salaries of several people who worked for Nxivm]. You know, the 30 million for The Ethical Science Foundation was a group within Nxivm, but it was self-funded for that and, of course, no one has ever claimed that that money didn’t go to that research. So that’s — [Once again, the IRS should have a field day tracking down this $30 million that supposedly went into The Ethical Science Foundation.]
THE COURT: Okay. Go ahead.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, the final section here, Your Honor, we submitted as well a number of character letters about Clare. Because of the rules of court and federal statutes they obviously do not have the opportunity to make the claims in front of Your Honor in open court [apparently only victims can speak at sentencing.] but we ask Your Honor to consider these as well. These are people who have known Clare, some dated back to her pre-Nxivm days, people within Nxivm who certainly had a very different understanding and appreciation of the value or of the organization, and some people who may not be fond of Nxivm anymore, but are still extraordinarily fond of Clare Bronfman and these letters weren’t sort of created out of whole cloth because of the range.
People who have even encountered Clare on somewhat of a random basis, her acupuncturist, for example, all see within her a desire to do good and be helpful. Indeed some of the character witnesses that Your Honor heard from even mentioned that this seems to be at the core of Clare’s personality; that she wants to do good, wants to be a humanitarian.
[The 66 letters in support of Clare were from family members, Nxivm members, and others financially dependent or standing to benefit or having benefitted financially from her. None of her brothers or cousins wrote letters in support. That her attorney had to mention her acupuncturist, someone who sticks needles in her twice a month, shows how few people were willing to state on the record that she touched them in a positive way.]
If Your Honor finds that that desire was misused or somehow corrupted through this vehicle of Nxivm, that just doesn’t speak to what is deep within Clare’s character and what she understood herself to be doing in an attempt to help people in an organization whom she cared deeply for and to help an organization that she and others, for some long periods of their lives, cared deeply for…
And, so, in that sense, you know, this is the basis of why we are asking for a probationary term. Clare — the thing — the entity [Nxivm] that many have claimed through very vivid imagery used Clare in a way that aided in things that it was doing outside the scope of its charter is no more. That was a very garbled way of saying, Your Honor, that Nxivm as an institution doesn’t exist. There isn’t a reason then to think that Nxivm is going to in any way use Clare’s wealth even unknowingly, even use it in a way that is problematic and troubled…
[The point missing is that Clare with her wealth, outside the strictures of prison, could easily rebuild Nxivm, even under a different name.]
And in conclusion, Your Honor, if permitted a period of probation as we are asking for, Clare will continue to attempt to use whatever wealth she has left to do some good in this world.
[This argument may have rankled the judge. He does not see Clare as having done good with her money and for the lawyer to say she will “continue” to use her wealth to do good might have had the opposite effect than what was intended.].
If nothing else, she has learned tremendously from this experience about how to take ownership of what she has and make independent decisions with – and using advisors [For years, she had only one advisor: Raniere] to help inform her decisions, but to make decisions that just comply with not only law but rules and norms. She is a deeply, highly scheduled person; an individual who wants to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and to just use a colloquial phrase, do the right thing, Your Honor.
That’s the Clare Bronfman that sits here before you right now, an individual who has always been committed to being in the service of humanity and now has even recommitted to being in the service of humanity.
[The judge saw the woman sitting before him as cruel and not committed to the service of humanity. Remorse might have been a better strategy. Not to keep arguing how good she is – and how she helped so many people and wants to continue doing what she had done.]
Things obviously over the last few years got distorted in a way that we can never turn back. But what she can do and what she’s committed to do and what she will do going forward is to take the same desire that got her to do The Ethical Science Foundation, the one that got her to think about how to help people suffering from, in this case, a neurologic disorder, but suffering is what – when Clare sees someone suffer, she steps in.
[The judge seems to have viewed her as someone who makes people suffer, including the 10 women he heard from in his court.]
As Your Honor knows, she’s a business owner. And when COVID hit, like every place else, it went from an income to zero; to zero, to closed down, shut down. Clare did not fire, did not lay off a single employee,
[At her Wakaya Island resort in Fiji, she kept on staff to maintain the property. She owns 80 percent of the island of about 300 residents.] but rather used what resources she had to continue to pay those families so that they can eat and feed their children and educate them and so forth.
When Clare sees hurt and suffering, she attempts to step in. And that she has caused hurt and suffering is deeply upsetting to her, I mean down to the marrow of her bone and her core, Your Honor, deeply upsetting that she could be the cause of suffering when all she wanted to do was to help people.
[As we shall see in a subsequent post, this argument about Clare’s goodness was unpersuasive. If I were to boil down his argument to a few sentences, you will see why it annoyed the judge.
Sullivan said, We… are asking the Court to issue a sentence of three years probation. Clare Bronfman is a 41-year-old woman who was introduced to Nxivm where she began to find a purpose in her life. Clare Bronfman wants to help people, and plain and simple, that has been her mission. Her mission in life has been to help people. She thinks she ought to help humanity.
She found success through Nxivm in terms of being a better person an ethical person, a humanitarian. That was her goal. That’s what she wanted to do with the gifts that she had and in very many respects, Your Honor, Clare was successful in helping people for a long time.
And in conclusion, Your Honor, if permitted a period of probation, Clare will continue to attempt to use her wealth to do some good in this world. She wants to do the right thing, Your Honor. She’s committed to being in the service of humanity and now has even recommitted to being in the service of humanity. She’s committed to going forward to help people suffering. When Clare sees someone suffer, she steps in. When Clare sees hurt and suffering, she attempts to step in. Down to the marrow of her bone and her core, all she wanted to do was to help people.
[Sullivan calling Nxivm a place for getting success, which was decided by a jury in the judge’s courtroom to be a racketeering enterprise and the constant eulogizing Clare as a saintly character, after the judge heard from 10 victims who painted an entirely different picture, put things in stark contrast. Sullivan was new to the case. She had three sets of lawyers before him. He possibly did not understand the judge’s view of Bronfman or the case. His speech was like throwing gasoline on a fire, as we shall see when it comes time to sentence her.
[Finally, her lawyer said she was victorious in most of her lawsuits. In our next post, we will take a closer look at her record, as we further study the nuances of this case.]