Now that Keith Raniere has been sentenced to 120 years in federal prison, it is time to examine the record and what happened at sentencing.
Was the century-plus sentence appropriate for his crimes of conviction? Or was he sentenced excessively and for crimes he was not convicted of by a jury – but determined to have committed by the judge by a preponderance of the evidence?
Was he sentenced in part because he is an odious character? Someone who egregiously offends society’s shared moral values?
To judge this better, I am going to publish the victims’ statements presented at sentencing. It is important to keep in mind that the victims’ statements were not made under oath – and that Raniere had no chance to cross-examine any of them (Per the applicable federal rules, he was also not allowed to have anyone speak on his behalf st the sentencing hearing).
Watching them live, I felt that almost all of them had the sobering ring of truth.
Kristin Keeffe’s harrowing tale had everyone on the edge of their chairs – and I thought the judge would call another moment of silence when she finished, as he did at Clare Bronfman’s sentencing. He did not do that, however.
Those attending the sentencing live heard from I believe 15 victims in total. Camila was first – and made her first public statement about her involvement with Raniere.
All the victims got one last chance to see their tormenter, now a wholly defeated man. Probably all of them will never look again upon the face of their abuser, a man they once regarded as the best and most ethical man in the world, a man who held almost total sway over their lives at one time.
Raniere sat calmly before his victims – many of whom were his former lovers – within easy sight of them in his prison garb. He could hear every word and betrayed little or no emotion as they told of his appalling crimes of abuse.
In addition to publishing the statements of his victims, I plan to publish the comments of some of his supporters. They want to explore several due process issues that they expect to be raised on appeal. I think it’s important to hear them – and investigate their claims – before we close the book on Raniere.
It is also a fact that a group of DOS women has come out publicly to tell their stories about how they were not “victims” of DOS. They announced their campaign, called the DOSsier Project last week, after the sentencing.
Among the supporters I observed at the sentencing of Raniere and afterward outside the court were Marc Elliot, Justin Elliot, Suneel Chakravorty, Eduardo Asunsolo, James Del Negro, Nicki Clyne, Michele Hatchette, Linda Chung, and Danielle Roberts.
I have informed the supporters of Raniere that I am interested in any evidence they may have concerning due process violations in Raniere’s case.
This should be heard. It can hardly terrorize the victims since Raniere is secure in a federal prison – and not likely to emerge from that fate until his life comes to a close.
The supporters’ efforts might lead to a retrial, an extremely difficult task to accomplish. But should it happen, Raniere will not be freed. He will simply be re-tried. Also still lingering are the child porn and sexual exploitation charges that were referred to the Northern District of New York – and with Camila, the victim, now apparently willing to testify, the road to Raniere’s eventual freedom is riddled with obstacles that are likely to be insurmountable.
If there truly was prosecutorial misconduct that rises to the level where there is doubt about the fairness of the trial, Raniere may be entitled to a new trial, at which, I believe, he will again be found guilty.
Before we close the book on Raniere, I want to examine evidence of possible crimes that were not charged. Of particular interest is what happened to Gina Hutchinson, Kristin Snyder, Barbara Jeske, Dorcas Suzanne Kemp, and Pamela Cafrtiz?
My film on Investigation Discovery, The Lost Women of Nxivm, covers the initial investigation. More evidence has been uncovered since then.
Frank Report will also seek to learn to what prison Raniere is assigned. As bad as he may be, there is no human that belongs in the shockingly cruel and inhuman Supermax prison in Florence, CO where one is placed in solitary confinement – in a tiny 7 x 12 cell – without human contact or external stimulus for a minimum of three years. One lawyer familiar with the case rates the probability of Raniere’s being assigned there at 75 percent.
The Sentencing of the Others
Ahead of us also are Allison Mack, Nancy and Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell, who have yet to be sentenced. Raniere, when he spoke, asked the judge to show mercy on them and put the blame entirely on him. Some might see this as a magnanimous gesture, but, on the other hand, what did he have to lose by making the statement?
The other defendants are expected to be sentenced by the end of the year, based on an instruction the judge gave prosecutors a few weeks ago to arrange dates with defense attorneys for sentencing. Now that Raniere has been sentenced, I expect things will move along expeditiously.
Based on the severity of the sentences imposed on Bronfman and Raniere, the four remaining defendants have ample reason to be concerned.
On the other hand, Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack have cooperated with the prosecution and the government’s sentencing memorandums and the Probation Department’s pre-sentencing reports should reflect that.
Nancy Salzman might have something to worry about. Listening to the victim’s statements, her name came up frequently and the judge, who seems to have an unerring sense of understanding the big picture and quite a few little pictures of this case under his purview, might very well have discerned that Nancy had a far larger role in the Nxivm racketeering enterprise than what was portrayed at trial and as reflected by her plea to only one racketeering conspiracy charge.
She faces a maximum of 20 years.
Allison also was mentioned frequently in the victim statements by two of her former slaves – Nicole and India Oxenberg. I am naming India by first and last name because she has chosen to be a public victim – as evidenced by “Seduced”, her four-episode scripted reality show on the STARZ TV network.
That does not bode well for Allison.
Raniere and I
Though Raniere tried his best to put me where he is, in federal prison, I harbor no ill will towards him. I spoke to him on the Friday before his sentencing. He granted to me the first prison interview since his incarceration.
The record is fairly clear that I had a role in his arrest and conviction.
In another ironic twist of fate, I was the fortunate person who announced the news of his 120-year sentence to the assembled media waiting outside the courthouse.
These little flourishes of poetic justice suggest a greater form of justice than what humans can deliver.
After the sentencing, Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme delivered his official statement to the media.
“The 120-year sentence imposed on Keith Raniere today is a measure of his appalling crimes committed over a decade,” stated DuCharme. “Raniere exploited and abused his victims emotionally, physically and sexually for his personal gratification. It is my hope that today’s sentence brings closure to the victims and their families.”
DuCharme also commended the “brave” victims who spoke at sentencing.
Watch the video of DuCharme announcing the sentencing of Raniere below.
It is interesting that Judge Garaufis chose to sentence Raniere to a specific prison term – 120 years – as opposed to life. With time off for good behavior and time served, Raniere could be out in the year 2121, at the age of 161.
According to a study by the US Sentencing Commission, life sentences – and their corollary, a sentence of a specific term of years that is so long that it has the practical effect of being a life sentence – are fairly rare in federal cases. In fiscal year 2013, federal judges imposed a sentence of life imprisonment on 153 offenders. Another 168 offenders received far lengthier sentences than they could ever be expected to live beyond.
About 0.4 percent of all offenders sentenced in 2013 got life or de facto life sentences. As of January 2015, there were 4,436 prisoners incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons serving a life imprisonment sentence out of a total of 211,000 prisoners.
The most common offense type for which a life imprisonment sentence was imposed in fiscal year 2013 was drug trafficking (64 cases). The next most common were firearms offenses (27 cases), murder (19 cases), and extortion and racketeering offenses (16 cases).
Raniere qualified for the last offense. He was convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy with a raft of underlying, overt acts.