Keith Alan Raniere, 60, was sentenced last week to a 120 year prison sentence.
Yesterday, his attorneys asked Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons [BOP] that Raniere be placed in a “sensitive needs unit” or “drop-out yard” – a protective custody facility for prisoners who likely would be targeted in the general population due to their crimes or celebrity status.
Raniere’s attorneys, Marc Agnifilo and Teny Geragos, wrote to the judge:
On October 27, 2020, this Court held a sentencing hearing… and sentenced Keith Raniere to, among other things, a prison term of 120 years. In light of the media interest in this case and due to the nature of the offense conduct and other matters discussed during the hearing, we request that the Court recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Mr. Raniere be housed at a facility that has a special or sensitive needs unit (sometimes called a “drop-out yard”), such as USP Allenwood.
Also, due to the fact that Mr. Raniere will want to meet with his lawyers during the appeal process, and because plane travel during the extended pandemic may be difficult, we further request that he be housed in a facility within an eight hour drive of New York City.
The Allentown facility is an estimated 3-4 hour drive from NYC.
It is up to the Bureau of Prisons to make the final determination. Even if the judge recommends it, the BOP might not approve Raniere for assignment to a prison with a drop-out yard and he may wind up in solitary confinement or a maximum-security prison.
The judge’s recommendation, if he makes one, is only advisory.
Based on Raniere’s crimes of conviction and his lack of remorse – and because of statements and actions Raniere and some of his followers have made and done – it is also quite possible that the BOP will assign Raniere to the Florence, Colorado Supermax facility where he would be placed in solitary confinement for a minimum of three years.
Once there, he would find it almost impossible to communicate with attorneys or followers. Prisoners in solitary at the supermax are permitted only one phone call per month and rarely have visitors.
At the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center [MDC] where Raniere is presently in custody, his phone calls and emails were monitored. The prosecution revealed that Raniere has made dangerous and controversial statements such as the judge needs to know he is being watched and that prosecutors committed crimes in prosecuting him.
His followers took an affidavit Raniere drafted from prison to the prosecutors’ office asking them to affirm or admit they committed prosecutorial misconduct. They declined to sign the affidavit.
At Raniere’s sentencing hearing, the judge said he believes Raniere is waging a media campaign to discredit him and the judicial process.
The judge said Raniere “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.” Then he added, “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.”
Then he sentenced the 60-year-old to 120-years in federal prison.
It remains to be seen if the judge recommends a drop-out yard. His refusal may virtually ensure that Raniere will either go to a maximum security facility, where his life may be in danger – or a supermax where he will be safe from other prisoners but in a cruel world of total isolation.
A “drop-out yard” typically houses inmates who need special protection such as those who have dropped out of gangs and informed on members, persons convicted of sexual crimes, convicted former law enforcement officers, celebrities, and anyone who could be in danger from other inmates, or bullied by staff.
It is meant for prisoners who would not be safe anywhere else, outside of solitary confinement.
What this means is that the best-case scenario for Raniere is the drop-out yard – and that the worse case solitary confinement at the supermax.
Raniere has expressed concerns to followers that if he goes to a maximum-security prison and is placed among the general population, he will be murdered.
Meantime, his attorneys are planning an appeal of his conviction. It is believed that the appeal will be based on a number of issues including (a) the judge’s halting of Lauren Salzman’s cross-examination; (b) the unreliability of evidence found on electronic devices that held Camila’s explicit photographs when she was 15; and (c) the alleged prejudicial use of first names only for certain witnesses – which it is likely to be argued unfairly signaled to the jury which witnesses the judge believed were Raniere’s victims.
An appeal in the Second Circuit takes anywhere from a year to two years to get a ruling.
Well before the appellate court makes its decision, Raniere is going to assigned to a prison somewhere and it might make all the difference in the world which one that is.
Meantime, it appears that visitors may be allowed to visit Raniere while he is still at MDC.