On the eve of her sentencing, I think it appropriate to publish the essay written about Lauren Salzman by the man who led her to her felony convictions and the real probability of her going to prison. She, in turn, has blamed him and denounced him, a man she once claimed to love above all others.
[As usual, my comments are in brackets and in bold]
By Keith Raniere
I met Lauren through her Mom, Nancy Salzman, about 20 years ago. She was bald. Well, almost bald.
She had shaved her head after college and gone on a “road-trip” with friends across Europe, staying in youth hostels and the like. She was now allowing a thin layer of fuzz to grow back.
From the very beginning, she had some values I did not share, but many that I did, and she exhibited a humor and mental “funness” that was contagious.
At one point early on, during a walk, she said she imagined we would end up together with children. It was interesting because we were not involved. It was said almost as an aside; it felt very gentle and almost true. After this, it was not mentioned again. She dated other people but we did eventually form a romantic relationship. I am not quite sure if either of us know exactly why, except we shared certain values in a very strong way and Lauren is quite personally irresistible — humorously our anniversary was April 1st.
Lauren’s relationship with me is very old, well-traveled and important; from what I gather from discovery and testimony, I recognize the relationship may have been a valiant effort to force a square peg into a round hole. The exquisite beauty of some unions do not make them good working life partnerships. Lauren has a wonderful intellect, an infectious sense of humor, and is a good soul. She will be a wonderful partner for the appropriate, lucky person.
Motivation to Plea:
Lauren faced several adversities especially after her mother plead:
Her mother’s plea cast a potential guilt upon the organization and a type of validation of the charges. This went directly against the position of Lauren (innocence and no crime) if she were trying to win at trial;
Nancy, Lauren’s mom, faces serious health challenges which may shorten her life. Lauren did not want to potentially be in prison if her mom went into critical condition or died; and
Lauren wants children and she is over 40 years old [she is now 45]. If she even goes to prison for 5 years, the hope of having children will be greatly diminished.
During her testimony, it was evident to me the confusion and separation this caused. With someone like me, who is non-traditional and with an intensely singular life purpose, having children is not a given or planned. At one point, I told her I would have to step down from my position in order to live the life I perceived she wanted. I asked her if she would choose that? [This is Keith’s version of the event which Lauren described as her choosing to leave him and him saying he would step down as leader of the NXIVM community if she left. I believe the issue was over children. Lauren seems to think his resigning was over her leaving and he seems to think if he had children with her, it would mean he could no longer be the Vanguard, but he would consider doing it.]
I believe I was not clear with what I was illustrating. I think with the force of my conviction and personality, persuaded Lauren to put aside her life wishes. This was never my intent; it saddens me for I was blind to my effects, and caused her pain. Lauren. if you ever read this, I am so truly sorry.
A Dream and Goodbye to Lauren
I had a dream after Lauren plead guilty: In the dream she was lying on a mattress on the floor of a very stark, bare room. She was staring at the ceiling. I kissed her and told her, although I thought what she was doing was very bad [taking a false plea deal] I loved her and wished her well.
At first she looked stunned, then she returned my kiss.
A voice, which normally represents my subconscious said to me internally, “she is better off without you.”
Lauren’s plea was false.
Like her mother, she stipulated to the [racketeering] enterprise in the prosecution’s indictment. That’s an easy way to make sure you get it in, when no one can actually define it [The enterprise was based on a group of people, called the inner circle, all of whom were described as dedicated to promoting Raniere and who allegedly committed a series of predicate criminal acts].
Lauren did try to define the purpose of the [racketeering] enterprise and it was subjective and different than what was charged. The enterprise was false and there were no criminal actions in the [DOS] sorority.
My cross-examining attorney [Marc Agnifilo} knew this well. He was an experienced [former] high-level prosecutor, considered an authority on RICO (which he teaches at law school), and is now a defense attorney with an extraordinary record. He knows we are all innocent, and that certainly there was no RICO enterprise.
At one point, [during cross examination] he posed a question to Lauren. The prosecution objected. He rephrased the question; and the court said to the witness, “You may answer.”
In the middle of the answer, which revealed Lauren’s plea to be false, the judge interrupted and cut off the cross-examination.
Here was a key part of the judge’s later explanation [to Agnifilo]: “l have to sentence this defendant and what you did was, basically, ask her to make legal judgments about whether what she did in pleading was farcical that she took somebody else’s advice, some lawyer, so she could get out from under a trial. I thought that went pretty far beyond the pale, frankly.”
Lauren actually admitted, in effect, her innocence. Often the court reporters do not transcribe every utterance into the record. There are many instances of this in my case. At this particular juncture, I believe Lauren actually ended by saying specifically her intent was good and to help people.
Collateral Was Not Coercive
The pledged surety (collateral) for the vow of [DOS] sorority was completely voluntary with safeguards, and ethical procedures, to assure the proper care of this mutual trust. In Lauren’s plea, she ignored all of this assuming coercion and knowing bad intent. This was certainly not true.
Without this broad assumption [of the collateral being used to intimidate]. none of Lauren’s plea is true or even makes sense. If my attorney was allowed to continue his cross-examination of Lauren, I am confident this would have been made abundantly clear.
Cooperation with the Prosecution:
Lauren cooperated with the prosecution and testified against me.
Life in Prison
No matter what Lauren feels I did to her or others, this is what she is voting for and supporting. I do not think she has fully thought this through.
Supporting hate is a major moral issue: A valid prosecution does not need or use hate to inspire prejudice to convict — a conviction should come strictly from factual truth without prejudice. By cooperating (and testifying for) this prosecution, who used hate, one supports it. It is better to release a criminal then (sic) support hate in his or her trial. Supporting hate supports the essence of crime.
Effect on Supporters
Our community was deeply affected by the act of Lauren cooperating and her testimony. This led many remaining supporters to either outright leave and become negative, or pull away in fear;
By testifying Lauren used the credibility of our 20-year partnership to support something bad. This hurts the concept of long-term relationships and, in particular, my long-term relationships. Using that credibility amplifies the weight of her opinions and if she is even partially incorrect, amplifies the and (sic) wrongness of them. This is a position from which one must be absolutely sure one is precisely and completely correct;
Testifying (and pleading) is a form of certifying the charges, and that there was crime. It taints NXIVM and all we have done with criminality. This is not true and the charges are false;
By breaking her sorority vows she betrayed all other sisters, threatened the trust she had with them, and upheld the lies of others who broke their vows before her;
Lauren was a founding sister [of DOS] …. By breaking her vows she betrayed the concept of the sorority and this type of secret society for women. She dishonored all of the sorority and all of the sisters effectively destroying the sorority, as we know it, for all others;
A number of her actions break her admitted, personal, promises to me. This erodes at her word and also the concept of life vows. The more people that visibly break the less meaningful life-vows become. It does appear Lauren had been breaking our life-vows throughout the relationship which is my fault also.
She disclosed, to the detriment of others, and also inaccurately, two direct things told to her in absolute confidence: Lauren identified Cami as the participant in Nicole’s test (this hurt Cami publicly), and claimed Dani Padilla told her I kicked her once (which makes me appear violent)
Speaking with Dishonor
Lauren’s testimony contained what we [in NXIVM] would consider dishonorable speaking. Dishonorable speaking, by definition, creates unnecessary damages through the use of hateful prejudice. Additionally, this lessens the virtue of speaking with honor and, if a top member of our community could speak with dishonor so publicly, it lessens everything the community built and creates the thought that our community members are only virtuous when not under pressure. We believe one should always ask his or her self, “What if I am wrong?” “How would I ever undo it?” How can anyone be sure he or she is right? To hear someone speak publicly with dishonor, who has upheld speaking with honor for so long, is chilling and disheartening.
I should have pushed harder and/or protested to the point of exhaustion so I could speak to Lauren after her arrest. It was both of our rights. By not doing this, I let Lauren down: She was faced with a terrible decision, completely without warning, and caused by me. [The judge forbade the codefendants to speak with each other outside the presence of an attorney – and since Raniere was held in custody at the MDC, it was very difficult for him to arrange meetings with his codefendants.]
It is evident to me I created an environment within our relationship wherein Lauren felt she could not keep her promise to me of full disclosure. She was too scared of me, or losing our relationship, to disclose a number of things. This is my fault. I did not provide what Lauren considered a safe enough, caring place for her to tell me everything. When I exchange promises with a partner [Raniere had numerous female partners] it is incumbent upon me to provide the safety for the full disclosure required.
I failed and need to improve all my relationships from now forth [if he has any more] and I will live with these consequences for the rest of my life [Although he is appealing his conviction, Keith may actually spend the rest of his life in prison]. I am sad this mistake (likely a series of mistakes and a way of being lasting over many years) was so hard on Lauren
I didn’t focus enough on the differences in values I saw. Since aspects of our relationship were extraordinary, and we did not fight, I thought we would grow together and our lives would align. What I did not do was take it a step further and recognize if my values were set and not going to change, I was counting on Lauren’s changing which is unfair to her. If someone has to change (or sacrifice) their values in order to in a life-partnership, then the life-partnership is probably not meant to be;
From my perspective, I would see Lauren change her position with respect to very important things: At one point she told me if faced with the decision of staying with me and not having children, or leaving me and having children, she would rather stay with me. This position seemed to change at times. I should have seen this as a signal to either thoroughly resolve the issue, or end the relationship.
I am very reluctant to end relationships. In this case, it was not being healthy or fair to her.
There were long periods of time I did not connect deeply with Lauren. I just let the relationship “be.”
Because she is an independent woman, I did not weigh this separation through non-connection enough. In effect. I took Lauren’s beauty, tolerance, and independence within the relationship for granted.
For Lauren to believe she did not know who I was after 20 years of a relationship means I did not share myself enough, nor give her the opportunity to know me deeply enough, so she would be unshakable in who I am — for better or for worse.
It is always our responsibility to show, and allow people to know, who we are — especially our loved ones. We should not think it is their job to somehow figure us out and then be upset if they don’t or can’t.
There were people close to me who had difficult relationships with Lauren. I should have moved more strongly to arbitrate these situations instead of compensating for them. An example is Lauren being invited into the sorority many months after all the other founding sisters. Had I arbitrated these situations, I suspect Lauren would have either been invited in the beginning (and felt differently now) or not have been invited at all
Lauren had certain specializations within the sorority. I did not spend enough time finishing the special therapeutic techniques which were to be under her auspices so they were never released. I suspect her with them would have deepened her experience with the sorority, given her participation even greater meaning, and given her a more directed purpose. I feel these techniques are truly beneficial, healing, and quite extraordinary.