Two days ago, Frank Report broke the news that Keith Raniere, 60, had contracted COVID-19.
We have an update: According to sources, Raniere weathered the worst of the virus and is now recovered. His symptoms were similar to the flu.
One of Raniere’s supporters, Eduardo Asunsolo, said that Raniere began to feel better this week compared to the symptoms he’d experienced 14 days ago. Another source who is close to Raniere said Raniere has recovered but is still very tired from the illness combined with his traveling from one prison to the next during last month, part of the time while suffering from COVID 19.
Raniere apparently contracted the virus along a route of prison transfers, which commenced with his departure out of the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center on January 5th and ended at his final destination, US Penitentiary Tucson, where he arrived on January 22nd.
In between those two points, he spent about two weeks at the USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, where he was placed in isolation. He then spent a few days in the Oklahoma Federal Detention Center before being transported to USP Tucson.
According to a report in the Mexican media outlet “Milenio,” Asúnsolo told reporter Juan Alberto Vasquez, “The inhumane treatment of Keith Raniere by the US Department of Justice continues. There was no need to move him from Brooklyn to Tucson except to keep him from consulting in person with his attorneys. On the way, he caught COVID. People in Mexico have no idea how corrupt the US justice system is.”
In early January, responding to rumors that Raniere might be transferred out of MDC, his newly-hired appellate lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, filed a letter with Judge Nicholas Garaufis asking him to make a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons to keep Raniere at MDC until his appeal was filed and the restitution hearings were completed.
She wrote, “In normal times, traveling to confer with Defendant would not prove overly problematic; however, in the current climate, multiple and/or an extended trip to Tucson would be exceedingly burdensome – to speak nothing of the health risks posed to all involved. Given the complexity of this case and the stakes involved, undersigned counsel must have meaningful communication with her client which cannot be accomplished via phone calls.”
The next day, Raniere had been moved out of MDC around 5 a.m. before the judge could respond to the letter. [The judge declined to make the recommendation.]
In the meantime, Raniere has retained, in addition to Bonjean, at least two more appellate lawyers, both practicing in the NYC area. Reportedly a fourth lawyer, Marty Tankleff will also help with the case.
From Metcalf’s website:
New York Criminal Defense Lawyer, Steven Alan Metcalf, II., Esq. has successfully and aggressively defended high profile media cases. Mr. Metcalf’s practice consists of State Criminal Defense, Federal Criminal Defense, Post-Conviction Litigation, Criminal Appeals, Civil Appeals, and Civil (Lawsuit) Defense.
Mr. Metcalf now works closely with his wife, and attorneys Joseph D. McBride and Marty Tankleff. Mr. Metcalf takes pride in his criminal defense work, and has a passion for post-conviction, actual innocence cases. Mr. Metcalf is the managing attorney of the criminal and civil departments of Metcalf & Metcalf, P.C.
“The next step is to establish a Wrongful Conviction Unit in Metcalf & Metcalf, P.C., and to teach law students about wrongful convictions with Marty Tankleff.”
In 2013, Mr. Metcalf founded the Metcalf Law Firm, PLLC, in the Wall Street area. Since his second year of law school, Mr. Metcalf has successfully handled hundreds of criminal cases from investigation to not guilty verdicts after trial. In 2017, Mr. Metcalf joined forces with his now partner, Nanette Ida Metcalf, and formed Metcalf & Metcalf, P.C.
From McBride’s website:
Located in New York City, The McBride Law Firm provides highly personalized white glove legal services inside and outside of the courtroom. Our brand of representation is intelligent, forward thinking, and relentless. From the moment we are retained, opposing counsel, prosecutors, and/or any other adversary will know that a law firm committed to achieving success on your behalf is aggressively representing you.
Joseph D. McBride is a tenacious litigator, compelling in the courtroom, talented at picking juries, and is well-known for being capable of winning over even the most difficult judges. He is also a veteran negotiator, with a track record of achieving optimal results while simultaneously avoiding the risk of trial.
Mr. McBride decided to become a lawyer after his younger brother Anthony was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to fifteen years of incarceration — for a crime he did not commit. Joseph shares a bond with each client he represents, because he knows what it is like to have his family’s fate in the hands of an attorney. Consequently, his brand of representation is holistic, collaborative, and highly personalized. And his style of counseling displays an empathetic, innovative, and supportive ethos throughout the course of the attorney-client relationship.
Prior to going into private practice, Joseph was a criminal defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Manhattan Criminal Defense Practice. He also represented incarcerated persons seeking access to post-conviction DNA testing with The Innocence Project. Joseph earned his Juris Doctor at Cardozo Law, located in Union Square, NYC, where he concentrated on Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Litigation. Joseph earned his Bachelor’s degree at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. There he majored in Political Science, and minored in History. Mr. McBride went on to graduate magna cum laude. Joseph’s years of experience, courtroom charisma, and proven track record of results, make him a formidable foe in any adversarial process. From first contact until the final disposition, he will be with you each and every step of the way as you navigate the legal process.
Another noteworthy name in association with Metalf and McBride is attorney Marty Tankleff. He may assist in the Raniere appeal.
Tankleff, 49, was wrongly convicted of murdering his wealthy parents in 1988, when he was 17 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison.
His case illustrates how slow the justice system is and how rabid are many prosecutors, who do not like to admit they are wrong even if it means keeping an innocent man in prison.
Tankleff’s appeal in New York State Supreme Court failed in 1993. In 1997, a federal district judge denied Tankleff’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus [to determine if he was unlawfully imprisoned]. In 1998, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the district judge’s denial.
In 2003, his lawyers won the right to appeal a second time when they presented new evidence from 20 witnesses. More than four years later, in 2008, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division unanimously vacated Tankleff’s conviction and sentence.
After serving more than 17 years of imprisonment, he was released from prison.
Tankleff was represented by attorney Barry Pollack.
After Tankleff was freed, the Suffolk County District Attorney, feeling chagrined since the honor of the office had been maligned for thousands thought they put an innocent man in prison. The DA wanted to charge Tankoff again and retry him.
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer removed it from the Suffolk County DA’s hands and appointed New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case.
Cuomo selected Chief Trial Counsel Benjamin Rosenberg and veteran homicide prosecutor Thomas Schellhammer to determine if there should be a new trial for Tankleff. The investigation was completed in 2008.
Rosenberg, seemingly splitting the baby, concluded that “The issue in this case is not whether there is evidence [that Tankoff killed his parents] but whether there is sufficient evidence.”
There was not, he said.
Cuomo then moved to dismiss the indictment. In the same motion, prosecutors announced they would not proceed against suspects identified by Tankleff’s defense team as the possible murderers, stating that “on balance, the defense theory does not appear to be supported by clear evidence.”
On July 22, 2008, the State Justice Robert W. Doyle concurred with the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss. All charges facing Tankleff were dropped. He was not retried.
Tankleff filed a civil suit against the state for his wrongful conviction and in 2014 was awarded $3.4 million as settlement of the lawsuit.
Tankleff then sued Suffolk County, in addition to various people who were police and county employees at the time of his arrest and trial. He was represented by Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project in Manhattan. In April 2018, Tankleff reached a settlement with Suffolk County for $10 million.
So who killed Tankleff’s parents?
“Marty Tankleff woke up on the first day of his senior year in high school to discover his mother and father brutally stabbed and bludgeoned, his mother—Arlene Tankleff—dead, his father—Seymour Tankleff—unconscious but alive. Marty called 911 and gave first-aid to his father….
“When the police arrived, Marty immediately identified the likely suspect: his father’s bagel-store partner, who owed his father half a million dollars, had recently violently threatened his parents, and who was the last guest to leave the Tankleff home the night before. A week after the attacks, as Marty’s father lay unconscious in the hospital, the business partner would fake his own death, disguise himself and flee to California under an alias. Despite the business partner’s motive and opportunity, he has never been considered a suspect by Suffolk County authorities to this day. Instead, the lead detective immediately took Marty to the police station and began a hostile interrogation of him that would last for hours….
“In 2001, [Tankleff] convinced a retired New York City homicide detective to conduct a ‘reinvestigation’ into the case. All leads led back to the business partner, whose son, it turns out, sold cocaine out of the bagel stores. The son’s enforcer had bragged over the years about having participated in the Tankleff murders. Through the drug enforcer’s arrest records, the investigator found an accomplice who admitted to having been the getaway driver on the night of the murders…
“Based on the getaway driver’s affidavit and other corroborating new evidence, Marty’s lawyers filed a motion for a new trial, which led to months of evidentiary hearings in a Suffolk County courtroom. As a result of media coverage and further investigation by Marty’s defense team, many new witnesses came forward. By the end of the hearing, over two dozen witnesses would present overwhelming evidence of Marty’s innocence and others’ guilt….
“The Suffolk County DA refused to recuse himself from the hearing despite extreme conflicts of interest. Five years before the Tankleff murders, he had represented the business partner’s son for selling cocaine out of the bagel store. … And his longtime partner had represented the business partner [the suspected murderer] himself. Among the new evidence revealed at the hearing was eyewitness testimony that the business partner had been well acquainted with the lead detective since before the Tankleff murders. This contradicted the trial testimony of the detective, who had not been in line to catch the case on the morning of the Tankleff murders but arrived 19 minutes after the early morning call, and who ignored the business partner as a suspect….”
This could be a case of corruption on the parts of both the Suffolk County DA and a detective on the case. But no charges were brought against either of them, and prosecutors in Suffolk County had no desire to investigate whether the business partner of the murdered man had any role in the killing.
It is possible that the DA and the Detective may have conspired to put an innocent boy in prison while covering up for the true killers, who they were associated with.
Much of Tankleff’s relatively brief legal career has been fighting for people who he believes were, like him, wrongfully convicted.
With Jennifer Bonjean, who, incidentally, represents Bill Cosby on his appeal, and Metcalf, McBride and possibly Tankleff, the appeals process will soon begin for Raniere. He has not been able to meet with any of his appellate lawyers.
Do they believe he was wrongfully convicted?
Who is paying for the new attorneys is anybody’s guess.
It seems unlikely that it is Clare or Sara Bronfman. Clare’s money is not easily accessible since most of it is tied up in trusts and her spending is monitored by the government. Sara recently disclosed she is not associated with Nxivm any more.
Are there other Raniere supporters funding the appellate lawyers? It is hard to imagine this team is representing Raniere pro bono and the costs of their representation, it would seem, would not be less than $300,000 for an appeal, and probably much more.
Raniere himself does not appear to have any money since his inheritance of the estate of Pamela Cafrtiz’s $8 million is tied up in the courts and may be paid out to his victims in restitution. Normally, a defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney without disclosing publicly or to the court who pays the attorney. In the Raniere case, prior to his trial, the public learned that Clare Bronfman had set aside a fund to pay for the attorneys who represented Raniere and their other codefendants.
The reason for the disclosure was based on issues of potential conflict of interest, with one defendant paying the legal bills for everyone.
This situation is different and it is unlikely the public will learn who is funding Raniere’s appellate efforts. That seems to fall under due process and specifically attorney-client privilege.