Suneel Chakravorty is a supporter and advocate for Keith Raniere, a man convicted of federal crimes including sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering with predicate acts of possession of child porn [about 20 pictures of a then-15-year-old girl] and sexual exploitation of a minor [he allegedly took the pictures].
[Note: Suneel says the pictures were tampered with by the FBI]
Raniere was tried in 2019, and at the end of a six-week trial, the jury took fewer than five hours to convict him on all counts. He was sentenced in 2020 to 120 years in federal prison by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. Last week he was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, a facility that both is a maximum-security prison and provides special programs for convicted sex offenders. More than 60 percent of the inmates there are convicted sex offenders. Unless he prevails on his appeal, this may very well be Keith Raniere’s final and permanent home.
Suneel argues that Raniere’s trial was fundamentally unfair, that the prosecution committed misconduct, and that the judge was biased against Raniere. For this, he wants to see Raniere freed or at least be granted a new trial.
The odds of that happening —based on the normal odds of a convicted felon winning a reversal of a conviction via a federal appeal — are about 20 to 1. It would take a complete reversal of the conviction — on each and every count — to warrant dismissal of his conviction.
Suneel’s stance in support of Raniere has garnered him many critics and a few supporters. One of his critics is a reader who uses the handle “Lucid Moment” who wrote, as a health professional, in elegant prose and in a compelling fashion, that Raniere was a textbook ‘human trafficker’ and that Suneel was essentially blind to this obvious truth.
Suneel has chosen to respond.
By Suneel Chakravorty
Dear Lucid Moment,
I read your post ‘Health Professional Says Keith Raniere Checks Off All the Boxes of Human Trafficking’, which, in part, criticized my advocacy for Keith Raniere. I felt it was earnest criticism.
I think we agree on some issues. Obviously, we don’t see eye-to-eye on all the facts of this case. That may be because I know the facts better than you. After all, I attended every day of the trial. I painstakingly read every page of the transcripts and spent a year speaking to experts in the justice system trying to make sense of this.
Here are your main comments and questions.
- “Who is funding Suneel’s time and effort in his defense of Keith Raniere?”
- “Why are you advocating for Keith?”
- That I am doing a “supreme disservice” to victims of human trafficking.
- That Keith “shamed, humiliated, dehumanized, manipulated, intimidated, triangulated, gaslighted” others.
- That Keith “assigned one of the victims to stay alone in a room.”
- That I am “turning a blind eye to the bigger picture” of the construct of Keith the trafficker.
“Who Is Funding Suneel’s Time and Effort in His Defense of Keith Raniere?”
I am entirely self-funded. I work as a software consultant and because I am successful at it, this allows me to spend time doing things that are important to me. To date, no one has ever paid me to do advocacy for Keith Raniere.
“Why Are You Advocating for Keith?”
I am advocating for Keith Raniere because what I saw at his trial disturbed me greatly.
At the time of the trial, Keith was not my friend. Prior to his arrest, we had talked for a total of three minutes. Our first substantive conversation was after the trial, in September 2019, in the visiting room of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Where Keith and I had our first actual conversation.
I chose to go to Keith’s trial because I had seen two years of headlines about a company I had been involved with and about its founder. The headlines were the opposite of what I had seen and experienced, both as a student and later as a volunteer coach for ESP/NXIVM, so I wanted to make sense of this enormous discrepancy and see the evidence for myself.
At the trial, I expected to hear robust questions and well-reasoned arguments intended to elicit the truth and determine if the facts presented met the elements of the charges. What I saw instead was “evidence” and testimony that I believe were engineered to achieve a singular purpose: to make the jury hate Keith Raniere.
[The prosecution convinced the jury Raniere was a monster, using incendiary witness testimony, emails and texts unrelated to the charges.]
Admittedly, I was biased to the extent that I believe the classes Keith created were beneficial to me and others I’d coached.
Even if I had not benefited and had never seen Keith before, I am convinced that what I saw at his trial was a mockery of justice and a lasting disgrace to our country.
That I Am Doing a “Supreme Disservice” to Victims of Human Trafficking
Lucid Moment wrote, “To Suneel who sees the prosecution’s case against Keith Raniere as trying to ‘dirty him up’ while piecemealing and isolating every situation in his trial. Then he can say these situations are not relevant or in themselves a crime…This is a supreme disservice to all women and all victims of human trafficking.”
The prosecution threw in sordid details, true or untrue, relevant or irrelevant, and propped up witnesses to conform to their narrative. They were trying to show a pattern of repugnant behavior. But if evidence has no probative value beyond inspiring disgust or outrage, then we must throw it out.
In my opinion, that is what Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis should have done. But he appeared to be swept away by his emotions and chauvinism. He seems to have an old-fashioned view of women as weak creatures that need to be protected, coddled and defended instead of treating all people before him the same regardless of gender.
I was shocked when the judge stopped the cross-examination of 40-something-year-old Lauren Salzman when she started crying. I know Lauren. She is an intelligent, strong, successful woman. She was also a co-conspirator in a federal criminal trial, facing up to 40 years in prison, and her testimony was critical to the case.
(Note that Lauren happened to cry just as she was about to contradict the claims she made in her plea deal — a plea deal that Judge Garaufis had accepted in his courtroom.)
Judge Garaufis had made his ruling: Unlike men, women are incapable of withstanding even a polite but probing cross-examination. Forget that it’s a violation of the US Constitution’s confrontation clause. I’m sorry, but I believe this sexist view is a supreme disservice to all women.
The prosecution’s case for sex trafficking, enabled by the judge, is even worse.
A white, privileged actress in her late twenties co-designed a sex act with another woman that included bondage. Every step of the way, the actress consented — this was in her own sworn testimony. No violence. No threats of violence. No money was involved. She even said she consented to the act while it happened. She was asked if she wanted to continue. She said yes, she wanted to continue.
You want us to “believe women”? Well, tell me, when do we believe her? When she says yes, beforehand, and at the moment, or later when she, prompted by the government, peer pressure, embarrassment or regret, retroactively says no?
A single oral sex act that didn’t directly involve Keith Raniere and without money changing hands — this is what the prosecution is calling “sex trafficking.”
Not calling this joke of a charge out is a supreme disservice to all true victims of actual human trafficking — women separated from their families, beaten or drugged by their captors, forced into sexual encounters for months or years, with no hope, no justice and not a single HBO docuseries or class-action lawsuit against heiresses to sustain them in their suffering.
Keith “Shamed, Humiliated, Dehumanized, Manipulated, Intimidated…”
You wrote: “He then shamed, humiliated, dehumanized, manipulated, intimidated, triangulated, gaslighted, and coerced them until enculturation and bondage seemed to them to be their only option.”
You boldly assert these accusations without providing any specifics that I can respond to.
It seems like you are following the prosecution’s playbook and divesting adult women of their agency, as if they had no ability to think for themselves and no obligation to speak up and tell the truth if they felt they were being coerced.
We are not talking about women sold into slavery, kept captive by force and sent out to be prostituted or into work camps or sweatshops for 25 cents a day.
I know many of the women who were in DOS. These were grown, affluent, privileged women who sought self-improvement. If you or anyone else were not committed to infantilizing them and instead took the time to know these women and women like them, you would know it’s preposterous to even consider that any man could shame, humiliate, dehumanize, manipulate, intimidate, gaslight, coerce or even employ his trigonometry skills and triangulate them.
That Keith “Assigned One of the Victims to Stay Alone in a Room.”
You wrote: “Raniere assigned one of the victims to stay alone in a room. He carefully groomed and indoctrinated her parents to not advocate for basic needs of their daughter, like socialization, health care, and further education.”
This needs a serious fact-check. Daniela [her last name was withheld from the public by the judge during the trial to protect her privacy], the woman you are referring to, was in her twenties at the time. She was not a child.
The family wanted Keith’s help in dealing with an unruly and defiant daughter. Keith did not groom Daniela’s parents. These are adults. The father is an affluent Mexican businessman smart enough to own and run a successful company. It is a supreme insult to these people to suggest that they do not have the ability to think for themselves.
That includes Daniela.
Perhaps the family should have called the police on Daniela when she committed the crimes she admitted to in her sworn testimony. However, it is my understanding that Keith thought she might be better served by doing some quiet reflection.
It was supposed to be for a weekend. But Daniela chose to be stubborn and show Keith and her family that she would stay in the room until Keith, her parents and her family gave up and agreed to let her keep her old, destructive behaviors.
Daniela stayed (rent-free) in her (unlocked) bedroom, in her family’s house, with the family there. She even “cheated” on the arrangement, sneaking out at night when she wanted.
The fact that Daniela was not charged for any of the crimes she admitted to under oath as part of the racketeering charges, and the fact that she is one of the strongest proponents of the prosecution’s narrative is something we need to examine more closely.
It was astonishing to me to hear that an adult woman who illegally entered the USA by presenting false identification to US Customs tried to blame it all on Keith Raniere. And she did.
Keith didn’t make Daniela return to Albany — she wanted to. She could have waited and done it legally, but she didn’t.
Oh yes, I know she was only 22 years old. But in the real world, that is an adult. A woman is an adult by age 22 and is responsible for her own decisions. Yet, her decision to commit a crime and come into the United States illegally is completely forgiven.
In the eyes of Judge Garaufis and prosecutors Moira Kim Penza, Tanya Hajjar, Mark Lesko and Richard P. Donoghue, and perhaps your eyes too, Daniela is a helpless woman who can’t think for herself.
That I Am “Turning a Blind Eye to the Bigger Picture” of Keith, the Trafficker
You wrote: “How can he turn a blind eye to the bigger picture, to the whole construct of Keith as a human trafficker, with all the nefarious sides that come with holding up this kind of activity?”
Here is the bigger picture:
If I am correct about what happened to Keith and this truth is not exposed, then I believe the prosecutors and judges in the Eastern District of NY will continue to do what they did here in other, less high-profile cases — where no one is watching — and more innocent people will be led to the slaughter.