Prior to sentencing Keith Alan Raniere on October 27, 2020, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis read his sentencing memorandum in court.
This document explains how he came to his decision to sentence Raniere to 120 years. Read the complete memorandum here.
Here is an excerpted version, skipping some of the detailed legal arguments, with [my comments in brackets and bold.]
By Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis
…. Following a six-week trial over which I presided, Mr. Raniere was convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, and two counts of sex trafficking…The Probation Department recommends that I calculate the Total Offense Level for Mr. Raniere’s sentence as 52…. The Government agrees with the PSR’s [Pre-Sentence Report] calculation.
[The federal government calculates Total Offense Levels for convicted criminals based on factors including the nature of the crimes, prior offenses, and the defendant’s role in the commission of those crimes. Anything score over 43 is a life sentence. However, these calculations are only advisory. The judge can make an upward or downward departure.]
Mr. Raniere objects to numerous aspects of the PSR, and suggests that the correct Total Offense Level is 37. [37 is 17.5 years.]
For the following reasons, I find that the appropriate Total Offense Level is 49.
Let me begin by addressing Mr. Raniere’s objections…
First, Mr. Raniere objects to the application of a four-point role enhancement under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines …. which applies “[i]f the defendant was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive.”…
[The judge found that Raniere was the leader of Nxivm, a racketeering enterprise.] I reject Mr. Raniere’s objections…
Next, Mr. Raniere objects to two aspects of the calculation for Counts 1 and 2, Racketeering Act 2, which concerns the sexual exploitation of Jane Doe 2. [Camila]…
He argues that … the pornographic photographs that he took of Jane Doe 2 when she was a minor… because the photographs themselves do not depict a sexual act or sexual contact, the two-level increase is improper….
Jane Doe 2 has made the courageous choice to speak up in connection with this sentencing, and her victim impact statement corroborates the ample evidence in the trial record that Mr. Raniere took these photographs in the context of an ongoing sexual relationship, through which Mr. Raniere groomed her for the offense of conviction. I, therefore, find that the two-point increase applies.
[The judge increased his points by two.]
I agree with Mr. Raniere’s objection to a two-level enhancement on Racketeering Act 2…. While Jane Doe 2 [Camila] was living in Nxivm-affiliated housing with adults other than her parents in November 2005 [when she was sexually exploited], she was not living with Mr. Raniere…. While Jane Doe 2 was entrusted to the care of the Nxivm community, led by Mr. Raniere, I do not think the record demonstrates that Mr. Raniere took on the kind of custodial role contemplated by the Guidelines. I, therefore, decline to apply this enhancement.
[He took off two points because Raniere was not acting as Camila’s guardian.]
I also agree with Mr. Raniere that the record does not support a two-level enhancement on Racketeering Acts 9(a) and 9(b), which concern the trafficking of Jane Doe 4, [Daniela] on the grounds that she suffered serious bodily injury….
While the circumstances of Jane Doe 4’s confinement clearly had a serious adverse impact on her physical health, including the denial of medical care for a severe toothache, and on her mental health, I find that the bodily injury she suffered was not of the type or severity contemplated by the Guidelines in providing for this enhancement.
I disagree with Mr. Raniere’s objection to the cross-reference to the sex trafficking Guidelines … which concern the forced labor of Jane Doe 5 [Nicole. Raniere got additional points for forced labor for Nicole as well as the sex trafficking.]
I agree with Mr. Raniere that the Government has not established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that either Sylvie or Additional DOS Victim 1 were victims of sex trafficking or a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. I, therefore, decline to include those acts in the Guidelines calculations.
I disagree with Mr. Raniere that he is entitled to a three-point reduction … with respect to his conviction of attempted sex trafficking of Jane Doe 8 [Jaye]…
The evidence at trial established that, in approximately November 2016, Jane Doe 8 was recruited into DOS, which she was told was a ”women’s-only organization.”… Her recruitment followed a pattern in which Mr. Raniere directed “first line” DOS slaves to recruit their own slaves and instructed them to conceal from the recruits that he was involved with DOS in any way.
Shortly after being recruited, Jane Doe 8 was given a “special assignment” by her “masters” [Allison Mack and India Oxenberg] to “seduce” Mr. Raniere, and to allow Mr. Raniere to take a [naked] photograph to prove she had completed the “assignment.”…
I find Jane Doe 8’s testimony credible and reject Mr. Raniere’s contention that she somehow “misunderstood the assignment to sleep with Raniere.”… Thus, while Jane Doe 8 ultimately refused to engage in a sex act with Mr. Raniere, I find that the preponderance of the evidence establishes that Mr. Raniere “completed all the acts [he] believed necessary for successful completion of the substantive offense.”
Accordingly, a three-point reduction … is not warranted.
I disagree with Mr. Raniere’s objection to a five-level enhancement … for engaging in a “pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct.” Under the Guidelines, a defendant engages in a pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct [underage sexual activity with Camila] “if on at least two separate occasions, the defendant engaged in prohibited sexual conduct with a minor.”…
The evidence establishes that Mr. Raniere began a sexual relationship with Jane Doe 2 in or about September 2005, when she was fifteen years old. The evidence also establishes that, on at least two occasions, Mr. Raniere took photographs of Jane Doe 2 constituting child pornography…. That is sufficient to establish a “pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct,” and the enhancement … is therefore warranted.
Having addressed Mr. Raniere’s objections to the PSR’s Guidelines calculation, I will now calculate the Guidelines range for Mr. Raniere’s sentence, using the 2018 Guidelines Manual….
[The judge makes an individual calculation for each offense. Then he went into how he calculated the offense level to come up with a Total Offense Level of 49, which is life imprisonment.]
Having calculated the Guidelines range, … I must consider several factors in imposing a sentence, including the nature and circumstances of the offense; the defendant’s history and characteristics; the need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense; the need for the sentence to afford adequate deterrence; and the need to protect the public….
I have reviewed the parties’ sentencing submissions. I have read the 56 letters submitted in support of Mr. Raniere. Many of these letters express the genuine belief that Nxivm and Mr. Raniere played a positive role in people’s lives. Of course, I have also reviewed the many victim letters that have been submitted, and I have listened carefully to the victim statements made here today in court. I have heard and considered counsel’s arguments. And I have also considered the testimony adduced at Mr. Raniere’s trial….
[The judge read off the list of Raniere’s crimes of conviction and the underlying racketeering acts for the racketeering charges.]
The context in which Mr. Raniere committed these egregious crimes is by now well known. Mr. Raniere is the founder of an organization called Nxivm, a self-styled executive coaching and self-help organization that functioned as a pyramid scheme in which members paid thousands of dollars for various “workshops” and new members were recruited via the promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme….
Mr. Raniere made members of Nxivm call him “the Vanguard,” and he maintained a rotating group of fifteen to twenty female Nxivm members with whom he had sexual relationships…. These women were not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Mr. Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Mr. Raniere.
In 2015, Raniere created a secret society called “DOS” or “the Vow.”…
As the PSR explains:
“DOS was comprised of all female masters (who were Nxivm members) who recruited and commanded groups of all female slaves. When identifying prospective slaves, masters often targeted women who were experiencing difficulties in their lives, including dissatisfaction with the pace of their advancement in Nxivm. Each DOS slave was expected to recruit slaves of her own, who in tum owed service not only to their masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere alone formed the top of the pyramid as the highest master. Other than Raniere, all participants in DOS were women.
“Raniere’s status as head of the pyramid was concealed from all newly recruited slaves, other than those directly under Raniere. DOS masters persuaded slaves to join DOS by falsely describing it as a secret women’s empowerment group and that the goal of DOS was to eradicate weaknesses in its members. Prospective slaves were required to provide collateral to prevent them from leaving the group or disclosing its existence to others.
“Collateral included sexually explicit photographs and videos of themselves, rights to financial assets, and videos or letters of (true or untrue) confessions that would be damaging to the prospective slave’s family members and friends. After joining DOS, slaves were required to provide additional collateral, including sexually explicit photographs, and to pay tribute to their masters, including by performing tasks that would otherwise be compensable. In addition, several DOS slaves were directed to have sex with Raniere to maintain membership.”
In other words, DOS operated to abuse and exploit young women for sex, labor, and financial gain….
The evidence before me makes clear that Mr. Raniere’s conduct was particularly egregious because he targeted and exploited girls and young women. He continued this abuse over the course of many years. And his abuse inflicted unimaginable trauma and damage on his victims.
[The judge then goes into his view of the abuse of Camila and Daniela. It is both damning, and revelatory of the judge’s view of Camila and Daniela. Consequently, I think it deserves a separate post. Read it here.]
Turning back to Mr. Raniere, his operation of DOS to exploit women was ruthless and unyielding.
One “slave” was ordered to “seduce” Mr. Raniere by sending him naked photographs of her every day [Sylvie].
She was later taken to his house where he performed unwanted oral sex on her and took more photographs of her. Mr. Raniere blindfolded another “slave,” [Nicole] and tied her down to a table while a third person [Camila] performed unwanted oral sex on her….
Several former DOS “slaves” testified that they were terrified to leave or speak out against DOS out of fear that their “collateral” would be released. All the while, Mr. Raniere also benefitted financially, as DOS “slaves” were coerced into providing labor and services for their “masters” and Mr. Raniere….
Mr. Raniere perpetrated these crimes over the course of many years, and his conduct harmed a great many people. More than 90 individuals have submitted victim impact statements to the court in connection with this sentencing, describing the harm that his criminal conduct inflicted on them.
What is clear to me, from all of this, is that the offenses of which the jury convicted Mr. Raniere are cruel, perverse, and extremely serious. They targeted the most vulnerable among his community, and they inflicted untold damage.
As one of Mr. Raniere’s victims wrote:
“I can never fully explain how much damage Keith Raniere has caused me and so many others. The psychological impact of his twisted teachings permeate my brain even after 2+ years of consistent therapy. His sexual abuse and humiliation of me, lives in my body and wreaks havoc with my soul if I am not completely diligent. Nightmares fill my head almost weekly, and the things he taught me to think about myself have made me neglect my health and cause myself undue pain on countless occasions. (Sylvie Supp. Victim Impact Statement.)
Taking account of the nature of the offenses of conviction, as well as Mr. Raniere’s history and characteristics and the seriousness of his offenses, makes abundantly clear that a significant sentence is not just appropriate, but necessary….
Despite everything that has happened and despite the countless victims who have given voice to their great pain, Mr. Raniere remains unmoved.
Indeed, he maintains his innocence…. To him, the brave victims who have spoken out about the abuse suffered at his hands – including those who spoke today – are liars…. The women who have courageously testified to his sexual exploitation of them are liars, too; in fact, they all just wanted to be with him….
And the six-week trial he was afforded before a jury of his peers was simply inconsequential.
Mr. Raniere has therefore not only failed to demonstrate remorse for his conduct, but he also maintains to this day that he has done nothing wrong.
As recently as November 2019, he described DOS as “good- not just good and even noble, but great – and vitally important for women and humanity.”…
Having presided over his trial, and having sat here today and listened to Mr. Raniere’s victims, I find it deeply troubling that he thinks of DOS in those terms.
To make matters worse, he and his counsel, funded by an unlimited war chest courtesy of co-conspirator Clare Bronfman, are engaged in a public relations campaign to cast doubt on the integrity of the judicial system and the jury verdict.
[It may be true or untrue that the Nxivm-5 and other Raniere supporters are funded by Clare Bronfman and that they are waging a public relations campaign to cast doubt on the fairness of the trial. However, I do not believe it is true that Raniere’s attorneys are involved in or condoning the public relations campaign in any way. Agnifilo told me that he did not support the premature presentation of the alleged tampering with the Camila photos, prior to sentencing.]
Ultimately, Mr. Raniere’s lack of remorse, coupled with his view that the conduct for which he was convicted was actually “noble,” strongly suggests the need for a significant sentence.
The need to promote respect for the law and for deterrence warrants a significant sentence in yet another respect. In his attempts to silence his critics and maintain control of his criminal enterprise, Mr. Raniere repeatedly obstructed justice and demonstrated a disregard for the rule of law.
In one instance, he worked to alter videotapes that were produced in discovery in a federal lawsuit…. When DOS victims began to speak out publicly, Mr. Raniere worked to silence them, including orchestrating a threatening letter to be sent to the victims through counsel in Mexico…
In every aspect of his conduct, Mr. Raniere has acted as though the law does not apply to him. Unfortunately for him, that is not the case.
I have considered the range of sentences that are available, and the range suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines. I have also considered the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities between Mr. Raniere and other defendants who have been convicted of similar conduct.
Finally, I have considered the appropriateness of imposing a fine, as I am obligated to do … unless I find that Mr. Raniere is unable to pay.
[The judge imposed] a fine on each count of up to $250,000, for a total of $1,750,000. … I find that Mr. Raniere has the ability to pay a significant fine. As I have already explained, I find the seriousness of Mr. Raniere’s conduct and the extreme harm he has caused jus tify a serious sentence. As one aspect of that sentence I am imposing the statutory maximum fine of $1,750,000 payable immediately. I direct the Government to place a lien on the estate of Pamela Cafritz, to which Mr. Raniere is alleged to be the sole inheritor, to secure payment of the fine.
Applying the statutory factors to this case, I find a significant sentence to be plainly justified. … Though I have highlighted today particularly egregious aspects of Mr. Raniere’s campaign of manipulation, exploitation, and abuse, no words can adequately communicate the lasting pain, trauma, and hardship he has caused so many.
I, therefore, sentence Mr. Raniere as follows:
- On Count 1, for Racketeering Conspiracy, 40 years (480 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served concurrently with the sentence on Count 2 and consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 2, for Racketeering, 40 years (480 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served concurrently with the sentence on Count 1 and consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 6, for Forced Labor Conspiracy, 20 years (240 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 7, for Wire Fraud Conspiracy, 20 years (240 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 8, for Sex Trafficking Conspiracy, 40 years (480 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served concurrently with the sentences on Counts 9 and 10, and consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 9, for Sex Trafficking of Jane Doe 5, 40 years (480 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served concurrently with the sentences on Counts 8 and 10, and consecutively with all other sentences imposed;
- On Count 10, for Sex Trafficking of Jane Doe 8, 40 years (480 months) in the custody of the Attorney General, to be served concurrently with the sentences on Counts 8 and 9, and consecutively with all other sentences imposed.
To summarize, I am imposing 40-year concurrent sentences on Counts 1 and 2, a 20-year sentence on Count 6, a 20-year sentence on Count 7, and 40-year concurrent sentences on Counts 8, 9, and 10, for a cumulative sentence of 120 years.
[After sentencing Raniere to 120 years, the judge then went into a series of requirements to be administered when he gets out of prison and is on probation – more than 100 years from now and when he would be more than 160 years old.
One of the requirements is that he register as a sex offender for the rest of his life if he completes his sentence sometime in the 22nd century. The judge forbade Raniere to contact other Nxivm members while he is on probation, should any of them still be alive. This restriction has been reported as that the judge ruled that Raniere cannot communicate with his followers while in prison. That requirement may well be established by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at a later date, but it does not appear to be on the record at this point. In this regard, we know that the BOP has already imposed limitations on who raniere can communicate with since he’s been at MDC – and it will not be surprising if the BOP continues to do in the future].