By K.R. Claviger
While it is true that Keith Raniere’s case has gotten more media attention than many other criminal cases get, that does not necessarily mean that it is an ideal case that can be used to push for needed changes in our country’s criminal justice system.
To begin with, the Keith Raniere case involves some charges and allegations that, even if proven to be untrue, still raise a lot of suspicions about the defendant (e.g., Racketeering, Sexual Exploitation of a Child, Possession of Child Pornography, Sex Trafficking, etc.). The fact that Keith Raniere was indicted for these crimes and predicate acts confirms that a grand jury determined that, after reviewing witnesses’ testimony and other evidence presented by the U.S. Department of Justice, there was enough evidence to warrant charging him with seven (7) crimes:
- Racketeering Conspiracy
- Forced Labor Conspiracy
- Wire Fraud Conspiracy
- Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
- Sex Trafficking
- Attempted Sex Trafficking
And sixteen (16) predicate acts:
- Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft: Ashana Chenoa
- Conspiracy To Unlawfully Possess Identification Document
- Sexual Exploitation Of A Child: November 2, 2005
- Sexual Exploitation Of A Child: November 24, 2005
- Possession Of Child Pornography
- Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft
- Identity Theft: James Loperfido
- Identity Theft: Edgar Bronfman
- Conspiracy To Alter Records In An Official Proceeding
- Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft
- Trafficking For Labor & Services
- Document Servitude
- Sex Trafficking: Nicole
- Forced Labor: Nicole,
- Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft: Pamela Cafritz
I am not a fan of our grand jury system — but, per the Fifth Amendment, it is the system that our Constitution requires in cases involving federal felonies and other infamous crimes. And it was a grand jury that, after reviewing the testimony and other evidence that had been presented to it, determined that Keith Raniere should be indicted — and tried — for the above-listed 7 crimes and 16 predicate acts.
Did Keith Raniere Get a Fair Trial?
To date, I have not seen any evidence — or heard any witness testimony — to support the allegation of “prosecutorial misconduct” in Keith Raniere’s case. Simply because federal prosecutors took advantage of what the criminal justice system allows them to do does not mean that they committed misconduct.
That’s why doing things like calling NXIVM/ESP a “pyramid organization” — or describing DOS as a “sex cult” — is not going to get Keith Raniere a new trial. And even though I agree that some of the evidence that was introduced at Keith’s trial was somewhat irrelevant with respect to the charges pending against him, I do not think that any of that evidence was prejudicial to the point that it warrants a new trial for Keith Raniere (Extraneous evidence can be introduced by the prosecution to show such things as proof of motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake).
So, if I were looking for an ideal case to use as the basis for seeking to make changes to the U.S. criminal justice system, I would look for one that had these characteristics:
- A defendant who did not have any prior incidents of negative involvement with the criminal justice system (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who had been charged with a single crime that did not involve any eyewitnesses (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who was not likely subject to another criminal charge (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who had an alibi — or an explanation as to what really happened — and was willing to testify before the jury (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who had a history of being an upstanding member of their community — and/or who had donated time to community projects (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who was employed in a job that other community residents saw as beneficial and/or necessary to their community (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who was known for telling the truth — and who could not be proven to be a liar on the witness stand (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who was well-liked by their neighbors, co-workers, etc. (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
- A defendant who had a record of success — all the way from grammar school, through high school and college, and on to their current job (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion); and
- A defendant who had never been found guilty of lying to a judge (Keith’s case did not meet this criterion);
In my ideal world, that’s the type of defendant that I would like to have if I were asserting that their trial and conviction had been a miscarriage of justice. Not having to worry about any of those factors would allow me to concentrate all my attention on the mistakes that had occurred from their indictment to their sentencing.
So, give me a widow:
- Who works as a full-time grammar school teacher while she raises her son and daughter;
- Who volunteers as the Choir Director at her local church on weekends;
- Who has been voted “Teacher-of-the-Year” four years in a row by the other teachers at her school — and who turned down the opportunity to become the Principal because she wanted to continue teaching in the classroom;
- Whose only interaction with law enforcement is that she was once ticketed for not coming to a full stop at an intersection 15-years ago;
- Who is the Director of her Neighborhood Watch program — and who organizes the neighborhood caroling group for the Christmas holidays;
- Who always hands out full-size candy bars at Halloween;
- Who got a rescue dog and a rescue cat for her kids;
- Who often serves as a volunteer baby sitter for her neighbors when emergencies arise;
- Who was charged with one count of homicide with respect to the homeless man who was found dead in her garden (He had been shot once in the head by a 30-30 caliber bullet); and
- Who was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (The primary evidence against her was a 30-30 rifle that had been recovered by the police about a mile from her house and then planted in her garage at the direction of an ambitious Assistant District Attorney).
That’s the case I want to use when I try to overturn basic elements of our current criminal justice system.
All kidding aside, Keith Raniere’s case is among the worst I can imagine for trying to bring about any major changes in our criminal justice system.
Who, except his most ardent followers and a few celebrities who may not know very much about the case, is going to devote the time and resources that will be necessary to get people interested in Keith Raniere’s “cause”? And who is going to finance what will undoubtedly be a very arduous and expensive process to get him a new trial?