This is Part 5 of the ‘”Tampered but True?” series.
In this part, we will examine the judge’s view of the Cami pics and Keith Raniere’s relationship with her. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, who presided over a six week trial from May to June 2019, showed no doubt about what he believed the truth was concerning the relationship.
He seems to also have no doubt about the authenticity of the photographs.
I am not a computer expert. I have no way of knowing whether the FBI might have tampered with the photographs or not. I do find it suspicious that they had custody of the most important piece of evidence in the entire trial and somehow lost custody of it.
But perhaps they lose custody of evidence all the time – even in one of the most high profile cases in the world.
Perhaps it was a singularly innocent mistake that could happen to the best of law enforcement – losing custody of key evidence.
Raniere May Have Taken Photos, and Government Lacked Proof
The reality may well be that the photos were of Cami when she was 15. There was testimony about a lack of an appendectomy scar on tbe pictures which dated them to prior to her being age 16. But the linchpin was the camera card dating of the pics, the same camera card that was lost for a time.
If the FBI let the device get out of their custody on purpose, so that the EXIF data could be made to conform with the dates on or around the dates the FBI truly believed they were taken – it is still a crime and I would like to see the prosecution of those responsible just as if they were any other species of citizen.
It is especially 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 over mere money – and the alteration was as benign as eliminating some fantastic claims Nancy Salzman made about NXIVM being able to cure or heal illnesses.
Altering evidence in a criminal trial – and that evidence being the most important of the entire case – is far more serious than changing a video in a civil case – which was considered an act of racketeering.
But He’s Guilty Anyway
I want to urge people to get past the idea of “Raniere’s guilty anyway so what does it matter if the FBI tampered?”
The point is that it is not up to the prosecution to decide who is guilty. It is up to the people – the jury.
If he is guilty, we want our government to prove it honestly. If they can’t prove it honestly, I go with Blackstone: “Better that 10 guilty ones go free than one innocent suffer.”
However, I must emphasize that there is no proof that the Cami pictures or the dates were tampered with – and we must not condemn anyone hastily. It is up to Suneel or Raniere’s defense team to provide more evidence.
I was there when Camila spoke at the sentencing hearing of Raniere on October 27, 2020, and I think she was telling the truth, although I would have much preferred to have seen this truth presented at trial. She convinced me and she also obviously convinced Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who, after she and some 14 other purported victims spoke, and the prosecution and Raniere’s lawyer spoke, and Raniere himself spoke, sentenced Raniere to 120 years in custody and five years of probation after that.
Judge Believed Camila
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Garaufis said he had no doubts about Cami’s veracity.
He had nothing to say about whether the photos of Cami were tampered with, but he had plenty to say about his belief that Raniere took pictures of Cami and, worse, had sex with Cami when she was 15.
He credits Cami’s failure to testify at the trial to Raniere and his people. However, since Cami was a criminal co-conspirator in the sex trafficking of Nicole and in other racketeering predicate acts concerning DOS, I wonder if the prosecution could have gotten her to cooperate and to testify if they truly wanted her to – under threat of indictment.
Let us hear the words of the judge at Raniere’s sentencing, with my comments [in brackets and bold]:
THE COURT: On his [Raniere’s] illegal behavior, which cannot be justified, taking, for instance, Camila who, for some reason, was convinced that she should not testify at the trial by a lawyer who convinced her it was in her interest not to make herself available, which is a whole ‘nother issue.
But had she testified, it would have taken the jury ten minutes to convict him, because what he did to her and she is totally believable…
[It took the jury only 10 minutes to convict him anyway. They rendered their verdict officially a few hours after beginning deliberations. I believe they convicted him before they sat down. They retired to deliberate at about 10 am – around noon, I understand they took a nice lunch and came in with their verdict by 2 pm. Their verdict came on the same day – after a six week trial. They found Raniere guilty of every count and found that every predicate act was proven…. The judge continues…:]
THE COURT: She was groomed from age 13 to age 15, and then she was seduced by Mr. Raniere and kept in an apartment and used for his sexual pleasure. That is the fact. That is not imagination, that is not a perception, that’s a problem for your client. [the judge is speaking to Raniere attorney Marc Agnifilo] That is what he did.
[I do not think Raniere had her stay at the apartment on Victoria Way when she was only 13 or 15. But the judge has an interesting point: It appears Raniere sequestered her from the world, isolating her at least in part from the NXIVM community – by having Kathy Russell rent an apartment for her under a fake name since she was about 18. It seems astonishing that almost no one knew where Cami lived. This suggests she was ordered to take pains to hide her whereabouts to all but a few which means she spent much of her late teens and early 20s alone, estranged from normal interactions entirely dependent on Raniere. It is an ugly chapter in the life of Raniere. The Cami-Keith texts show a tormented young woman being played like a fiddle by a 50 plus-year-old man – who happens to be the head of their community – and she was an illegal alien some or most of the time. The power imbalance was tremendous.]
THE COURT: … Pardon me. What about intent — what do you think the intent is if you have a 13-year-old girl and a 43-year-old man and two years — and that girl is being spoken to and the development of a relationship is occurring, and then two years later, she is having sex at age 15 with a 45-year-old man?…. I am just wondering what do you think the intent is of the 45-year-old man? I was once a 45-year-old man.
[Raniere attorney Marc] AGNIFILO: So was I.
THE COURT: And now I am a 72-year-old man.
AGNIFILO: Judge —
THE COURT: And I — and I have a pretty good sense of these things because like I have been around the block. So do not treat me, this Court, as if it is not the intent to do what he did. It was not a mistake. He kept doing it. Please.
THE COURT: I am not going to tolerate spending time as to what his intent was when he seduced a 15-year-old girl. We are not going there. It is just — it is an insult of the intelligence of anyone who listens. And I just want you to understand, I am not tolerating it. So go on….
THE COURT: [again to Agnifilo] You haven’t answered my question about Camila. Let’s cut to the chase here. You don’t start having an affair with a 15-year-old girl when you’re a 45-year-old man, plus total control, financial control, control over her visa, control over her father who is still writing letters in support of the defendant today, I have one in my file here. When is that appropriate? I’m just curious.
[Cami’s father, Hector, wrote a letter of support for Raniere. He seems to believe that Raniere having sex with all three of his daughters is not a problem and was always willing to shun any daughters who went against Raniere.
In the end, the judge, like most readers, does not believe that Raniere was trying to be Cami’s good husband, or trying to teach her, a mature-for-her-age teen, or that he had her best interests at heart.
It is easy to hate Raniere – a complaint of his followers – and hard not to hate what he did to Cami. The question is, however, did the camera card get altered? If it did, justice demands more than Camila speaking at sentencing.
Justice – which means our faithful following of all due process – demands what should have happened at the original trial – her sworn testimony.