Readers recently were treated to an excellent exchange between that sterling defense lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, and federal judge Nicholas G. Garaufis.
The exchange occurred during the sentencing hearing of Keith Alan Raniere. At one point, the judge, in rebutting something Agnifilo said, mentioned that Raniere failed to support to his son, Gaylen.
The judge said, “The fact is, the child is 14 years old and there has been no child support, apparently, and why should this even be an issue if this is his child. I mean, I’m just a local guy here in Brooklyn. But you’ve got a 14-year-old child who’s never been supported by his father who has been busy working the commodities markets for tens of millions of dollars and can’t find it in his heart to send a few bucks to his child. Why should anyone look upon that person as someone who is worthy of respect?”
With that statement, Judge Garaufis told me everything I needed to know about this pragmatic, old school, man of respect. It was an intensely satisfying statement.
What the judge did not mention and perhaps did not know was that Raniere denied the paternity of that child, and does not appear on the birth certificate. In fact, he told his community that the child was a foundling whose mother died giving him birth and the father was unknown.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge frequently interrupted Agnifilo and disputed his contention that Raniere was well-intended. Their exchanges went on for some 8,000 words, with Agniflo speaking about 5,000 words in Raniere’s defense.
Perhaps the most piquant moment came when Agnifilo argued that Raniere did not know how to leave women. He said, “And my point, and it’s not a point that I think a psychological report, I thought that some of the people who spoke this morning spoke absolutely eloquently about it. He doesn’t know how to leave people.
THE COURT: He doesn’t know what?
AGNIFILO: Leave, leave women. Toni Natalie said, he doesn’t know how to let go.
THE COURT: It’s hard to leave, get people to leave if you’re keeping all this material, this collateral… He doesn’t know how to leave? He knows how to keep people from leaving, that’s his skill. That’s a skill.”
It was not hard to discern that Agnifilo was not going to change the judge’s opinion of Raniere, though I credit him for trying.
When it was time for the prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Tanya Hajjar, to deliver her argument, the judge had no reason to interrupt her. That is because they were in agreement. Hajjar limited her argument to 500 words, about 1/10th of Agnifilo’s.
Hajjar could afford to be brief. She knew, everyone knew, what the end result was going to be: life in prison for Raniere.
Here is what she said about Raniere.
By TANYA HAJJAR:
Your Honor, the Government is asking the Court to impose a Guideline sentence of life imprisonment. The offenses here, the offenses that Mr. Raniere has been convicted of, are among the most serious under the law.
Sex trafficking, forced labor, child exploitation, the Guidelines demand a life sentence because these crimes cause immeasurable harm to victims. The Court has heard from these victims today, at the defendant’s trial, in voluminous victim-impact statements, and in court.
The victims have described so powerfully the impact of the defendant’s crimes on them and their families. And in doing so, they have relived the worst moments of their lives in order to convey to the Court and to the public how they were hurt in the most depraved ways. There is very little that I could add to that, your Honor. But what is clear is that these victims will be carrying this damage with them for the rest of their lives.
It is outrageous for defense counsel to suggest that the defendant committed these crimes because he didn’t know how to leave women or because he didn’t think he was hurting them. He did hurt them, and that was made absolutely clear at trial and it was made absolutely clear today. It doesn’t matter if a child abuser doesn’t think he’s hurting a child; when he begins a sexual relationship when she’s 15 years old, it doesn’t matter.
The Government has submitted a lengthy sentencing memorandum addressing the 3553(a) factors, I’m not going to repeat those arguments today. I will just briefly address a few of the arguments that the counsel for the defendant made today.
Mr. Agnifilo’s justification for pursuing Sarah Edmondson and DOS victims by sending them threatening letters and by attempting to institute criminal charges, that was the justification presented at trial and the jury rejected that justification. It is total nonsense and has no basis in the evidence.
Mr. Agnifilo asked this Court not to impose a sentence [not more than 20] years because the defendant is 60 years old.
But the defendant was 45 years old when he first started sexually abusing Camila.
He was 49 years old when he ordered Daniela to be confined in a room without human contact for nearly two years.
He was 54 years old when he attempted to use first-line slaves in DOS to, quote, “find him a virgin successor who would serve as a replacement for Camila.”
And he was 55 years old when he told Allison Mack that DOS slaves should be held down like a sort of sacrifice and branded with his initials.
The defendant’s age has clearly not prevented him from committing crimes, far from it. If the defendant hadn’t been arrested, he would be committing crimes today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future.
Even now, after overwhelming evidence of his guilt was introduced at trial and after his conviction, the defendant has yet to express any understanding of or remorse for his crimes. His post-conviction comment has shown him to be completely unrepentant.
No sentence short of life in imprisonment is sufficient to protect the public from this defendant. No sentence short of life imprisonment is sufficient to provide just punishment for the defendant’s crimes.
Thank you, your Honor.