We have a treat in store for readers — a series of three posts of which this is part 1, taken from the sentencing hearing of Keith Alan Raniere, where Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, argues for a 20 year sentence and Judge Nicholas Garaufis debates him on a number of critical issues, hammering him and his client, especially on the matter of Camila.
This is a really a spectacular treat, because readers will get a glimpse at how a topnotch attorney goes about a totally uphill battle with a judge who seems to have already made up his mind. As readers know, Agnifilo was nowhere near successful at getting a 20 year sentence.
Raniere got 20 years, plus a century.
And perhaps as glorious as Agnifilo’s subtle arguments are Judge Garaufis’ flashes of fire, his subtle righteousness, his certitude, showing us superb glimpses of his personality coming out in his debate with Agnifilo.
Garaufis, it turns out, is just a regular guy, a Brooklyn guy, 72 years old and he sees the world in a pretty straight forward way, which is ‘a whole ‘nother story’ – to use the judge’s own expression. He has a sense of right and wrong – moral and immoral – legal and illegal – and none of the more esoteric arguments such as that Raniere meant well, prevailed with the judge. He had his arguments ready.
Of course, it must be understood that in a debate between a judge and a lawyer before him, there is no equality. The judge has the last word and Judge Garaufis had it.
Still, Agnifilo was able to at least make his argument — that no one who now considers herself a victim of Raniere thought he was abusive when they were with him, but only later changed their view. Agnifilo suggests this change of view may have been susceptible to influence, possibly by other defectors, possibly by the DOJ.
The afternoon session of the sentencing hearing commenced around 2:45 pm on October 27, 2020. The morning was given over to hearing 14 victims making statements. Judge Garaufis, referred to as hereafter as “The Court”, began the afternoon session.
THE COURT: All right. Continuing with the sentencing of Keith Raniere, and Counsel and the defendant are all present. So at this time, the Court will consider, as I have calculated the sentencing range, I am now going to turn to facts that are outlined in 18 United States Code Section 3553(a).
Under Section 3553(a), I must consider several factors in imposing the 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, 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.
And in connection with that obligation, I will hear from the parties and then I will hear from the defendant if he wishes to make a statement. I will start with the defense. You may go ahead.
AGNIFILO: Thank you, Your Honor. May it please the Court. Members of the Government and everyone who has come to court today. I read each — I’m going to stand over here so I can see Your Honor more clearly.
THE COURT: Yes, just move the microphone.
AGNIFILO: Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you.
AGNIFILO: Yes, thank you. I read every letter that every person submitted, both from the prosecution and the letters that we submitted on Keith Raniere’s behalf. I listened very, very closely to the people who spoke very powerfully this morning and this early afternoon. And I’m trying to find the words and the themes that I think could possibly, even at this late hour, reach Your Honor and convince Your Honor somehow not to sentence Keith Raniere to a life sentence.
I am very mindful of the amount of hurt and deep pain that is expressed by people in the letters and as they spoke to the Court earlier today. And I’ve been trying to find a way to describe it, to explain it, and I think if one reads all of the letters, well over 100 letters on both sides, considerably more than that, in fact, and if one considers the trial testimony, the first thing one sees, I submit, is that this was a community once upon a time.
That once upon a time there was a community in Clifton Park and the surrounding areas that many, many people loved, believed in, and believed was doing good. And I think that is the first step in the analysis that I would like to try and ask the Court to take with me in understanding some of the very powerful statements that were made here today.
People loved NXIVM.
Mark Vicente, when he testified, went on and on about he loved NXIVM. So many of the different people who testified at trial, some of whom are here today, testified they could have done other things in their lives, but they chose to forego those other things and they chose to join this community in Albany under the tutelage, the leadership, the ‘Vanguardship’ of Keith Raniere, because they believed in it and they loved it and they trusted him, Judge.
That is such an important part of this whole analysis. They trusted Keith Raniere. They looked up to Keith Raniere. And they were absolutely sure that Keith Raniere had their best interest at heart.
In trying to find the right word, because sometimes the right word can help with the analysis, I thought long and hard and I thought of a word being the perfect word. In my opinion, the word, if you believe the Oxford English Dictionary, it was the word that was first used in the year 1275 and the word is “betray.”
And the original meaning, the definition of the word “betray,” is to deliver more people to the enemy by treachery, the meaning of the word “betray.” And I think it’s a useful way to analyze some of the things that happened in this case.
First, your people. This is a very close community. They were all together. They believed they were all united in interests. They believed they were all united in interests doing something truly special, doing something that they generally thought was advancing the cause of humanity.
This is not a group of ne’er-do-wells looking to sort of just self-aggrandize and do things that don’t have important ends in and of themselves. It’s the exact opposite, and NXIVM attracted terrific people.
I think it was Toni Natalie earlier today who said that Keith surrounded himself with good people, and that just seemed to actually be the case. There’s no question about it. I can say that the people that I’ve met, some of whom testified at the trial, Judge, some of whom spoke this morning to Your Honor, I thought were outstanding people. I thought they were loving, wonderful, sweet, good people, each and every one of them. I haven’t met a bad person yet.
And these were good people who came here for the best of reasons, for the best of reasons and they sacrificed much to be in this community. And what has happened is they have reached the conclusion that Keith Raniere betrayed them.
Now, I think it’s very important that we stop for a second and take note of all the things they didn’t say. No one says, because it could not be validly said, that Keith Raniere was cruel to them at the time. No one said at the time, I knew that this is — he was being mean to me. He was being abusive to me at the time. He was doing things that were mean-spirited to hurt me at that time.
What they all say was something very, very different and it’s only really understandable through the lens of betrayal.
What they’re saying is, ‘I believe now,’ ‘I believe now that he was abusing me then.’ ‘I believe now that he was cruel to me then.’ ‘I believe now his intentions were bad then.’ That’s a very different thing, Judge. A very different thing, because that is something that can be influenced.
And I know everybody seems to be waiting for me or Mr. Raniere when he addresses Your Honor to say, ‘I had bad intent all the time. The whole while, I was abusing everybody. I had bad intentions. I wanted to hurt them.’
He’s never going to say it. He’s never going to say it because he doesn’t believe it. He doesn’t believe it, Judge. As he sits here today, he doesn’t believe it.
Do I think having done this for as long as I have that maybe his best shot at avoiding a life sentence is for him to say it? Yeah. Maybe that’s the best thing to say, then maybe Your Honor doesn’t give him a life sentence. But it just wouldn’t be true from his perspective. And we are sentencing him based on his perspective —
THE COURT: No. We are not sentencing him on a perspective. We are sentencing him — I am going to sentence him on his behavior.
AGNIFILO: I agree.
THE COURT: On his illegal behavior, which cannot be justified taking, for instance, Camila who, for some reason, was convinced that she should not testify at the trial by a lawyer who convinced her it was in her interest not to make herself available, which is a whole ‘nother issue.
But had she testified, it would have taken the jury ten minutes to convict him, because what he did to her, and she is totally believable, is at the behest of her father who brought her to Albany from Mexico. She was groomed from age 13 to age 15, and then she was seduced by Mr. Raniere and kept in an apartment and used for his sexual pleasure. That is the fact. That is not imagination, that is not a perception, that’s a problem for your client. That is what he did.
AGNIFILO: Judge, I understand.
THE COURT: So we are not here to discuss how he felt or how it seemed. We are here to discuss how should he be punished for what he did.
AGNIFILO: I don’t —
THE COURT: So let’s get past that.
AGNIFILO: I agree wholeheartedly.
THE COURT: Okay? The jury ruled. It was the jury’s decision.
AGNIFILO: I understand.
THE COURT: I am just here to enforce the jury’s will. So let’s move on.
AGNIFILO: Yeah. There’s one I think is important to point out, Camila wasn’t available to us either after she got a lawyer. So it was not —
THE COURT: Didn’t you recommend the lawyer to her?
AGNIFILO: We gave her a list of lawyers, and she didn’t like the first two and she liked the last one. And that’s what happened, Judge. And that’s —
THE COURT: And how was that lawyer compensated; do you know?
AGNIFILO: I — I don’t know. It was – it was said in — in her — she said in her written statement how she believed the lawyer was compensated.
THE COURT: Which was?
AGNIFILO: Judge, I had nothing to do with this.
THE COURT: Well, I am just saying — I am asking the question. I am not saying you did that. I am just saying he was compensated, according to her, by this —
THE COURT: — $13.8 million —
THE COURT: — irrevocable trust created by Clare Bronfman. That is the impression that the Court has.
AGNIFILO: I think that’s probably right.
THE COURT: Yeah.
AGNIFILO: I think that’s probably right. But if — if — I mean, I’m the only one standing here, and what my moral and legal obligation is, if someone wants a lawyer, to give them a number of names. That’s what I did. And she didn’t like two, and she did like one, and that was the last time we ever spoke to her.
THE COURT: I see.
AGNIFILO: And — and, Judge, I can also add, if there was a problem with any of this, which there isn’t, because I don’t do the wrong thing, and I didn’t do the wrong thing here —
THE COURT: I am just telling you that if – it has a certain sense, it creates a certain sense, that someone [Camila] who clearly was so terribly wronged by this man, decided not to speak up at the time, that raises issues.
AGNIFILO: And if there —
THE COURT: And that is separate and apart from this trial. The point I am making, the principal point here, she came here and validated what this — what the prosecution provided to the jury, and the jury found by — beyond a reasonable doubt happened to her.
THE COURT: All right? So it is about what happened to her. So I do not want to talk about theory. I have heard enough about Mr. Raniere’s theories. I am talking about the facts.
AGNIFILO: Judge —
THE COURT: Let’s get down to the facts.
AGNIFILO: But — but —
THE COURT: He says he is innocent. You are his lawyer, you said he is innocent on his behalf, and he may say it when he speaks if he does. Let’s move on.
AGNIFILO: Okay. I’m — I’m talking about intent, and so I’m not — I’m not trying to not talk about it —
THE COURT: How is it — excuse me. Pardon me. What about intent — what do you think the intent is if you have a 13-year-old girl and a 43-year-old man and two years — and that girl is being spoken to and the development of a relationship is occurring, and then two years later, she is having sex at age 15 with a 45-year-old man? all —
AGNIFILO: Well, Judge, first — first of
THE COURT: I am just wondering what do think the intent is of the 45-year-old man? I was once a 45-year-old man.
AGNIFILO: So was I.
THE COURT: And now I am a 72-year-old man.
AGNIFILO: Judge —
THE COURT: And I — and I have a pretty good sense of these things because like I have been around the block. So do not treat me, this Court, as if it is not the intent to do what he did. It was not a mistake. He kept doing it. Please.
AGNIFILO: Judge, in terms of the —
THE COURT: Why don’t you talk about the factors?
AGNIFILO: Judge —
THE COURT: I am interested in the factors.
THE COURT: I am interested in the factors. I am not interested in your explication of whether he intended to have sex with this woman.
AGNIFILO: Judge, I — first of all —
THE COURT: You are not in front of a jury, you are in front of the Judge now on the sentencing.
AGNIFILO: I know.
THE COURT: I am not going to tolerate spending time as to what his intent was when he seduced a 15-year-old girl. We are not going there. It is just — it is an insult of the intelligence of anyone who listens. And I just want you to understand, I am not tolerating it. So go on.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of ‘The Judge and Raniere’s Lawyer Mix It up’