In the trial of USA v. Keith Raniere, some women were referred to by their first names only, while others were referred to by their first and last names.
By the way, this first-name-only was gender-biased. All men were referred to by first and last names in the court of Judge Nicholas Garaufis.
But all the women who testified at Raniere’s trial, other than one cooperating witness, the convicted Lauren Salzman, were known by their first name or nickname: Sylvie, Nicole, Daniela and Jaye.
On the other hand, Daniela Padilla, Rosa Laura Junco, Karen Unterreiner, Dawn Morrison, Monica Duran, Loreta Garza, Nicki Clyne – none of whom were charged – were identified by their first and last names.
All who were identified by two names were cast as being aligned with defendant Raniere.
Of the eight founding sisters of DOS, seven had first and last names revealed.
Only one was portrayed as a victim at trial: Camila was referred to by her first name only.
Others, such as India and Sarah, despite making themselves famous by doing docuseries and writing books, were referred to by first names only. Why?
Because they were cast as victims at trial.
India, who at the time of Raniere’s arrest, was staunchly behind him, and at one time was considered a co-conspirator of his, [she was referred to as CC2 in the original criminal complaint] would have been referred to by her first and last name, but by the time the trial was held, she had broken from Raniere and was providing evidence for the prosecution and hence qualified for first-name-only status – even though everyone knew who she was. She’s famous.
The point is that the jury was supposed to understand that India is a victim.
So she was first-name-only.
If you help the prosecution, the judge ruled, you’re first-name-only.
Still, it was dizzying at times. One witness had to ask if she should use the first and last name of a certain individual. When she got her answer, so did the jury. First name only, ‘victim’ — first and last name, ‘criminal’ or ‘supporter of the defendant.’ [Same difference].
For six-and-a-half weeks, the jury heard testimony from women who only used first names and heard women referred to by their first names – all of whom were cast as victims of Raniere.
What would an ordinary person think or feel, based on the fact that women testified without last names? That some predetermined metric devised by a judge and the prosecution [same difference] was the demarcation line between first and last names being used.
Juries depend on the judge to guide them through conflicting and complicated issues. They are often lost during trial.
The message to this jury was that the prosecution, in partnership with the judge, was making it easy: First name women were in danger, they were victims, they deserved protection – as victims of Raniere.
Why else would their last names be hidden? It was not just sex crimes. Many of the first-name-only women were not alleged to be sex crime victims of Raniere’s.
The metric was plain: women who had one name were good, innocent victims. The women who had two names, first and last, were bad.
One name good, two names bad.
Despite the unavoidable and perhaps intended perception of danger that this would bring, the judge did say that “the Government does not argue that Raniere was a danger to the victims.”
And the judge did give a 30-second jury instruction to explain the reason for first name only [anonymity] was not safety but embarrassment.
The judge and the prosecution decided who was to be embarrassed and who wasn’t.
For instance, it was ok for Dawn Morrison to be embarrassed but not Sarah, who had her picture, along with her brand. appear on Page 1 of the New York Times.
Amanda, Chelsea, Crystal – first name only. No embarrassment.
Loreta Garza, Ivy Nevares, Monica Duran — embarrassment approved.
But was that all the jury was to infer?
For much of the trial, the jury heard emotional, crying women alleging abuse, with no last names, testifying.
As a precedent, as a matter of law, and non-transparency, is embarrassment an acceptable reason to grant anonymity in a criminal proceeding, where open and public access to trials is part of the fabric of a free country?
While it is established that rape and serious sex crime victims’ last names are often shielded, a number of the first-name-only women in this case were not alleged to be sex crime victims.
Sarah for instance was not.
What next? A person is embarrassed because they were mugged? Or their house was broken into because they left it unlocked?
The public has a right to know the names of accusers in a free society — just as they have the right to know the name of the accused.
Scrutiny protects the accused from false allegations.
Anonymity is a two-way shield. It might protect an honest [female] witness from embarrassment but it can also shield a dishonest witness from being exposed.
Through anonymity, a witness can say things she otherwise would not have said if the public knew her name – whether false, exaggerated, or truthful.
But don’t we also have a defendant’s freedom at stake? He or she has rights too. Embarrassment is important to avoid, as is the incarceration of innocent defendants.
The government’s argument of undue embarrassment seems disingenuous, at least in the case of, for instance, the witness Jaye.
Jaye was allegedly a victim of attempted sex trafficking and got immunity for a fake marriage in fraud of immigration and that she stole the collateral of certain DOS women and was the first to actually release collateral to outsiders.
After the trial, Jaye launched a podcast using her real name: The “Untouchable Jessica Joan” — and gave an interview on CBS The Morning Show, on national television.
In the government’s argument for anonymity, they cited precedent cases where the witnesses were not embarrassed at all.
They were cases where witnesses had threats to their physical safety, not threats of harassment or public embarrassment.
- In United States v. Dan Zhong: Zhong forced Chinese construction workers to work for him 14 hours a day, seven days a week for years without pay under the threat of physical harm. Workers were forced to hand over their passports and were housed in inhumane living conditions.
- In United States v. Marcus: Marcus was physically abusive towards his victims, and threatened physical violence if women expressed a desire to leave the BDSM relationship they were in with him. The violence included sewing a woman’s lips shut with surgical needles and carving “slave” into her stomach with a knife, among even more graphic and sexual abuse.
- In United States v. Rivera: Rivera recruited undocumented Latin American immigrants to work at his bars and forced them to perform commercial sex acts with patrons through raping the victims, stealing money from the victims, and threatening to report them to authorities.
- In United States v. Alimehmeti: Alimehmeti was convicted of attempting to support ISIS, and pseudonyms were used to avoid exposing the undercover officers involved in the case.
- In United States v. Urena: Urena and co-defendant Vasquez were gang members who were found guilty of participating in an attempted murder, murder conspiracy, and drug conspiracy. A pseudonym was used to avoid exposing an undercover detective involved in the case.
Despite this obvious shape-shifting of serious threats in the cases cited and the judge’s candid admission that the government agreed that Raniere posed no threat to the witnesses, it was just plain old fashioned embarrassment, the cases were used to support the first-name only ideal.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis sided with the prosecution and allowed them to choose which witnesses were to be first-name only and immediately reinforced the inference to the jury that they were victims in the eyes of the prosecution, in the eyes of the judge and that Raniere, the man who sat before them, was – even before the jury deliberated – the one who victimized them.
The jury is supposed to be the trier of fact, but in this case, the judge and the prosecution did the jury’s work for them.
From the beginning, it was clear to the jury: One name, good. Two names, bad.