This is the latest post in the series concerning the various legal claims that Keith Raniere put forth in his “Call To Action”. Prior posts in this series may be found at;
- What Are Raniere’s Remaining Legal Options to Ever See Freedom Again?
- Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated During the Course of His Case? – Part I
- Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated During the Course of His Case? – Part II
In keeping with my numbering system for this series of posts, the questions to be addressed in this post are as follows:
Sixth, were Keith’s legal rights violated because all five of his co-defendants pleaded guilty?
Seventh, were Keith’s legal rights violated because he was charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act?
Eighth, were Keith’s legal rights violated because the jury in his trial reached a quick verdict?
Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated Because All Five of His Co-defendants Pleaded Guilty?
In his “Call To Action” piece, Keith makes the following statement:
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 [sic] guilty; two even cooperated, with one of them testifying.
To begin with, let’s try to sort out who is who in this statement.
The five co-defendants are obviously Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Clare Bronfman, and Kathy Russell.
Clearly, Nancy is the one who has the “grave illness” – and Lauren is “her 40-year old daughter”.
Allison must be the supposed “well-known actress” – and Clare has to be the “heiress”.
Which means that Kathy is the referenced “long-term partner”.
The two who cooperated are Lauren – and, according to several reports that we’ve received at Frank Report, Allison.
And the one who testified against him is Lauren.
So, now that we know who’s who – why does Keith even bring up this point?
Does the prosecution in a multi-defendant criminal case often offer plea deals to the ones with lesser charges in order to get them to cooperate – and possibly even testify against the upper-tier defendant(s)?
Yep – it happens all the time.
And, guess what, there is absolutely nothing illegal with it.
Although it’s a few years old now, a treatise entitled “Co-Defendants, Accomplishes, And Co-Conspirators: Common Evidence Issues And Selected Cases” offers what I think is a very informative overview of many of the legal issues that arise when the prosecution allows some co-defendants to plead out their charges but not others.
And in this particular case, even Keith was offered a plea deal.
As he noted in his “Call To Action”, he was offered a deal whereby he would plead guilty to certain of the charges against him – he didn’t specify which ones – and, in return, he would spend 16-years “…in a low-security prison with the comparatively nice benefits of a track, baseball field, recreation center, library, two to four days a week of multi-hour visitation (almost full days in certain facilities), face-to-face visits with loved ones, and access to making phone calls every day…”.
Instead, Keith chose to roll the dice and go to trial.
And instead of serving 13.6 years in a minimum-security prison – which is 85% of the proffered 16-year sentence – he ended up with a sentence of 120-years, all of which will most likely be served in a maximum-security prison.
Keith explained that had he taken the proffered plea deal, he “…would have to lie to the court and the world, betraying myself, my actions, and even my co-defendants who had already plead guilty to lesser, sometimes different, charges. I would also waive my rights to continue fighting, protesting the truth, and worst of all: I would be obeying and feeding hate”.
He went on to explain that after thinking about the implications of accepting the plea deal for seven days, he decided that going to trial was what he “…needed to do”.
Thereafter, he consulted with Marianna whom he describes as “…my partner of fifteen-years, with whom I have a 21-month old son” – and one of his co-defendants who “…said she would totally support whatever decision I made…”.
So, will Keith win a Rule 33 motion for a new trial – or an outright appeal to have his conviction overturned – because all his co-defendants accepted plea deals?
There is nothing inherently wrong in the prosecution allowing defendants to plead guilty to lesser crimes in order to avoid taking every case to trial – and thereby taking the risk that some of those cases may not result in convictions.
Notwithstanding the above, I am greatly bothered when the prosecution begins its case by over-charging defendants solely to get them to accept plea deals for lesser charges.
In this case, however, it appears to me that all the original charges against Keith’s co-defendants were legitimate – and that their decisions to accept plea deals were fair, justified and rational.
If Keith wants to offer up some evidence as to why any of his co-defendant’s’ plea deals were unreasonable, I will be happy to reconsider my conclusion.
Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated Because He Was Charged Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act?
Although Keith does not expound very much on this point, he does claim that because he was charged under RICO, he was not able to have any contact with any of his family, friends, or co-defendants before the start of his trial.
He also claims that because he was charged under RICO “…it was impossible to call any defense witnesses (he) knew, for they could be considered co-conspirators in RICO and would strongly be advised to use their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination”.
While Keith’s claims about the stifling impact of a RICO charge may be true, the reality is that he was treated exactly the same as any other defendant who is charged under that statute.
Since the inception of the RICO statute in 1970, it has been used extensively and successfully to prosecute thousands of individuals and organizations in the U.S.
In order for an individual or a company to be convicted of racketeering under RICO, the prosecution must prove that the defendant engaged in a pattern of illegal offenses – which RICO defines as the commission of at least two identified criminal offense within a period of 10-years (These underlying crimes to a RICO charge are generally referred to as “predicate acts”).
In Keith’s case, the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) prosecutors identified sixteen (16) such predicate acts in the second superseding indictment.
And the jury in his case determined that the prosecutors had proven that Keith had committed every one of those predicate acts:
- Predicate Act 1-A: Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft – Ashana Chenoa
- Predicate Act 1-B: Conspiracy to Unlawfully Possess Identification Document
- Predicate Act 2: Sexual Exploitation of a Child on November 2, 2005 – Camila
- Predicate Act 3: Sexual Exploitation of a Child on November 24, 2005 – Camila
- Predicate Act 4: Possession of Child Pornography
- Predicate Act 5-A: Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft
- Predicate Act 5-B: identity Theft – James Loperfido
- Predicate Act 5-C: Identity Theft – Edgar Bronfman
- Predicate Act 6: Conspiracy to Alter Records in an Official Proceeding
- Predicate Act 7: Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft: Marianna
- Predicate Act 8-A: Trafficking for Labor and Services – Daniela
- Predicate Act 8-B: Document Servitude – Daniela
- Predicate Act 9: Extortion
- Predicate Act 10-A: Sex Trafficking – Nicole
- Predicate Act 10-B: Forced Labor – Nicole
- Predicate Act 11: Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft: Pamela Cafritz
So, while it’s understandable that Keith was unhappy about being charged under the RICO act, he has not offered any evidence to show why the RICO-related charges were inappropriate.
Nor has he offered any evidence to show why the jury’s conclusion that he committed all sixteen of the alleged predicate acts was unreasonable (Note: Even if Keith could have convinced the jury that he had not committed some of the predicate acts, the jury only had to conclude that he had committed at least two of them in order to find him guilty of Count One: Racketeering Conspiracy and Count Two: Racketeering).
Because Keith has offered no evidence to show that he should not have been charged under the RICO statute – or that he was treated any differently than any other person who is charged under that statute – I believe any request for a new trial regarding these matters will be summarily denied.
Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated Because the Jury in His Case Reached a Quick Verdict?
Keith also suggests in his “Call To Action” that the jury in his case was predisposed to finding him guilty. Here is what he said on this topic:
“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”.
Let’s start by recognizing that it was Keith’s decision to subject himself to a jury trial.
Had he wanted to, he could have had a bench trial: i.e., a trial in which the presiding judge not only makes all the usual procedural decisions – e.g., who can testify, what topics approved witnesses can testify about, what documents or physical evidence the jury can consider, etc. – they also decided whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Given the sentence that U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis handed out – i.e., 120-years in federal prison and 5-years of probation – it’s doubtful that a bench trial would have resulted in a different outcome. Indeed, in that scenario, the verdict may have been rendered even sooner than it was.
But, instead, Keith decided to put his fate in the hands and minds of a group of twelve people that likely knew little about him prior to being called to serve as a potential member of his trial juror.
Fortunately, Frank Report began looking at jury-related issues even before Keith’s trial was over.
Back on June 1, 2019, we published a report from an individual who was rejected as a member of the jury for Keith’s trial.
One of the most interesting aspects of that report was the rejected juror’s description of the start of the jury selection process:
“During jury selection, when the charges were read out, there was an audible gasp as well as people saying, “He’s guilty” (He looked like a dirty hippie arrogant piece of shit the day we saw him). It was so bizarre because I had never seen such a large group of people react that way.”
But the rejected juror also noted that Keith did not do a very good job of presenting himself to the pool of prospective jurors:
“My impression of Raniere and his crew [then-co-defendants, Kathy Russell and Clare Bronfman]: I actually had trouble figuring out who were the defendants and who were the attorneys until they were introduced, along with their titles. Like I said before, Raniere looked like a dirty hippie with a man-bun, but he definitely blended enough with the attorneys that I didn’t know who he was at first.
“When he turned around, he had this stupid, smug look on his face and waved to the room full of potential jurors. I can definitely see how women would be attracted to him despite him being an average looking guy at best – the air of confidence was there…
“I’m lucky that I have a high-powered hearing aid and was able to overhear a lot of people saying things like ‘He’s definitely guilty’; ‘What the fuck, who molests a child?’; ‘Disgusting’; and my personal favorite ‘This fucker is guilty I don’t want to be on this jury’.
“It seems most people had the same disgusted reaction I had. I can only imagine what they wrote on their juror questionnaires about being impartial to child molestation/rape charges because I wrote that ‘Anyone who says they can be impartial is lying’…”
While the observations and perspective of this rejected juror may not have been typical of the other 499 prospective jurors that were originally called for jury duty in this case – and, more importantly, of the twelve jurors who eventually decided Keith’s fate – I suspect that is not the case.
The reality is that every juror in every trial comes to the process with certain biases, experiences, perspectives, etc.
No juror begins with a totally “blank slate” when it comes to being one of the determiners of another person’s fate in a jury trial.
In this case, it’s quite possible that some – or perhaps even all – of the jurors in Keith’s case were predisposed to find him guilty before “Opening Arguments” were made.
Does that sort of thing happen – a jury pre-judging a defendant based on the defendant’s appearance and/or the charges that the defendant is facing?
Yep – it happens all the time.
In fact, several analyzes have been undertaken to explain what is commonly referred to as “juror bias”.
One of the more interesting of these is a paper entitled “Overcoming Jury Bias” by Howard L. Nations.
As stated by Nations, “Jurors do not decide cases based upon reality. Why? Because unless the juror was standing on the corner and witnessed the collision and color of the traffic signal, the juror does not know what reality is. Jurors base their decisions upon their perceptions of reality. Therefore, it is relevant for advocates to consider at least six broad-based sources which affect jurors’ perceptions upon which they base their decision. These include the beliefs which the jurors have before entering the courtroom, i.e., biases; everything that they observe during the course of the trial, in and out of the courtroom; the evidence presented and the credibility of the witnesses; persuasion by counsel; the court’s charge; and persuasion by other jurors”.
So, if it could be proven that some or all of the jurors in Keith’s case reached a conclusion concerning his guilt BEFORE they began deliberations, would that be enough for Keith to win a Rule 33 motion for a new trial or an appeal regarding his conviction?
No – Nope – Naw – No way – Nee – Na – Nein – Nari – Ni – Ne – Taah – Mhai – Nani – Ney – Neen – Ochi – ‘A’ole – Iya – Aniyo – Bu shi – Nei – Nao – Noe…
Once again, Keith has raised an issue that may have been a real factor in terms of how his case turned out but that issue will not serve as the basis for getting a new trial.
While he might be able to win a new trial if he could prove that the jurors discriminated against him based on his age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual identification, etc., there is no special protection afforded to the leaders of cults who brand their female members with their initials.
Nor are there any special protections for people who look like they might be a cult leader – or who shows signs of arrogance in front of jurors.
Stay tuned as I wrap up my analysis of the legal issues that Keith raised in his “Call To Action”. And please feel free to ask any questions you may have concerning the subject matter of these posts.