Yesterday, Frank Report revealed that the US Court’s website, PACER.gov published a court filing that contained the full names of every one of the 117 alleged victims of Keith Raniere.
The government is now calling it a ‘technical error’ apparently made by attorneys for Raniere.
It was Frank Report’s associate editor Joe O’Hara who notified interested parties that the document, which had been ordered by the court to be filed “under seal,” had been published by the government and entered the public domain.
The document was taken offline shortly thereafter.
Most of the 117 names, of which 92 are women, are protected by order of the court from being disclosed fully to the public by any of the parties in the criminal case of US v. Raniere. By order of the court, many of the women’s first names only were permitted to be used by the parties during the trial of Raniere and in public filings.
Publishing the document online creates a different challenge to continue to shield the identities of the last names of the women. Once the public knows their names, there is no law that can prevent them from being disclosed. The government has no authority to prohibit the media or anyone else not subject to their jurisdiction [by being parties to a specific case] from revealing the names, due to a clause in the US Constitution known as the First Amendment.
Most mainstream media voluntarily do not publish the names of sex crime victims.
The fact that the document appeared online for hours before O’Hara notified lawyers of the mistake means that some who follow the Raniere case, including some of his supporters, may now have access to the names of all alleged victims, many of whom are not sex crime victims. Some are alleged victims of vexatious litigation by Raniere and his co-defendant, Clare Bronfman, and some may not be victims at all.
These names would not be normally shielded by mainstream media. [In fact, the prosecution in this matter has recommended that the single largest beneficiary of restitution be a very wealthy family rather than a sex crime victim.]
Today there are numerous independent websites and social media platforms where each individual is subject to his or her own rules, taking copious advantage of the freedom of the press protections of the U.S. Constitution. There is no guarantee that these names will not appear in some online platform. They may be published in countries outside the US since there is worldwide interest in the Nxivm case.
The document containing the names of all the alleged victims that was supposed to be filed under seal but was accidentally published is a 121-page package that was meant to counter the recommendations that were made by the US Attorney’s Office on behalf of the alleged victims concerning their claims for restitution.
It was prepared and filed by the attorneys for Raniere, led by Stephan Metcalf.
The Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark Lesko, and Assistant US Attorney Tanya Hajjar, both of whom were part of the prosecution team at the trial of Raniere, filed a letter with the court protesting the accidental publication of this document and asking for sanctions if it happens again:
Here is their letter to United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis
Dear Judge Garaufis:
The government respectfully submits this letter to request (i) that the defendant Keith Raniere’s response to the government’s restitution submission … remain under seal and (ii) that the Court remind counsel for Raniere of their continuing obligations to exercise great care to ensure that future filings containing sensitive victim information are appropriately filed under seal and impose sanctions in the event of any future violations.
As the Court is aware, the Raniere Filing was filed publicly after midnight today, March 23, 2021. The Raniere Filing contains the full names of victims and sensitive victim information, including medical records, in contravention of the Court’s orders in the above-captioned case. (See Protective Order, ECF Docket Entry No. 1001; [and] Order Designating Victim Discovery Material, ECF Docket Entry No. 838.)
This morning, the undersigned contacted Steven A. Metcalf II, Esq., counsel for Raniere, who stated that counsel had intended to file the Raniere Filing under seal and that the public filing was a technical error. The government acknowledges that the first page of the Raniere Filing notes that it was to be filed under seal and credits counsel’s statement that the violation of the protective order entered by the Court was inadvertent.
The government also expresses its grateful appreciation to the Court for ordering the prompt removal of the Raniere Filing from
the public docket.
Nonetheless, the government remains troubled by the violation of the protective order. The violation is particularly concerning in light of Raniere’s prior opposition to the designation of victim identities and declarations of loss as “Victim Discovery Material” within the scope of the protective order entered by the Court. (See Letter Filed by Paul DerOhannesian II, Esq., ECF Docket Entry No. 836.)
In addition, as noted in the Raniere Filing, on February 26, 2021, another lawyer for Raniere attempted to mail Exhibit A of the government’s restitution submission to the defendant, in violation of the Court’s protective order, given that Exhibit A contained Victim Discovery Material.
Upon learning of that violation from legal counsel at the jail facility in which Raniere is housed, the undersigned immediately [Tanya Hajjar] sent an email to all counsel of record for the defendant reminding counsel that Exhibit A contained protected victim discovery material. Counsel for Raniere assured the government that the attempt was in error and would not recur. [see footnote 1 below]
In light of the egregious nature of the violation—resulting in the public filing of victim names and sensitive medical information—the government respectfully requests that any future violation of the protective order result in sanctions.
MARK J. LESKO
Acting United States Attorney
Assistant U.S. Attorney
cc: Counsel of Record (by ECF and email)
United States Probation Officer Jennifer G. Fisher (by email)
Footnote 1: The Raniere Filing states that “none of Mr. Raniere’s current counsel was involved in sending these documents.” Raniere Filing at 31. The government notes, however, that the apparent sender, Mr. DerOhanessian, Esq., remains counsel of record for Raniere.
In a subsequent post, Frank Report will reveal what we intend to publish, if anything, from the accidentally-published document. There are some major items in there that can and should be revealed to the public.
Be assured, however, that Frank Report will not publish the last names of any of the sex crime victims who desire anonymity!