This is Part 4 of Tampered but True? series where we examine the possibility that two apparently contradictory things are both true: That a 45-year-old Keith Raniere did take nude photographs and began an abusive sexual relationship with Cami when she was 15 – and that, in order to convict him, the FBI might have tampered with dates on a camera card.
This series would be of little relevance had the FBI not lost custody of the camera card by which they established the dates of the pictures. The alleged dates of the Cami pictures were November 2, 2005 and November 24, 2005 – at which time Cami was 15 years old.
Keep in mind that the hard drive where the pics were found was made in 2007. So the original source of the dates of the pictures is the camera card, the one the FBI lost custody of and then regained custody.
Raniere’s appellate attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, made certain legal arguments in her appeal of Raniere’s conviction about Cami and the pictures.
Bonjean writes in the appeal:
“Less than 60 days before trial was scheduled to commence, the government filed a superseding indictment, charging Defendant with additional racketeering acts, including sexual exploitation of a child arising from the discovery of a number of nude of photos of Camila on a hard drive, allegedly created on November 2, 2005 and November 24, 2005 when Camila was 15 years old. (Dkt. No. 434)
“The government also charged Defendant with an act of possession of child pornography as a result of maintaining the images on the hard drive. Id.
“Camila did not testify about the circumstances under which the photographs were obtained, nor did she identify who was responsible for taking the photos that were allegedly recovered from the hard drive.
“However, the government presented testimony from FBI agent [Brian] Booth, who told the jury that through forensic examination of a camera card and hard drive recovered from 8 Hale Drive, a location utilized by the Defendant although not exclusively, he concluded that the images were taken on November 2 and November 24, 2005. (R.4873-4880)
“In addition to admitting [as evidence] the nude photos of Camila, the government admitted, over defense objection, 167 nude photos of Defendant’s adult consensual sex partners, the vast majority of which focused on their genitalia. (R.4797-4805; 4842-4843)
“The government presented other testimony that supported its theory that the Defendant and Camila had an intimate relationship in late 2005, but the details of the genesis of the relationship were limited.
“Over defense counsel’s objection (R.3487-3490), the government introduced 1500 pages of chat messages between Defendant and Camila, mostly from 2014 when Camila was in her mid-20s. (R.3440-3675) Although approximately 3 pages of those messages intimated that Defendant and Camila began some type of relationship when she was underage, the remaining messages were introduced to show the jury the nature of Defendant and Camila’s relationship when she was an adult. Id.
“Also over defense counsel’s objection, the government was permitted to apprise the jury that Daniela, Camila, Marianna, and Pam had abortions after being impregnated by Defendant. (R.2278) Part of that evidence included Daniela and Camila’s medical records from the abortion and ultrasound images of eventually aborted fetuses. (R.3281-3282)”
In another section of the appeal entitled: Where Camila Did Not Testify, the Government Failed to Prove the Child Exploitation Charges, Allegedly Committed on November 2 and 24, 2005.
“Defendant was charged with two acts of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography in connection with a number of nude photos of a 15-year-old Camila that were recovered from a hard drive located in the residence of 8 Hale Drive. (GX518A-U)
“Because Camila did not testify, the mere presence of photos on a back-up drive recovered from a location to which Defendant and countless others had access was insufficient to establish that Defendant intentionally induced or coerced Camila to take part in sexually explicit conduct 13 years earlier.
“Although the government allegedly discerned through forensic analysis of a camera card that the photographs recovered from a hard drive were taken on November 2 and 24, 2005, no evidence was presented at trial regarding the circumstances of how the photos came to be in existence or maintained on the hard drive.
“Instead, the jury was left to complete a narrative based entirely on speculation and conjecture rather than competent evidence or fair inferences therefrom.
“Under section 2251(a), the government was required to prove, inter alia, that Defendant “employed, used, persuaded, induced, enticed, or coerced” Camila to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct. 18 U.S.C. §2256 2(A).
“Although Defendant does not contest that the photos admitted into evidence as GX518A-U (R.4873) are photos of Camila, the photos alone, even if recovered from a hard drive to which the Defendant may have had access at some point in time, cannot establish by proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant employed, used, persuaded, enticed, coerced Camila to participate in the taking of the photographs on November 2 and 24, 2005 – over 13 years before they were recovered. (R.4305) To hold otherwise would be to conflate the offense of possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child which requires a showing of something more than mere possession of the pornographic material.
“Without Camila’s testimony, the origins of Defendant and Camila’s relationship is simply unknown. However, the government presented some evidence through Daniela’s testimony and messages between Camila and Defendant that suggest their relationship began before her 16th birthday. But the mere fact of an inappropriate, even sexual relationship, does not satisfy the government’s burden since the record is devoid of any specific evidence regarding what, if anything, occurred on November 2 and 24, 2005.
“Courts have often remarked that a Defendant’s wrongful intent is normally demonstrated through inferences drawn from the Defendant’s conduct. “The state of a person’s mind is rarely susceptible to proof by direct evidence, and usually must be inferred from evidence of his or her acts, but is no less a question of fact for that.” United States v. Crowley, 318 F. 3d 401, 409 (2d Cir. 2003).
“In the case at bar, the government presented no evidence of Defendant’s conduct on November 2 and 24, 2005. Thus, the jury was forced to speculate not only about the conduct that occurred but whether the Defendant possessed the requisite state of mind. In short, the mere presence of nude photos of Camilla on a hard drive that untold numbers of people had access to discovered 13 years after the picture was allegedly taken simply cannot prove that Defendant took the photo in the manner and for the purpose prohibited by the statute in November 2005…
“[T]he government’s burden [is] to present evidence of the conduct prohibited by the statute and that it may not simply ask a jury to assume such conduct occurred (with the requisite mental state) because the prohibited material was found “in possession” of the Defendant 13 years later. Defendant’s alleged possession of the pornographic material is not synonymous with taking the photographs.
“As set forth in Argument III, infra, the government inundated the jury with hundreds of pages of email communications between the Defendant and Camila numerous years later, a fraction of which were arguably relevant to show that Defendant and Camila engaged in a sexual relationship when she was underage, but which shed no light on the circumstances of the photographs obtained in November 2005. The jury’s contempt for the Defendant and their hunch that he was responsible for taking the photo cannot satisfy the government’s
End of Bonjean’s excerpt from the appeal…
Raniere May Have Taken Photos, but Government Lacked Proof
The reality may well be that the photos were of Cami when she was 15. There was testimony from her older sister, Daniela, about a lack of an appendectomy scar in the photos. As I recall, Daniela testified that Cami got her appendectomy when she was 16. The lack of a scar in the pictures seems to date the pictures to an age prior to age 16.
However, the supporters of Raniere, always ready to give an alternative argument for any kind of evidence that condemns their friend, say that scars are not always clearly visible in pictures and that the pictures might be of an older Cami, but because of light and shadow, the scars might be there, but not seen in the photo.
Another, less plausible explanation they offer, and without evidence, is that the scars were removed by photoshop or some program that can touch-up or change photos.
But the lingering doubt remains: the linchpin is the camera card that dated of the pics, the same camera card that the FBI seems to have lost custody of for a time.
If the FBI let the device get out of their custody on purpose, so that the IT date could be “reestablished” to conform with the dates on or around the dates they truly believed the photographs were taken – in other words, to alter the data to conform with the truth – it is still a crime and I would like to see the prosecution of those responsible just as if they would be prosecuted if they were any other species of citizen.
It is important since one of the racketeering predicate acts in the Raniere prosecution was that he and others conspired to alter a video in the Rick Ross/Morris Sutton litigation – a civil matter – and the alteration was eliminating some portions of a video where Nancy Salzman makes claims of NXIVM being able to cure or heal illnesses.
If altering video evidence in a civil case is racketeering, where only money is at stake, then what is altering evidence in a criminal trial where a person’s liberty is at stake?
The allegation is there from the supporters of Raniere. I am making no claim that it is true or untrue. I am merely reviewing the evidence we have so far.
That the evidence that surrounds the lost camera card being the most important of the entire case makes it imperative to review this.
I don’t care how much anyone hates Raniere. I don’t care if everyone knows that Raniere raped Cami when she was 15.
What is far more serious is that if the government can change evidence by losing a camera card to convict a guilty man, they can do it to convict an innocent man.
In our next part, we will examine Judge Nicholas Garaufis’ view of Keith Raniere’s relationship with Cami.