What Really Happened to Times Union Reporter James Odato and the Computer Trespassing Case

Frank Report gets many questions from readers. We try to answer as many of them as possible. Here is one:

Q: Wasn’t Albany Times Union reporter James Odato fired because he was illegally entering into the NXIVM server?

James Odato is a legendary figure in the history of Nxivm. For years, as a senior investigative reporter for the Albany Times Union, he covered the Nxivm story (He even authored a story about Keith Raniere before he began working at the Times Union).

His work probably prevented thousands of people from joining Nxivm.

Over the years, starting around 2005 and ending in 2014, he wrote extensively about Keith Raniere and Nxivm.

He revealed that Raniere had blown through $65 million of Bronfman money in commodities trades, and his landmark 2012 four-part series, “Secrets of Nxivm”, revealed many startling aspects of the group.

Perhaps the most damning revelation in the “Secrets of Nxivm” series was that several adult women alleged they had sex with Raniere when they were under the age of consent, with one of them claiming she was only 12 when that first happened.

Albany Times Union reporter James Odato

For the record, Odato was not fired. He took a leave of absence from the Times Union and went into teaching.

He is an adjunct professor at the University at Albany teaching “advanced reporting, research and writing to journalism majors.”

Odato’s leave of absence was related to the civil lawsuit that Nxivm filed against him and others.

According to Politico: “In October 2013, Odato was named in a lawsuit filed by NXIVM, along with blogger, John J. Tighe, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Suzanna Andrews, who in 2010 published a feature that detailed NXIVM’s involvement with sisters Sara and Clare Bronfman, daughters of the late billionaire philanthropist and Seagram scion Edgar M. Bronfman.

“NXIVM’s suit reportedly alleges that the three writers and two other individuals [Joe O’Hara and Toni Natalie] may have used a former NXIVM client’s login information to gain unauthorized access to the Albany-based company’s computer server.

“‘In Odato’s case,’ the Times Union reported on Nov. 6, ‘NXIVM’s lawsuit alleges that someone using a computer at the Times Union used the client’s password without authorization six days before Odato wrote a story in October 2007, identifying two clients of NXIVM, and citing access to a confidential client list.”

The civil case against him (and the others) was dismissed after it was discovered that Clare Bronfman had made contradictory statements about the date of discovery of the computer trespass in a criminal complaint she lodged for the same offense against Toni Natalie, Joe O’Hara, and John Tighe.

Bronfman gave a date for the discovery of the computer trespass in the civil case that was about a year later than the date she gave in the criminal complaint. It appears this was done in order to keep within the statute of limitations in the civil case.

See Defense’s ‘Chart of Lies’

The criminal case was also dismissed – but for another reason. Odato, however, was never charged criminally.

Four people were charged in the criminal case: In addition to Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe, Barbara Bouchey was also charged criminally for separately accessing Nxivm servers via a different former student’s sign-in information.

The defendants offered evidence prior to trial that Nxivm had moved their computer servers from Saratoga County to Albany County.

The apparent reason for moving the servers was to get jurisdiction in Albany County.

At the time the alleged computer trespassing occurred, the servers in question were actually located in Saratoga County. The Saratoga DA, however, declined to criminally charge Natalie, O’Hara and Tighe. The Office of the New York State Attorney General also declined.

Looking for a prosecutor who would charge them, the Albany County DA seemed to be the only remaining option.

According to several sources, including one person who said he was there at the new location during the set-up, the servers were quietly moved by Nxivm members from Saratoga County to a place in Albany County.

Later, several Nxivm members swore that the servers had been in Albany County all along.

Nxivm attorneys worked with State Police to persuade the Albany County DA to prosecute Tighe, O’Hara, Natalie and Bouchey. Because of a previous issue that the Albany County DA had with a case involving the Bronfmans and O’Hara, he decided to appoint a special prosecutor rather than handle the case himself.

As it turned out, the special prosecutor was, in fact, a former co-worker and subordinate of one of the Nxivm attorneys who had also worked for the Albany County DA.

Natalie, O’Hara, Tighe and Bouchey were charged with felonies.

Near the eve of trial, the defendants alleged that Nxivm had moved their servers to Albany County after the alleged trespassing had occurred. The special prosecutor, embarrassed to find out that Albany County had no basis for jurisdiction in the matter, agreed to drop charges against Natalie, O’Hara, and Bouchey.  Unfortunately for Tighe, he had already pleaded guilty in conjunction with a separate legal charge that he alone was facing.

This might have been considered a predicate act under the racketeering charges lodged in the federal prosecution of Raniere and at least some of his co-defendants.

However, it was not charged. It may be that it was difficult to prove, it was not necessary for the case, the prosecution did not know about it or did not feel it was worth the time to investigate, or because the incidents took place in the Northern District of NY and the EDNY did not have jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, Odato was not fired from his job at the Times Union. Nor was it ever proven he accessed the Nxivm servers. And had there not been what appears to be perjuries before the court by Clare Bronfman, it is altogether possible that Odato would have remained with the Times Union and would have broken a number of other, critically important stories.

Who knows, instead of me, Catherine Oxenberg might have called him and he might have broken the biggest Nxivm story of all – the branding story.  He would have deserved it.

I recall hearing from several of his sources, that they all thought his award-winning “Secrets of Nxivm” stories would have destroyed Raniere and Nxivm.

Everyone was surprised when it didn’t. Somehow, Raniere convinced his followers that the stories were full of lies.

Yet, who knows how many others – who would have otherwise joined or come closer to Raniere – were deterred by this damnable tale.

One good thing that happened, according to Kristin Keeffe, was that the “Secrets of Nxivm” series, which came out in February 2012, led to Daniela leaving the room she had been in for almost two years and finally getting her freedom.

You never know what the impact of your work is; oftentimes, you don’t find out until much later or you never find out at all. Sometimes the lives you save may never even let you know.

For those who think they were benefitted by the exposure of Raniere either on this website or in the New York Times, kindly consider there was a pioneer, James Odato, whose work was so good that everyone who was to ever write about Nxivm afterward depended on and built upon his groundbreaking work.

I know I did.

 

 

 


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Frank Parlato

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  • “One good thing that happened, according to Kristin Keeffe, was that the “Secrets of Nxivm” series, which came out in February 2012, led to Daniela leaving the room she had been in for almost two years and finally getting her freedom.”

    Did Daniela read this series by Odato? I don’t recall ever hearing (or reading) that fact before. Seems odd to me that her captors would supply her with a copy of the TU which featured this story on their front page.

    • Actually, Raniere, Lauren Salzman, and others read the series. And they arranged for her father to take her to the Mexican border, post haste, and drop her off with a small sum of money to fend for herself.

  • How fortunate are James Odato’s students! He is an exemplary man to have the chance to hear and to learn from as a professor of journalism.

    He walked away, very possibly from something that he loved very much. But it looks as though he did it the wisest way. Perhaps?

    Never announce to an “enemy” what you are going to do in response. That is a primary tactical error. Any conscious (or not-so-conscious) pre-announcements are inherently self-sabotaging, and this cannot be overlooked or forgotten, not ever. Make your own plans and make your own way. It can be, and it is crucial.

    Just protect yourself all along, and do it without announcements, without any fireworks and/or displays of emotionalism beforehand, and it’s less complicated to really fly away, free & freely.

    Again, James Odato has been exemplary. Hopefully, the subtleties are not lost here.

    For someone who works as creatively as Mr. Odato does, the arenas of workability are endless.

    On the other hand, there’s Roger Stone, who had a stroll from the grand entrance of Washington, D.C. Willard Hotel recently, and he cannot seem to get the hang of how to cool his heels. The real socialites were taught to know better. Roger, over and out will never happen to this Stone, though. The gamesmanship finesse came along with nannies and the silver spoons, the measure of what is de rigueur.

    Sometimes you just do not vogue, even if you know you’re a rogue. There used to be convents. Now it’s rehab.

  • Yes. I read what he wrote many years ago, and was fascinated that NXIVM didn’t unravel. But it’s good to know that it still made positive ripples in people’s lives.

  • James Odato is a true hero in this story.

    He doesn’t back down from pressure being exerted, like Frank does.

    For instance, various ex-NXIVM members (from Canada & the US) pressured Frank to stop reporting certain stories about their own friends, which Frank has dutifully complied with over the past year.

    James Odato wouldn’t shut down all negative stories about Barb Bouchey, Edmondson, Dones, Keeffe, Kreuk, Kendra and many others, the way that Frank has.

    Frank used to go after these stories like a pit bull going after a piece of meat, but he’s now made them “off limits”.

    In fact, there’s a 50/50 chance that this post will be deleted for simply bringing up this topic, LOL.

    Frank is a coward who has betrayed his own journalistic principles.

    Frank has become too cozy with many ex-NXIVM figures in order to gain access to them, which is the opposite of true journalism.

    Frank has become friends with too many ex-NXIVM members, especially senior ones, and it’s affected his judgment of them.

    What happened to Frank’s ‘investigative articles’ about cash being physically smuggled from Canada into Albany, where much of it was found in Nancy’s shoebox?

    What was the source of that cash? Who smuggled it?

    Guess what?

    We can’t talk about that now cuz the people who ran NXIVM’s Canadian operations are friends with Frank —- and he doesn’t want any FACTS about those topics being disclosed IF they make his new friends look bad. LOL.

    That’s not journalism. That’s politics.

    Frank is not interested in these stories anymore (about cash smuggling) and will try to shut down all conversations about them, even though it was HIM who originally reported this stuff like a pit bull.

    Frank has really stopped being a journalist over the past 12 months.

    Frank has not only befriended these people, but he actively ‘defends’ them now —– while pretending that his previous investigative stories were never reported, LOL.

    James Odato would NEVER do that. He’s a true journalist. He’s not a coward.

    Yet, Frank still has the audacity to spout the motto of “If the world stands against you with swords in hand, will you still have the courage to do what’s right?”

    I do, Frank. …And for that, will you delete this post? LOL. 🙂

    Frank needs to do the world a favor and perform Seppuku. That’s the only way for him to reclaim his honor.

    Have a good day.

    • —James Odato wouldn’t shut down all negative stories about Barb Bouchey, Edmondson, Dones, Keeffe, Kreuk, Kendra and many others, the way that Frank has.

      Frank Parlato has never shutdown a story! This comment is a typical Bangkok fairytale, much like Bangkok’s recent assertion to have had a sex life outside of self-love.

    • I’d like to challenge Frank’s friends to respond HONESTLY to these FACTS I’ve presented, people like Heidi, Niceguy and even Claviger.

      I doubt that Frank can honestly admit that I’m right, even though he can’t refute a single thing written here.

      So let’s see if Frank’s friends will close ranks, ignore my facts and just attack me —– like sheep.

      Or can they truly examine the facts like intellectuals, rather than acting as Frank’s pawns and agents?

      Politics always rules here. It’s like junior high school with the absurd ‘loyalty’ people show to Frank.

      Claviger can burn in hell cuz that mother fucker won’t touch this topic with a ten foot pole. He’s too close to Frank to disagree with him or admit that I’m right.

      • I’d like Bangkok to admit that everything is not black or white. Not all or nothing. Not red or blue. Not always clear-cut.

        Frank needs to balance obtaining trusted sources (because he himself can be trusted) VERSUS being a pitbull who hits hard but has a difficult time walking into a room without everyone scattering.

        One additional point – I would hypothesize that as the years have gone by and Frank has talked with more insiders and discovered more from behind the curtain, that he’s realized there is only one Big Bad Wolf. While others may have done illegal things (like toting shoeboxes full of cash across the border), they were mostly good people who were believing/following/in love with/idolizing the wrong nude emperor.

  • These stories of unethical, illegal and amoral conduct by Nxium leadership get lost.

    Buried under an avalanche of stories about branding, bizarre punitive practices and child rape.

    It is so important to keep these attempts to pervert justice front and center, as well.

    It shows how willfully deluded and hypocritical are the remaining keith supporters. Especially those who cry foul at Keith’s legal cases.

    And to those who mourn the loss of the Nxium ” community”…

    It was never paradise. But rather a very, very dark and loathsome enclave of corrupt, vile criminals.

    And blind followers.

  • Long overdue but better late than never. These are the broad strokes – the deadly details prove out the reason the TU’s expose and witness/participants to the crimes reported therein, like Pam Caffritz, were buried or otherwise silenced for so long.

  • More of these background, investigative articles, please, Frank. Thank you! Such a welcome change from endless ‘opinion’ pieces with no substance, or circular arguments ad nauseam about victimhood.

  • Frank,

    I am glad you wrote this story.

    James Odato deserves the recognition. He went through a harrowing ordeal.

    This story is particularly compelling because it shows how the wealthy can quell free speech and corrupt the justice system to their own ends.

    ****
    I hope you eventually revisit the real
    LA noire story in which an innocent woman allegedly was framed by her wealthy husband. That story is equally compelling.

    • Yes, NG. I’ve been worried about Cassandra and her (she and Phillip Leaven’s) children – in the custody of abusers and deprived of visitation with their mother – thanks to the machinations of the LAPD target crimes unit as Frank reported on in 2019 while we were working on “Lost Women.”

      Any updates, Frank?

        • Speaking from personal experience, I have no doubt that Cassandra Leavens and her children with Philip Leavens were targeted and victimized and continue to be abused by the most scary, corrupt factions of the LAPD in cahoots, as ever, with the courts that do often favor money and power over truth and justice.

          In fact, to this day (been about 3 weeks, actually) I have been approached by virtual strangers inexplicably offering to similarly dispose of my ex-husband without having any impetus from me to make such an offer.

          Either this manner of cutting a plea deal has now become commonplace among violent criminals in California or I continue to be targeted by these corrupt characters, most likely in cahoots with (at least) my ex-husband.

          But given the fact that I was first approached at The Goodnight Inn in Calabasas and secondly by another overly friendly chap at The Mission Bell Motel in Ventura while awaiting Frank’s arrival at these “flea bags” to appear in “The Lost Women of NXIVM” – after the production kindly offered to switch me up to the Sheraton – among some other very curious, bizarre circumstances – I tend to believe there are co-conspirators apart from Jeff Apple.

          But, unfortunately, my alleged spy training is woefully lacking as to determining who exactly among, I believe, former and current NXIVM affiliates, apparently, remain motivated to frame and/or “rescue” me.

          Judging from the “script” the gas-lighters appear to be working from, there is no doubt in my mind that Kristin Keeffe (who was my sister’s BFF to the day she died and is very experienced at working closely with both law enforcement and dangerous, paid mercenaries) and, possibly, the ineffable Bangkok himself are chiefly behind this on-going harassment. …Right, Chicky?

Frank Parlato Investigates

Frank Parlato Investigates

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg; “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson; “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been featured prominently on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and acted as lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” He was credited in the Starz docuseries, 'Seduced,' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato has appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest, which was ironic since many credit Parlato as being one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think is right?

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