Take a moment to read Jim Del Negro’s letter to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis regarding the sentencing of Keith Raniere. It may help explain why Raniere continues to have supporters.
Jim evidently saw another side of Raniere that I haven’t seen. Obviously, those who still support Raniere have another, better experience than those who testified against him at his trial, or the 15 people who made statements at his sentencing, or the 92 people who signed victim impact statements, or myself who experienced his cruel vengeance that provoked me to fight back.
Still, Jim’s letter is valuable because it rings of truth – Jim’s truth. And explains why he continues to support Raniere after so many vile things came out about him at trial. He sees good in Raniere and apparently thinks some of the people who testified against Raniere are liars. He is adamant about Mark Vicente, as you will see in his letter below.
Last week, when I was in Brooklyn for the sentencing, I met with Raniere supporters including Jim, whom I had known during my days as a consultant for Nxivm in 2007-08. Reading his letter of support helped me understand a little better why people continue to stand by Raniere. As we know, this letter, though sincere, was not persuasive.
The judge sentenced Raniere to 120 years. In handing down the sentence, the judge was also sincere when he said, “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.”
Jim Del Negro’s Letter
Dear Judge Garaufis,
My name is Jim Del Negro. I am currently working as an independent sales agent, though my background is Mechanical Engineering, where I worked in the fields of cable television and the energy industry for over 15 years.
I also owned a tutoring franchise where we helped children from the ages of kindergarten through high school to do better in their studies. I was brought up in a Catholic family and community, and I believe in the U.S. Constitution and the principles put forth by the founding fathers of this country.
The coverage of this case has made it extremely difficult for anyone with positive experiences with Mr. Raniere or his companies to come forward due to the extreme hatred that has been directed at anyone who does not denounce Keith and his companies.
Some of us have lost our jobs, had to remove our children from schools, and been cut off from family members and social circles due to directed hate campaigns against us. I would like Your Honor to know that there is a large number of people who wanted to testify for the benefit of the defense and did not. Also, there are a large number who will not write letters.
The reason for this is that we all fear government and media retribution. It was impossible for Mr. Raniere to get a fair trial with the defense calling zero witnesses. It’s an unfortunate truth of human nature and our justice system that intimidation and hate play a role in our legal process, and we all have to live with that and do the best we can.
I write this letter to share with you some of the information I would have shared at trial if I was encouraged to take the stand, instead of scared into hiding.
I was introduced to Executive Success Programs at a one-day seminar hosted by the Saratoga Springs, NY Chamber of Commerce back in 2002. I experienced a profound deepening in my understanding of morality and ethics at the seminar, and how these values would help me in my life. I subsequently signed up for a 16-day training and eventually became a coach and trainer for the program. I participated as a client and coach in most of the companies related to Keith Raniere. The reason I valued his programs so much is that I experienced positive, lasting changes in my behavior and my experience of my life. I became less fearful and more understanding of people as a result of participating in his trainings. Ultimately, I experienced more compassion and built my empathy for others.
I spent a minimum of 10 hrs a week with Keith playing volleyball, and more time with him being coached and mentored by him. I did this over the course of over 16 years. I also spent time in trainings which he conducted, where I observed him coaching many people over many years. I had exposure to him working with me and others in that time, where I felt nothing but patience, kindness and love.
My first-hand experiences with the curriculum and Keith Raniere were extremely positive. The interactions were caring and considerate of me and the people around me. The message I received from him and his companies was that compassion towards others and doing the right thing are guiding principles to experiencing goodness and joy in life. That we can only experience kindness and love if we feel that way towards others and treat them with respect.
We studied many of the greatest humanitarians in history such as Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King to name a few. We studied how and why they exhibited such acts of compassion and character, and we were given tools to build the caring and character to be such a person if we wanted. I believe these tools are revolutionary and will transform society for the good, as they have transformed me to be stronger in my conviction to uphold goodness.
The reason I have put so much trust in Keith is that he continually and consistently demonstrates the traits of virtue. This perspective is the opposite of the people who testified against Keith. The event which illustrates this point the most for me was an event where we had 104 men fly in from around North America to attend a three-day seminar. The topic was to be “Keeping Our Word”. We, the leaders, promised we would have a minimum of 100 attendees in order to conduct the event or we would cancel it. We barely made our number commitment, however, we did it through non-ethical means. We got a few last-minute men through taking them from another company event to the detriment of that group.
Keith found out about this at the last minute, 30 minutes before he was going to start the training. He told us he was going to cancel the training because it wouldn’t be right to go forward under the circumstances. He proceeded to address the group of 104 attendees and told them what had happened (not blaming or outing those of us that caused the problem) and that it was his fault for the mistake. He took on the burden of facing an angry group of men and taking responsibility as the leader to take it on the chin. He offered to give back $150,000 in training fees to the members as well as damages for time and travel costs. He said he would give the men what they felt was fair for damages, and he honored his promise.
This was the most humbling experience of my life to this point, to see someone stand up for a principle that I was too weak to uphold. It felt terrible and inspiring all at once. It truly transformed my life and how I would approach my goals in the future, to not cut corners, to keep my integrity and do the right thing regardless of the material cost.
This is in direct contradiction to the testimony of Mark Vicente, who testified that Keith walked out of that training and left us to take it on the chin. This event and Mark Vicente’s lie can be proven because the event was captured on video.
That event was an example of his direct, hands-on leadership in action.
In contrast to the above example of taking the bull by horns style in times of crisis, was his non-direct nurturing style of leadership. He is by far, the least authoritarian leader/coach I have ever been exposed to in my 53 years of life experience. I was part of the leadership teams in a couple of his companies. I experienced many of the leaders of his companies as being angry at him for not being more directional and assertive with his leadership. Specifically, Mark Vicente objected to Keith in this regard. Mark and others wanted him to take control and assert himself and his power over people and situations.
In fact, what they wanted was him to abuse his power to get a better result. He refused to do this, and left decisions up to the leaders, refusing to intervene in the direction and operations of the companies. He remained up till the end of his freedom as a trusted advisor to the leaders of his companies. I made some bad decisions and saw others make bad decisions, which he later helped us clean up (reference preceding story). He only inserted himself in decision making when the failures came close to destroying the companies or they broke a fundamental moral code. (Note: his companies were owned and run by people other than himself. They were his inventions that were gifted to his friends).
I eventually came to understand, through these events, that he valued the humanity and growth of the people who he mentored more than the material success of the companies. This was a very unconventional methodology, and one which I look back on with extreme admiration and gratitude. I had never seen anyone gift companies to their friends like that. It was a humbling experience to be the recipient of such graciousness. This is in direct contradiction to the testimony of Mark Vicente, who said that nobody was allowed to disagree with Keith and people were afraid to disagree with him.
Mark was one of the people who directly disagreed with Keith consistently. This disagreement didn’t seem to jeopardize Mark’s relationship with Keith nor Mark’s status with any of the organizations. Mark was at the top of every organization in which Mark participated and he was Keith’s closest friend.
Another impactful learning I received from Keith was when I was coaching a young adult who was a kind and happy person, but was not doing well in school. I was concerned that the person was going to squander their opportunity of education and it would affect their life in a negative way going forward. Keith recommended that I focus on helping them build their conscience and caring about others, and not to worry so much about their education. Keith told me that the person could always go to school when they found something that interested them, but building their conscience and caring for others would be the basis that would serve them for the rest of their life. The person is now 10 years older, married and doing well as a direct result of that advice.
I had a personal medical issue which demonstrates his relentless pursuit of caring for people. I had suffered from a very painful case of plantar fasciitis, which is a severe pain in the bottom your foot. When I woke each morning, my first few steps felt like I was stepping on shards of glass. It was excruciatingly painful. I spent a year going to specialists with no improvement. Each time I went to a specialist, Keith would ask me what they said.
Finally, one night before volleyball he asked me if he could look at my foot. I said, “of course.” He did a few tests on my muscle strength of each foot and gave me a suggested exercise to do. He said if his theory was correct, I should see improvement in just two weeks if I did the exercises. It did work, and I got rid of the pain totally in about 2 months. When I first reported back my good results he apologized for not thinking about it sooner, and I believe he truly felt sorry for not solving my problem sooner. This is a difficult experience to convey in a letter, but I felt the depth of his caring to a level I had only experienced from my direct family.
My time with Keith has been filled with thoughtful moments like the ones above. I can’t say enough how many good things have come to me and my friends due to our friendship with him and our participation in his organizations. I was involved with collecting and reviewing thousands of anonymous questionnaires from participants who also had glowing recommendations of how Mr. Raniere’s companies had changed their lives for the positive. There are boxes of these recommendations somewhere in the archives of the company documents. I hope these documents have been shared with the court.
I empathize with the immense responsibility that sits with Your Honor, and I have the deepest respect for your position. I feel there is no way to feel good about sentencing a man who was not able to bring forth witnesses for his defense. I hope others who could have countered lies by witnesses for the prosecution come forward as I did to document the injustice of this trial.
James J. Del Negro