First, Keith Raniere retained Jennifer Bonjean, who is representing Bill Cosby on his appeal, as his appellate lawyer. Now, he may add another – the prosecutor of O.J. Simpson.
The Albany Times Union, in reporting to readers that, according to his lawyers, Keith Raniere is recovering from COVID 19 in his Arizona prison, and in reporting the names of his new attorneys to help him appeal his federal convictions and 120-year prison sentence, provides us with some new information.
The TU article, NXIVM leader Keith Raniere recovering from coronavirus, was written by Rob Gavin, who attended the trial of Raniere and whose stellar work covering Raniere and Nxivm has been shown on various documentaries and news reports.
Chris Darden – From OJ to Vanguard?
One new fact is that the law firm of one of Raniere’s new appellate lawyers, Steven A. Metcalf II, is affiliated with Christopher Darden, a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial.
For those who do not know the case, Simpson was acquitted of murdering his former wife and a friend of hers. Darden and a team of prosecutors lost the case. Some think Simpson was a man who got away with murder.
Darden wrote a New York Times Best Selling book about the case and is now a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney.
His first book “In Contempt” spent 14 weeks as #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Darden also led the prosecution of Al Cowlings and later become the Case Manager in the 1995 OJ Simpson Murder Trial, deemed “The Trial of the Century.”
Darden has teamed up and joined forces with a member of Raniere’s team, Marty Tankleff [see our story on him] and Metcalf & Metcalf, P.C., a Manhattan-based law firm. The team focuses on potential wrongful conviction cases in both New York and California.
This suggests Darden may be joining team Raniere.
Darden team member, Marty Tankleff, who recently signed a protective order to view victim statements in the case against the Vanguard, said, “Raniere was not convicted in accordance with all of the protections afforded under the Federal Constitution, which can lead to a wrongful conviction.”
Raniere Getting Better After COVID
Another item from the Gavin story is that another of Raniere’s lawyers, Joseph D. McBride, said that the Vanguard is on the high road to recovery.
“Keith is still recovering from his bout with COVID-19,” McBride told the Times Union. “Our understanding of the situation is that Keith began experiencing symptoms shortly after being transported from MDC but somehow did not test positive until arriving in Tucson.”
“To put it lightly, his journey from New York to Arizona was grueling,” McBride added. “Moreover, his legal team was unable to communicate with him for long periods of time. Be that as it may, Keith’s spirit remains unbroken and he seems to be recovering well.”
A Rough Journey for Raniere
Raniere undoubtedly had a grueling experience as he was transferred from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center to a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he spent two weeks in quarantine. He most likely went by bus, handcuffed, shackled, with additional restraints, possibly in a paper prison uniform.
From Lewisburg, he went to the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center, where he remained for a few days. It is not known if he was flown on the US Marshals-operated airlines, “Con Air”, or by bus.
From Oklahoma City, he went to his present location, the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona. It is believed he flew there, handcuffed, shackled, and with the painful “black box” to severely restrict his movements and prevent tampering with the locks of his handcuffs.
Along this circuitous route to Tucson, he apparently contracted COVID.
Raniere’s Move Out of MDC Was Rather Hurriedly
The Times Union mentions that “In early January, [another Raniere appellate attorney, Jennifer] Bonjean, asked the judge to keep Raniere in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he had been serving his time, because it would be easier to visit with him and added ‘to speak nothing of the health risks posed to all involved.’ The judge rejected the request.”
Raniere did get COVID; it is not known if he spread it to prisoners and guards he came in contact with. Given the fact that he did not test positive, according to his lawyers, until after he arrived in Tucson, makes it difficult, if not impossible to ascertain the answer.
For the sake of full disclosure, it seems likely that our primary source for Raniere having COVID is Raniere himself. We do not know if he was tested or if he self-diagnosed, or, it is at least possible that he did not have COVID and made up the story to fulfill the sad tale of his “unnecessary” torment.
Bonjean filed her request on the evening of January 5th. A few hours later, by early morning January 6, Raniere was moved out of MDC, before Judge Nicholas Garaufis had a chance to respond to the request.
Bonjean filed her request because she received word that Raniere was likely to be transferred. It is not known if MDC officials moved Raniere more quickly than they had planned to because she requested the court to recommend that Raniere remain at MDC – in order for him to be available to consult with her on his appeal.
In any event, a few hours after his transfer, Judge Garaufis denied Bonjean’s request to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons [BOP] that Raniere remain at MDC.
Who can blame him? The reason for Bonjean wanting Raniere to remain in Brooklyn is that it would have been easier to consult with him on their joint task to try to show that Judge Garaufis had presided over an unfair trial.
However, even if the judge had approved Bonjean’s request and recommended that Raniere be permitted to remain at MDC while they worked on the appeal, the BOP is not obligated to act on recommendations of a judge as far as prison placement is concerned.
BOP Likely in Charge of Raniere for 120 Years or Until He Dies – Whichever Is First
Federal prisoners are in the custody of the US Attorney General, who delegates responsibility to the Bureau of Prisons, which is led by Michael Carvajal.
By the way, Carvajal rose up the ranks of the BOP beginning in 1992, the old-fashioned American way. He began as a Correctional Officer at FCI Three Rivers (TX). His sterling work led him to one promotion after another, in rapid succession and his talent soon led him to become the Warden at FCI Texarkana (TX), and Complex Warden for FCC Pollock (LA). A few years, and a few job assignments later, the Attorney General recognized his earnest and driving force and named him as the Bureau’s 11th Director on February 25, 2020.
As Director, Carvajal oversees the operation of 122 Bureau of Prisons facilities, six regional offices, two staff training centers, 12 contract facilities, and 22 residential reentry management offices with oversight and management of approximately 37,000 staff and approximately 156,000 inmates.
Among these inmates Carvagal is presently tasked with overseeing, is the Grandmaster, the Vanguard, the Ethicist of the Nxivm Community, by self-acclamation one of the top three problem solvers in the world, and unquestionably the prisoner with the highest IQ, Keith Raniere.
Though Carvajal is not expected to remain in charge of the BOP for the entirety of Raniere’s 120-year sentence, he is in charge now and under his directorship, the BOP placed Raniere at USP Tucson, a prison geared for a large percentage of sex offenders. In this way, Raniere will be safer than were he assigned to a maximum-security prison with a small percentage of sex offenders.
Sex offenders are targeted by other felons for abuse and violence.
Lots of Attorneys on Board
Going back to Gavin’s story, he names the Raniere legal team, which at trial included lawyers Marc Agnifilo, Paul DerOhannesian, Teny Geragos and Danielle Smith – and which now includes McBride, Metcalf II, Bonjean [who represents comedian and convicted sex assailant Bill Cosby], Martin H. Tankleff – and possibly Chris Darden.
Tankleff, while in high school, was wrongfully convicted in 1990 for the murder of his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff – and spent more than 17 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2007. The Suffolk County DA and the detective who “investigated” the case almost certainly knew or should have known that Tankleff was innocent.
It is a long story, but it seems fairly clear that the likely murderer and his son had ties to the detective, James McCready.
After Tankleff got out of prison, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in February 2020.
In another interesting bit of news, the Times Union reports that Raniere attorney McBride also has some familiarity with wrongful convictions.
“McBride noted on his firm’s website that he became a lawyer after his younger brother, Anthony, was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.”
Gavin also gave me credit for breaking the news that Raniere had COVID, writing, “Raniere’s contracting of the coronavirus was first reported earlier this month by western New York blogger Frank Parlato. Raniere’s attorneys had previously not revealed whether their client had the disease.”