The supporters of Keith Alan Raniere on Friday sent an email to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis asking him to adjourn sentencing Raniere based on forensics experts’ reports that critical electronic evidence used in the trial was tampered with. That critical evidence involved nude photographs taken by Raniere of his DOS “slave” Camila when she was 15 [November 2005].
Raniere is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday at 10 AM at the Brooklyn federal courthouse.
If the photos of Camila are authentic and not tampered with, because they were found on a hard drive seized at Raniere’s library, it constitutes possession of child pornography. Since Raniere is allegedly the photographer, it also constitutes sexual exploitation of a minor. The jury decided he committed both acts.
Right now, supporters of Raniere are working to fulfill Raniere’s wishes to do anything legally in their power to persuade the judge to adjourn sentencing. I emphasize the word “legally” because I believe they are committed to doing things in a lawful fashion. These are not Charles Manson type followers. They are not violent and crazy as far as I can tell. [We do disagree on the saintliness of their friend, Raniere]. And they do not seem willing to violate the same due process rights of others that they are seeking for Raniere.
Still, this is a late innings attempt. I told supporters here in Brooklyn – Eduardo Asunsolo, Marc Elliot, Justin Elliot, Nicki Clyne, Michele Hatchette, Suneel Chakravorty, and others – that there is almost no chance that the sentencing will be adjourned and if they have evidence of tampering with Camila’s photos, they would be better off providing it to Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, who can use it as part of an appeal.
Raniere, however, wants the adjournment. That’s paramount to him. He does not want to be sentenced Tuesday.
So supporters are following his lead, even if it works against his long-term prospects for winning on appeal. Raniere was told that even if a meteor were to hit the earth, the sentencing would still occur and Keith reportedly told his followers “Pray for a meteor.”
The reason Raniere might want the adjournment is because he honestly believes that his due process rights were infringed upon and that, given time, the judge and perhaps the world will realize he was unfairly treated.
In an interview with me on NBC Nightly News, Raniere told me, “Both the devil and a saint should be able to get the exact same treatment under our justice system.” He believes he is getting different treatment because he is considered the devil.
I spoke with Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, to get his view on this and other matters relating to his client.
I asked Marc why Raniere’s supporters were emailing the judge asking for an adjournment based on “tampering evidence.” Did he not think it was worth using this in an appeal?
Agnifilo: I don’t think there’s anything to read into the fact that I didn’t bring [a motion]. I have three years from the date of the verdict. Why bring it now? You know, why take the cake out of the oven when it’s not ready…That’s been my position. As you probably can glean, this is not the best time, right before sentencing.
But, you know, I’m in a tricky position, because I have a client. And you can imagine, the pros, cons, and all the things in between of having Keith as your client. I mean, he’s an involved guy, and he has a lot of ideas about a lot of things. And, thank God, he’s catching me at a point where I have 31 years of experience.
But, you know, I was gonna take all the advantages a Rule 33 [motion for a new trial] gives me but that’s not what he’s wanting to do. So, this letter written [to the judge by his supporters] now. I don’t know what the judge is going to do with it. He could treat it as a motion. He could treat it as nothing. We’re all kind of waiting to see. He might ignore it. He might say, ‘I’ve gotten this letter, Mr. Agnifilo, what do you think?’ And I’ll tell the judge what I just told you, because that is what I think. Or, you know, he could consider it as an official filing. I don’t think he’ll do the latter. I think he’ll either ignore it or ask me what I think.
I explained to Agnifilo that Raniere’s supporters hope to present their evidence of tampering on Camila’s photos to an eager world media – which in turn would report it as an outrage and capture the attention of the judge in time for him to adjourn the sentencing.
Frank Report: What would you rate the chances if you were an oddsmaker of the judge granting an adjournment?
Agnifilo: Between zero and 0.01% and I’m being generous. I mean, I think if an asteroid hit the Earth, he would sentence Keith on Tuesday. This is happening.
You know, everyone feels so strongly about Keith. It’s kind of amazing. And that’s one of the things I’m going to talk about on Tuesday, some of the strong feelings are so radically negative. And some of them are so radically positive. But the one thing that I don’t want to get lost in all this is, you know, Keith is probably getting sentenced to life on Tuesday, and that is, short of being executed, just as monumental a thing as our government can do to a single person.
And I’ve been trying to focus Keith on that situation. “I know, you want to put it off. I know all these things, but you have to at some point absorb the magnitude of Tuesday, you know, or else, you’re not in the moment enough, and you’ll spend the rest of your life catching up to what you missed on Tuesday.” And, you know, I think that’s what’s going to happen on Tuesday. And I don’t know that there’s anything I can do to stop it and all the things are gonna happen after Tuesday. You know, there’s going to be an appeal. These things are going to be studied. And we’re gonna see kind of how the court system thinks about all this, [after sentencing]. And I don’t want him to hold out any hope [that the sentencing will be adjourned]. Because then he’s not going to be ready.
FR: What’s gonna happen to him on Tuesday? A life sentence is often reserved for people who murder someone, or kidnap, violently dismember somebody? Do you think life is appropriate for Keith?
Agnifilo: I mean, Cami [Camila] is going to come in; she’s going to speak. It’s going to be immensely powerful. I have been probably thinking about how I’m going to handle that for probably a year and a half. And it’s such a delicate thing. And it’s such a raw thing for Cami. And, you know, for everybody. But I’m surprised that I’m gonna be on my hands and knees begging for a 15-year sentence for a 60-year-old man. But I am. And I’ll beg if I have to and I will, and I’m not going to get it [15 years for Keith].
FR: Do you know, how many other victims besides Cami will make statements?
Agnifilo: I think it’s 10 people, I think it’s Cami. [her sister] Dani [Daniella, one of Raniere’s sexual partners who was confined in a room for two years for kissing another man], the mother [of the sisters] and Fluffy [Fluffy is the nickname of Adrian, the brother of Cami and Dani.] Kristin Keeffe, Susan Dones. I think Mark Vicente has a video. I don’t know who else is gonna have the video. [I believe Barbara Bouchey, and Toni Natalie will make statements.] I don’t have the list of victims in front of me. And honestly, part of the reason I don’t remember is because Cami, Cami’s gonna be it. She’s gonna take the house down.
FR: Do you think she’s going to say I was 15 years old one when this guy [Raniere]—
Agnifilo: Yes. Yes. 100%.
FR: That sort of hurts the whole argument of tampering with her photos on the hard drive if she comes in and says they are my pictures?
Agnifilo: I don’t want to get too much into the reason why, you know, I advise Keith, but I mean, assuming Cami is going to come to court, and she’s going to say, “This is what happened. I was 15. And he took pictures of me,” I said [to Keith], “This is the worst possible time for us to bring up a tampering [motion]. You know, the allegation [of tampering] is right after Cami said, “It’s seared in my brain. He took pictures of me, I’ll never forget it.”
And the judge is gonna look at me like I have three heads. [the judge might say] “Are you saying she’s lying? And what are you saying? Exactly?’ You know, and so, I don’t know that. This isn’t the time. I’m talking to you, because I know you’re investigating things. And, I think I’ve conveyed to you years ago, I mean, I have nothing but deep respect for you. I truly do. And I think every journalist in America tries to do what you’ve done, which is to have a vision of a situation, bring it into the world, and then bring it about; realities follows kind of your reporting. And you did that. And I have deep respect for what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. I told that to you, you know, when when you were arguably more partisan than you are now and I don’t think for a second you’re on Keith’s side. I think you’re a journalist and you’re chasing things down. So, you know, I think this is the worst possible time to bring this [tampering] motion, which is why I didn’t do it. But you know, that he [Raniere] had it done [by his supporters] and now it’s in the world. I don’t know what the judge is going to do with it. I don’t think it has the status of a motion. But we’ll see.
FR: But he’s not going to adjourn the sentencing?
Agnifilo: No, no, no way. No chance.
FR: Keith is going to be sentenced on Tuesday, likely to a life sentence, right? Where and how soon will he go? And where will he go to?
Agnifilo: I don’t know the answer to either question. I would imagine within two or three weeks. It could be sooner it could be later. I don’t know how COVET affects transport, about prisoner travel throughout the country. Because so many areas have such bad COVI.? I would like him to stay in the northeast. I don’t want him to be sent out to Arizona, you know, or somewhere like there. Keith relies on contact with his lawyers more than some other people. And so he should have that. So I’m going to ask that he be sent someplace locally. Judge Garaufis may or may not make a recommendation. But even if he does, the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t have to follow it. I have no control. And Judge Garaufis has no control.
FR: Here’s the thing that’s troubling me, Marc. As bad as Raniere is, I don’t think anybody’s so bad that they belong in the Florence, Colorado Supermax. Can he wind up there?
Agnifilo: He could. I think he’s not the type of inmate that should be there. I don’t think he poses a danger to anyone. I think that some of the things that the government suggested in their sentencing memo like that he’s gonna watch the judge. I don’t think that was meant to be menacing or intimidating. I think he was talking about legal issues. In his case. I made that point in my sentencing memo. And I hope that that’s not misunderstood by the people who are going to designate him. He’s not a threat. I firmly believe that. Yes, he does have people who still talk to him and I think who believe that his views have value. But I sincerely believe none of these people are dangerous. I think that these people are trying to take this fight on a fairly high plane and have this legal issue be exactly that – a legal issue, and they’re engaging the courts. And they’re engaging, sort of there as an appeal to truth and honesty.
And I think that’s a good thing. I think that makes the country better. I think there are issues with our justice system. I’m not the first one to say that. This is something that is a big issue of the day, and it affects people across the board. It affects people who have traditionally been kind of shoved under the justice system. And it even affects people like Keith Raniere who can hire private lawyers. It’s a very hard system to be in.
And I agree with you, Frank, I don’t think he should go to a Supermax or a maximum at all. I hope he goes to a jail close by. I plan to continue to represent him through the appeal, with another appellate lawyer in my office who specializes in appeals. There are a number of issues that are still outstanding, I don’t want him too far away. I want to be able to drive to see them and not get on a plane because I don’t know what COVID is going to bring in the next few months. So, as the winter comes, I don’t want to have to rely on air travel to meet with him. So, I hope he’s local. And I hope he’s not in a maximum security facility.
I don’t think he deserves that. And we’re gonna fight, we’re gonna fight his case. And I think we have issues [for an appeal]. And we’ll see what the appeal process brings us.
FR: What’s the typical timeline for a Second Circuit appeal in a case like Keith’s?
Agnifilo: I would imagine we’d be in front of the circuit within a year. It’s a long record, It wasn’t a terribly long trial, I guess it was a six-week trial. But we got a lot done each day. And I think it’s a five or 6000 page record, which is pretty long. There are a lot of issues. There’s going to be a lot of issues in the brief, which means there’s a lot of issues for us to raise, it’s a lot of issues for the government to respond to. It’s a lot of issues for the circuit to address. So I would say we’d be there in a year.
FR: How long do you think it’ll take to get a ruling?
Agnifilo: I would imagine 16 months, you know, between 14 and 18 months.
FR: Can he be kept safe in prison? Is he going to die in prison, like his supporters say? Murdered in prison?
Agnifilo: I hope not. I was loosely connected to the Epstein situation. And I don’t know what happened to Jeffrey Epstein. No particular result [of his cause of death] would surprise me, I know that the official result that the government found was that he committed suicide. There’s some factors of that event that throws some doubt onto that [government theory], but I don’t know one way or the other. It’s certainly one of the things that Keith worries about, that Epstein did not commit suicide, and that he could suffer a similar fate [being murdered]. And, you know, it’s hard to argue with some of his viewpoints on that.
I hope that he’s kept safe, but there’s no assurance. The case has gotten so much publicity, that’s a bad thing. And the nature of some of the convictions is a bad thing in terms of that. So he’s vulnerable. He’s right about that. And I hope that you know, a country as wonderful as ours, and you can say for sure, a prisoner won’t be killed, but I don’t know. I don’t know that we can say that.
FR: Do you think a life sentence is appropriate for Raniere’s crimes of conviction?
Agnifilo: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I’m gonna ask the judge for for the minimum sentence which is sort of unthinkably in this case is 15 years for a 60 year old man. I’m gonna make a very impassioned plea for a 15 year sentence and I very much hope that he does not get a life sentence.
FR: In the case of the sex trafficking of Nicole? Do you have any comment on that?
Agnifilo: I objected to the jury charge on sex trafficking. I thought, and I said this in court. So I’m not saying anything now that I didn’t already argue,.I saw that there was a watering down of the jury instruction. I objected on that basis. So I am troubled by that charge. This is not what Congress intended, when it created the sex trafficking charge and attached to it a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence. That that will be one of the issues on appeal.