This is the third on our series on the review of the trial of Keith Raniere.
Our third story is from a friend and supporter of Raniere’s, Suneel Chakravorty. In this piece, Chakravorty delves into Raniere’s Call to Action and adds some additional information that he hopes will further establish Raniere’s claim that he was unjustly convicted.
Some readers, of course, will think that this is an outrage to present this issue, or at least to present Raniere’s side. I have addressed this in As I Attempt to ‘Brainsoil’ Raniere Followers, I Listen to Arguments of Due Process Violations
I have also published a post by Claviger that explains what might happen to Raniere if he is successful. What Are Raniere’s Remaining Legal Options to Ever See Freedom Again?
By Suneel Chakravorty
My name is Suneel Chakravorty. Some people think I’m brainwashed. As we examine the case of Keith Raniere, I would also like you to examine whether you think I’m brainwashed.
I was a student in Executive Success Programs from October 2016 to June 2017 in the New York City center. Then, I was a volunteer coach from June 2017 until the company shut down operations in June 2018. I was never a paid employee or contractor for NXIVM or Keith.
The first time I met Keith was after his trial, in his prison setting.
So why am I advocating for him? I attended every day of his trial and came away with a sense that there was something gravely wrong with the way his case was prosecuted.
During the trial, I became convinced that this case had been decided before opening statements; everything was orchestrated to convict him. Yet, I was not convinced then, nor am I now, that any of his “victims” were in any way severely hurt.
I know this will outrage many and while we are permitted to question almost everyone and everything in this country, from judges to presidents to senators to bureaucrats to actors to musicians to philosophers to even kings, the one thing we must never do is question a victim. I am sorry, but I disagree.
If the word of a human being dubbed a victim can send a man to prison for decades, or for his life, then I reserve the right to question that person, and if it so happens that there is any hint of exaggeration or falsehood, it is incumbent upon us to challenge it severely and robustly.
For it may be true, in the end, that we have labeled the wrong individual a victim.
I am fully aware that there is an anti-justice, anti-truth pack of angry people who will hurl insults and ad hominem attacks, and if they could, probably hang me to a sour apple tree for merely suggesting that victims could be questioned, especially if their gender is female.
And yet, I think this is the greatest disservice to women, and men as well, to treat them distinctly and as if they cannot be challenged because of their gender.
Now, I invite you to come with me; let’s take a journey through the evidence, without an extraordinary, one-sided, media-fueled narrative, and the view of the prosecution, aided and abetted by a judge who believed the prosecution, and determined, I believe, from the onset there was but one goal — conviction.
I invite you to look at evidence, and look at the consistent abrogation of due process, littered across a thousand legal documents, and six thousand pages of trial transcripts. I propose to show that not only did the government break the rules, but, my friends, that Keith Raniere is innocent.
The first thing to look at is Keith’s “Call To Action” essay.
In this article, I will examine the sections containing Keith’s memoirs about the case. In a subsequent article, I will examine the sections containing Keith’s inspirational phrases, intended to rally advocates to join the cause. The excerpts from Keith’s essay will be in bold and followed by my commentary.
Let us begin at the beginning.
“On March 25, 2018, I was kidnapped in Mexico after visiting my seven-month old son and his mother, a life-partner of mine whom had just left. Six men in masks, wearing full body armor and armed with machine guns, arrested me. Within twelve hours I was thrown out of the country without legal representation or extradition. I was turned over to the US authorities and isolated from family, friends, and attorneys, for almost a month, pre-indictment.”
Men with guns arrived at the residence where Keith was staying. Some of them wore uniforms, others did not. They did not show identification. They simply took Keith and put him on a plane with armed escorts out of the country, bypassing extradition or deportation paperwork.
By all appearances, the men who took him were bounty hunters and delivered him across the border to the FBI.
How did the Mexican bounty hunters know to do this when the arrest warrant for Keith — a sealed court document — was not unsealed until the next day?
The prosecution broke the seal, seemed to have avoided diplomatic or governmental channels, and likely worked with private Mexican citizens to kidnap Keith.
If you believe in a rule of law, you have to question this, the first “official” act of the actual prosecution of Keith Raniere.
Even if there is not an appealable issue of jurisdiction, you have a government willing to kidnap its own citizen.
This is even more salient because there was no need to kidnap him. He was not in hiding — there were 20 or so friends visiting him who told their friends and family where they were. Also, the government could have requested through his attorney, former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, that Keith return to the United States [read this article on the FrankReport analyzing legal filings and evidence that showed this].
Keith came to Mexico to be with his partner and their baby boy. He was enjoying being a father at a time when he was the subject of extreme negative press. Just about anyone would want to avoid that. There is a difference between wanting privacy and trying to cheat the law.
I imagine that had the boy’s mother, a Mexican citizen, not had to leave the country to comply with her visa, they might have stayed in Albany. This is supported by the fact that they initially tried to exit the country to Canada, a location closer to their friends in Clifton Park, to comply with her visa requirements. They were denied entry into Canada.
So they went to Mexico. Period. It was not a flight from justice.
Thankfully, Keith was able to enjoy a few golden moments with his infant son, from whom he is now separated by his imprisonment.
Note: It took almost two months in total to indict me, during which there were grand jury hearings, and a lot of investigation. Shouldn’t a person be ready to be indicted if incarcerated? Shouldn’t the privilege of arresting by information be honored by the subsequent indictment being the first action the grand jury takes? If not, was the complaint sufficient?”
After his kidnapping, and following a pattern of stark irregularities in this case, the prosecution needed additional investigation through grand jury hearings before they had enough “evidence” to indict him.
THE BAIL PACKAGE
“I am pledged to non-violence, lead a peace movement in Mexico, and the peace segment of the Pan-American games we produced reached an estimated 25 million people. For this we were nominated for three daytime Emmy Awards and won several Tele Awards. I have never owned a weapon, used any drugs (including smoking and recreational drinking), or had a criminal history.
“For a bail package, my attorneys offered two armed guards with a supervisor (guarding me 24/7), in a well-vetted apartment, all overseen by the former head of the Secret Service who appeared at my bail hearing to affirm this. I would also wear an ankle monitor and only have contact with my attorneys. Additionally, we posted a $10 million bond. My bail application was denied.”
Keith’s attorneys proposed a bail package that would have made it impossible for Keith to escape or hurt others, even if he wanted to. Note that the peace movement Keith mentions was documented by filmmaker and friend-turned-adversary, Mark Vicente [see the trailer here].
The judge denied the motion for bail. This made it infinitely harder for Keith to mount a defense [studies show higher conviction rates for defendants who are detained pre-trial].
THE HEIRESS AND HER $100 MILLION BAIL
“I have five co-defendants: All are women. One has a grave illness; another is her 40-year old daughter. There is also a well-known actress, an heiress, and another who is a long-term partner of mine. The heiress had to post $100 million bond, wear an ankle monitor, and see no one but her attorneys in order to not be remanded into custody.
“All are innocent, but all plead guilty; two even cooperated, with one of them testifying.”
Clare Bronfman had no criminal record, cooperated with law enforcement in returning to the country well in-advance of any issues and moved to NYC in anticipation of being indicted. There was no need for such high bail. But the optics of the $100 million bail, I believe, were meant to impress upon the public and the jury that this woman was liable to run away because of her guilt.
Leading up to Keith’s “kidnapping,” there had been significant negative media coverage of NXIVM, starting with the NY Times article by Barry Meier. Once Clare Bronfman’s bail was set at $100 million dollars, the chances of getting anything close to media neutrality went to zero.
This was a case of extremes and those extremes include a fabulously wealthy woman who was charged with financial crimes amounting to less than $100k, who was marked as a flight risk despite the fact that she came back to the United States from Mexico when she learned of her potential indictment and cooperated with law enforcement every inch of the way.
The $100 million bail was an indication that this was going to be handled in extremes and differently than similar cases, such as Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was charged with more severe crimes, such as rape, yet his bail was set at $1 million.
“Ultimately, because I was charged with RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act… and, in my specific case, any friend or associate could be charged as a co-conspirator, I could not see or contact any of my family, friends, or co-defendants for the fifteen months before my trial…
“… Additionally, at trial it was impossible to call any defense witnesses I knew, for they could be considered co-conspirators in RICO and would strongly be advised to use their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.”
In my opinion, RICO was an inappropriate charge. Look at the predicate acts. They are not at all comparable to typical organized crime matters. They were largely innocuous things like allegedly altering a video tape, keylogging a computer, and using a deceased person’s credit card. They were not even alleged to be done by the same people for any common purpose. Those things should have been charged separately but they could not be because either the statute of limitations expired or they weren’t crimes at all.
RICO solved this.
Keith was prosecuted under RICO, which was created to prosecute the mafia. RICO cases require a “criminal enterprise,” which in this case was Keith’s “inner circle” of friends. Anyone who testified on his behalf could have been considered part of his “inner circle” and faced being indicted themselves.
See FrankReport’s coverage of the defense’s motion for a new trial, which contained sworn affidavits from Nicki Clyne and Michele Hatchette, potential defense witnesses, alleging they were threatened with indictment by the prosecution.
In addition to the threat of possible indictment, because of the media narrative, anyone seen supporting Keith could be publicly exposed and shamed on sites like FrankReport. In short, if you supported Keith, you could be canceled, then indicted. Because of this, many who could have testified chose instead to save their livelihoods and reputations and protect their families. Keith supported them in their decisions.
“The jurors were good people — at least as far as I know. Three hundred potential jurors were screened by a questionnaire prepared by both sides. From about 150 remaining candidates, the judge interviewed them in front of us, allowing our input. They seemed earnest, although a surprising percentage voiced very conservative views towards things like abortions and taxation.”
Brooklyn, New York is known to be a liberal place. If a jury was assembled from a random sampling of the populace, having numerous strong anti-abortion jurors would be statistically unlikely. This is a point worth investigating given the fact that the prosecution introduced with the judge’s consent and over Keith’s objections abortion records, despite abortion being absolutely unrelated to any of the charges. It is not illegal for women to have abortions. The prosecution, playing to the jury, sought to “dirty him up.”
Abortion records of some of his romantic partners should not have been introduced at trial and I believe this is one of the issues of the appeal that is soon to be filed.
“On June 19, after six weeks of a trial based on prejudice and hate, with no true opportunity for a defense, I was found guilty of crimes, all of which I did not commit. That day, the very start of jury deliberation, the jury came uncharacteristically dressed-up and literally took less time to reach a verdict than it took the judge to read the jury instructions. They came prepared to reach a verdict with little or no deliberation.”
As I wrote above, I attended the trial every day and can corroborate that jury members typically wore comfortable, casual clothing, which would make sense for individuals sitting for 6-10 hours per day. It begs the question, when they arrived in their “Sunday Best,” as if they were going to church or a hanging, had the jury already made up their minds before they began deliberating?
“How can this be? Innocent defendants — very innocent — pleading guilty, cooperating, and being convicted? The answer is simple: hate. I am innocent. Sadly, in the end, the jurors accepted the hate of the prosecutors who, in turn, had taken up the hate of the opposition.”
It would not be possible to determine the facts of a six-week trial in less than three hours. Perhaps the jury did not convict Keith on the facts but on their personal opinion they formed of him throughout a trial, where the judge let the prosecution run amok, dirtying him up with every salacious tidbit about his lifestyle regardless of whether it was accurate, wildly exaggerated or remotely related to the charges or not.
“The term “pyramid organization” is an example of hate. This is possibly the least offensive hate conduit in my case, yet its innocuous nature serves to illustrate the hate’s subtlety…
“I supposedly create “pyramid organizations” — different from normal “organizations”. The implication is somehow “pyramid” is improper: I am at the “top” or “apex”, control everything unchecked, in some “sinister” and unspecified way. How is “pyramid” different than a restaurant, private corporation, or even the US Attorney’s office? Some will say each of these likely answer to some check and balance system so even with a small, sole proprietorship — a restaurant for example — that owner must answer to the Health Department. If it were true I created businesses wherein I answer to no one, I still, in the least, answer to the law (If I didn’t, I would not be incarcerated.)
“So why label organizations I create “pyramid” which imparts undefined, vague, negativity? The answer is simple: hate…”
Keith points out that the prosecution used the pejorative “pyramid” for his organizations instead of businesses or companies or even multi-level marketing companies – none of which are illegal. A pyramid scheme is illegal and yet he was not charged with running a pyramid scheme. The fact that the judge let the prosecution use this term repeatedly despite it being literally wrong shows again how the government created a negative stereotype image of him.
THE ABORTION RECORDS
What the hell do abortion records have to do with any of the charges?
You’ve heard of a prosecution trying to “dirty” Keith up. But using the abortion records, they wanted to “bloody” Keith up.
It is preposterous to believe that any woman was forced to get an abortion because the woman herself has to consent to an abortion and she has to appear and be alone with the doctor. This whole case is historic because it is all about proclaiming to the world that women have no agency.
“The following is a more extreme example of how hate, through prejudice, was allowed in my case: The abortion records of several of my past and present partners were allowed into evidence and presented to the jury. These are confidential records of adult women voluntarily choosing this legal option. Note: abortions have nothing to do with my charges. The majority of the members of my jury stated they believe abortion is murder. This evidential allowance violates, in the least, the intent of the HIPPA laws, shames people associated with me, and generates tremendous anger, hate, and prejudice towards me, my community, and my actions.”
Note that the prosecution also mentioned abortions to the media. For example, US Attorney Richard Donoghue stated in his post-verdict press statement that Keith was responsible for “compelled abortions” [see video clip of Donoghue’s comments to the press], although there was no evidence presented at trial and indeed no woman was ever compelled to have an abortion, nor did anyone testify she was.
NICOLE’S TEXTS TO KEITH THAT WERE NOT ALLOWED
The so-called sex trafficking victim in this case, Nicole sent similar messages to the defendant, such as asking for “hot, rough sex” (Pg. 4214 in the transcripts). This is not what you would expect a sex trafficking victim to text. This is why one might even think that the defendant might have been confused and thought she actually wanted to be with him.
“In contrast to the over-permissiveness of the above is a decision relating to the sex trafficking charge. An essential witness for the prosecution (and an alleged victim) lives a double life: On the normal, plain side, she presents herself as child-like, family loving, and innocent. On the alternative side, she has had a significant partner with an international reputation as a sexual “bad boy” with both civil and criminal challenges relating to sex. Her alleged sex trafficking experience was a self-styled enactment of a fantasy relating directly to her past, more extreme, sexual experiences. All of her alternative activities, fantasies, and proof of these things were barred from my trial. This was allegedly to “protect” the prosecution’s witness, but was done at the expense of justice.”
The judge allowed abortion records into the case unrelated to the charges, yet he prevented the admission of text messages relevant to establishing whether or not the relationship between Nicole, the alleged sex trafficking victim, and Keith was consensual. [see the “hot, rough sex” message that Keith’s attorneys tried to cross-examine Nicole about].
Imagine the one-sided nature of this. The so-called sex trafficking victim asked Keith for the very kind of sex she later claimed to be a victim of, yet the judge would not allow the jury to hear it.
In addition, there were emails and other messages to Keith from Nicole that strongly indicated not only consent, but an eager desire to enjoy sexual experiences with him. In one email, the so-called sex trafficking victim asked Keith to teach her to be a “sex goddess.”
The judge did not allow such messages into evidence and the jury was left with the impression that the victim had no desire and did not reciprocate in the one incident where Keith was charged and convicted with sex trafficking.
And what was that incident? She was blindfolded, tied to a table [bondage] and another woman performed cunnilingus on her. During this incident she was asked if she wanted to continue and she said yes.
Oy Vey! If we are supposed to believe the woman, then when should Keith have believed her? When she said she was content with the sexual experience or afterward when she said she wasn’t?
In summary, a woman who had told Keith that she wanted “kinky” sex with him, and who said she had sex with him on other occasions, was sex trafficked. It doesn’t add up.
HOW THEY “PROVED” COMMERCIAL SEX
“Even with this extreme bias, there was no evidence presented of commercial sex — a required element of this charge — yet, I was found guilty of this contemptible crime which carries a fifteen year minimum sentence.”
Commercial sex refers to sex on account of which “anything of value” is received by someone. Anything of value need not be money directly but typically something that has monetary value, for example, gifts. Prostitution is one example of commercial sex. In Keith’s case, no money changed hands. (As an aside, the sex act was a single act of oral sex between two women.)
The prosecution argued that the payment was the possibility of another woman [Allison Mack] receiving future financial opportunities and social benefits with Keith [see the prosecution’s closing argument of this charge].
Let me make this simpler. The commercial benefit of this single sex incident, the prosecution argued, was that Allison Mack kept her position in the sorority DOS by encouraging Nicole to participate in this sexual experience and kept Keith happy. Yet they presented no evidence that Mack would have lost her position had she failed to comply, none whatsoever.
As an aside, the “pattern” or standard jury instructions are how jurors usually are instructed on the definition of the law. The pattern instruction for sex trafficking is the Sande instruction and can be found here on pages 512-522.
However, Nicole’s sex act would not have qualified as sex trafficking under the pattern instruction, because no money (or monetary equivalents like gifts) changed hands.
The only way they squeaked up to sex trafficking was by the judge deliberately giving a non-pattern instruction (in essence, creating a new law from the bench) where any sex that results in someone getting a social benefit could be considered sex trafficking.
If this became precedent, the ramifications could be extraordinary.
Many believe that John Adams was a prescient man for the ages. It is nice to see he encapsulated Keith Raniere’s situation almost to the letter. An innocent man should not be in prison.
THE FORCED LABOR
“My life partner of 30 years died of cancer in November 2016. She was a prominent community leader, founder of an international women’s movement, and a beloved friend and mentor to thousands of people. The community was helping put together a memorial service for her. One person in the community, who was also in the now infamous sorority, told me she would do anything to help. She was a person to whom I had given access to as much cash as she needed to pay for things like rent, courses, and expenses incurred in traveling to and from Albany.
“Unbeknownst to me, she worked five to six hours to transcribe a video of my deceased partner for that memorial: the prosecution is calling this “forced labor”. If this person believed she should have been paid, she could have just taken the money from the cash made available to her. This “forced labor” charge, in the minimum, does not meet the ‘knowingness’ or ‘coercion’ elements of the crime.
“Considering the deep sorrow surrounding the death of my well-loved, 30-year partner, it is cruel to charge this baseless count. It is also insulting to all victims who have actually experienced the raw ugliness of true ‘forced labor’.
This is what you usually think about when you hear the words “forced labor.”
This is what forced labor looked like in Keith’s case. Nicole did a little computer work in her own room and on her own time.
The forced labor conviction in Keith’s case involves an adult woman doing several hours of video transcription and reading 50 or so essays written by Keith [read the prosecution’s closing argument of this charge]. This in and of itself makes a mockery of all true forced labor victims. But it also must be noted that the “victim” was not without the ability to be paid for her work.
During the entire time she did this so-called forced labor – of reading and transcribing – perhaps some 40 hours of total labor — she had access to some $10,000 in cash provided to her by Keith for anything she wanted. She could have taken payment for her labor.
There was no violence or threat of violence and she left the conditions of her so-called forced labor without repercussions. She worked or did not work at her “forced” labor solely at her own time and condition.
It is ironic for Nicole spent perhaps no more than 40 hours of mild work, for which Keith is now serving 40 years in prison for this charge alone.
Without “hate”, without dirtying him up with a raft of morally repugnant allegations, an intelligent jury would have laughed at this forced labor charge. Think of all the true victims of forced labor, confined to sweat shops or dirty massage parlors who labor for years, forced to work or be beaten or deported, then think of an aspiring actress, with no financial needs, doing a few hours of easy paperwork. And where is the injustice? The felons who enslaved and forced women for years of hard work and quick-aging labor, got shorter prison sentences than the hated, the despised, the demonized, Keith Raniere.
THE TAX EVASION ARGUMENT
“In short, there was no tax imposed, due, or potentially due, on any of the transactions shown by the prosecution. All transactions were straight forward, signed by the relevant party, and all transactions and monies were examined and processed by an accounting firm run by the past commissioner of the IRS. How could there possibly be tax evasion?
“Answer: it is not possible, and the elements of the crime were not even possible. The prosecution used hate and created prejudice by showing large expenditures on a credit card to imply taxes were being ‘evaded’.
“The prosecution should be ashamed for this is a sleight-of-hand obscuring the truth and destroying innocence; all for the satisfaction of winning.”
The prosecution’s argument that Keith’s motive to use his late partner’s credit card for identity theft was for the purposes of tax evasion, [tax evasion was not an actual charge] is that a series of purchases were made on her credit card and that Keith has an opinion about taxes and their coercive nature. [see their closing argument for this charge here].
Keith was not convicted or even charged with tax evasion. The charge was identity theft for his deceased partner of thirty years whose estate he inherited. The prosecution ascribed to him a motive — that he used his late partner’s card to enjoy tax evasion. But they provided no evidence. The only thing they proved was that he used the credit card. By the way, he paid every bill on the card. No one was injured.
As you can see, I am a staunch defender of Keith Raniere, I believe in his innocence, and I believe he did not get a fair trial. I welcome your comments.