Two developments on the legal front occurred today – one in the case of Keith Raniere and the other in Clare Bronfman’s case.
Earlier this week, Raniere’s attorneys filed his letters-of-support with the court. For some reason and it is unclear as to why, the court sealed the letters, meaning that only the court and the parties can view them and not the general public.
That’s not how Raniere wants it. His lawyers are asking the court to unseal Raniere’s letters-of-support – which presumably the judge will do (They’re still sealed as of right now).
Clare Bronfman’s letters-of-support were not under seal and were available immediately to the public.
Meantime, Bronfman’s attorney, Ronald Sullivan, filed a motion asking that she be released from prison until her appeal can be decided.
Here is an abbreviated version of his letter asking for Clare’s release pending appeal.
… We respectfully write… for bail pending her appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Following her guilty pleas to two crimes, fraudulent use of identification and harboring an alien for financial gain, Clare was sentenced on September 30, 2020 to eighty-one months of imprisonment…
Clare Bronfman Poses No Risk of Flight and No Danger to the Community
Clare Bronfman is not a flight risk and poses zero danger to the community if she were to be released pending appeal. As the Court is well aware, she willingly returned to New York from Mexico to face charges and remained here even when the Court sua sponte sought an upward variance [of her sentence above sentencing guidelines].
She was a model pre-trial services supervisee. Clare poses no danger to “any other person or the community.” She has no prior convictions and has never been accused of any sort of violence. Nor did she fund a sex cult, a fact with which this Court agreed…
Since the outset of this case, at least since the time of the arrest of Keith Raniere, Clare has known that she was under investigation and facing arrest. For example, at the bail hearing for Mr. Raniere, the prosecution said that Clare “is a person who the government does believe has acted as a co-conspirator in criminal activity” with Mr. Raniere… Nevertheless, Clare voluntarily returned to the United States from Mexico after Mr. Raniere was arrested. Moreover, after Mr. Raniere’s arrest, Clare traveled to Europe several times (after informing the U.S. Attorney’s Office of her travel plans) and then returned to the United States… In addition, Clare, understanding that she was likely to be indicted, rented an apartment in Manhattan, so that she could live in the area – close to her attorneys – while she prepared for trial. Relatedly, Clare’s attorneys had asked the government, prior to her arrest, that she be given the opportunity to voluntarily surrender.
Furthermore, while Clare does have significant foreign ties, including family members in England and France and property in Fiji, there is no realistic possibility that she would manage to flee to any of these countries. As to her resources, Clare’s only significant source of wealth comes from trusts of which she is the beneficiary, and the Court has already received declarations from the trust advisors that they will not “distribute funds as discretionary distributions to a fugitive from justice.”…
Clare Bronfman’s Appeal Is Likely to Result in a Reduced Sentence
Clare Bronfman’s appeal to the Second Circuit intends to raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment or a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process. Specifically, Clare intends to demonstrate, inter alia, that her sentence of eighty one months of imprisonment is (i) disparate with the sentences received by other individuals who pleaded or were found guilty of similar, non-violent crimes; and (ii) contrary to the current measures implemented by federal detention centers to reduce the spread of COVID-19 amongst the prison population…
In addition to being detained in a facility that potentially has many positive diagnoses for COVID-19 [The Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center], Clare has provided the Court with medical records demonstrating a potentially serious liver disorder that puts her at heightened risk of contracting coronavirus. The risk to Clare’s health and safety is sufficiently apparent that denying her release would amount to a cruel wager on her life… Accordingly, this Court should grant her bail pending appeal…
Judge Nicholas Garaufis order was made the same day he got Clare’s request for bail:
ORDER: The Government is DIRECTED to respond to Defendant’s  motion for bond by October 16, 2020 at 12:00pm. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 10/15/2020.
The fact that he gave the prosecution only one day to respond does not bode well for Clare, I suspect.
If I were to wager on this, I would say the motion to free Clare pending appeal will NOT be granted.
Here is my reasoning: She took a plea deal that stated she would not appeal a sentence under 27 months. Clare may get a reduction of her sentence, but it will not be less than 27 months – which is what she agreed to serve in the first place. And since Judge Garaufis will most likely be the one that sets her reduced sentence, it’s quite possible that she will end up being sentenced to the 60 months that the prosecution recommended.
Therefore, the judge may decide that since she is not likely to get a sentence of less than 27 months, even if she does win a reduction of sentence on appeal, and since she has been in prison only 17 days, she can stay where she is until she has served 27 months. That is more than two years from now and an appeal will probably take about a year.
Of course, one thing that could complicate the process is a big uptick in Covid-19 cases in prison, where many non-violent and at-risk federal prisoners may be released. Clare has claimed she has a liver condition and though the Covid 19 situation is not dire in prison, that may change and she may be released with or without a successful appeal as many other federal prisoners have been released.
As of now, Clare has to serve her sentence of 81 months, with possible time off for good behavior. Absent her release by Judge Garaufis, she will be assigned by the Bureau of Prisons to a permanent facility sometime in the future. It is possible that she will remain at MDC for some time – up to and including the entirety of her prison sentence, whatever that winds up being.