Our last presentencing submission on Lauren Salzman is her own letter to the judge. She will be sentenced today at 11:30 AM. in Courtroom 4D, 225 Cadman Plaza E.
Here is her letter:
Dear Judge Garaufis
I would like to start by saying I am so deeply sorry for my actions and how I have affected so many people. I do not have enough tears for how deeply sad, ashamed and regretful I feel about my time with Keith Raniere and my participation in his wrongful initiatives. I realize I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, feelings of betrayal, feelings of violation and lasting emotional trauma that the victims have experienced. The pain is palpable.
Please know, that throughout the course of my time in NXIVM, my love for the people in my life was always real and true. I genuinely did want to help others, and I believed that was what I was doing. I never imagined my good intentions could have been so corrupted or that I would end up in this situation.
I would like to share some things to help explain how I came to be here. My intent is not to explain away my conduct I realize the gravity of my actions and how I came to stand in your courtroom.
I stand by my guilty plea and my testimony at trial.
My intent is to apologize, take responsibility for my participation, and maybe help others experience some peace of mind, if not resolution from this horrific situation.
I met Keith Raniere (“Keith”) through my mother in the winter of 1997. I was 21 years old, not yet out of college. Looking back, I was a naïve person, sheltered, and financially and emotionally dependent on my family.
I came home many weekends from college to be with her.
Within a few short months, Keith was able to hook my mom into romantic, emotional and career commitments that he held over her head for the next 20 years. Although, at the time, she seemed more positive in general, and she attributed this to Keith, it was strange, even then, to watch her lose herself so quickly in someone else’s world.
Where before she enjoyed reading books, attending workshops, spending time with friends, going to concerts, watching movies, cooking, suddenly, all her free time was spent with Keith.
Keith and his devotees had replaced all of the other friends in her life. My mom started to believe she could help people on a much larger scale than she had ever imagined, but only through her work with Keith. He was offering her “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
They started their partnership company, Executive Success Programs (ESP), later known as NXIVM, in the summer of 1998. I was graduating from college and feeling completely unprepared to enter the workforce. I had never held a long-term job. I had never been financially independent of my family. So, when my mother offered me a job and told me if I took six months of ESP classes, she would support me, I felt so relieved that I still had a family to rely upon. This sense of family soon included Keith.
Initially, I took ESP classes twice a week. My mom would stand in front of the room and share the history of her successful therapeutic career, noting how she gave it all up to work with Keith because he was that amazing. We were told that he had a 240 IQ and was this expert in ethics and an incredible humanitarian. It seemed like he saved her life. So, it was not long before I embraced the idea that Keith was amazing and could also serve as a mentor to me.
In the beginning, their classes and the concepts made sense to me. Keith quickly promoted me to a Coach position and within a short time, I was teaching the classes myself. I believed I was helping people achieve their goals and I felt really good about it. Within the first year, ESP grew from a local goal-setting program to an international human potential sensation. I went from an entry-level position in the company to a high-level executive in about 24 months.
I was 23 years old, and I really thought I was helping change the world.
At this point, it is noteworthy to mention that I eventually learned, almost immediately upon starting a business with her, Keith discarded my mother as a romantic partner, but not before gaining her vow that if she left their business partnership, she would never work in their field again.
Discarded by Keith, my mother had a brief relationship with another man. However, Keith and his inner circle, berated her about this. I was witness when Keith’s inner circle said she had an “Ethical Breach” against Keith, and she had to fix her conduct. Some of those people were incredibly mean to her over many years because of this. Although I did not know the specifics of the situation until many years later, right from the beginning, it was clear to me that having any “Ethical Breach” with Keith would create an untenable and shunning situation.
Although my mom was installed as the figurehead of Keith’s centers, Keith made sure she always felt that she was failing in her leadership role. He spoke openly about her so called “failures” to people within his circle and instructed those people to consistently follow-up with her to ensure she wasn’t forgetting these failures and was prioritizing fixing them.
Later, he gave her more responsibilities but removed ever-increasing degrees of access and authority. My mom was not alone. Keith did this to anyone with whom he was displeased. In fact, he created a “cancel culture” where members of his inner circle policed each other, as well as the community, in an effort to stay in his good graces and earn back favor lost through some perceived failure.
We also came to see our policing as actually helping each other avoid potential failures and not fall out of favor with Keith. It was viewed as helping each other learn to uphold “ethics” and resolve `breaches” to our ethics. I now realize that this was nothing more than Keith’s efforts to manipulate and control others through his own actions and those of the inner circle.
Early on in his leadership position, Keith started “educating” that humans struggle with various “issues” that thwart us in actualizing our full potential: we are run by fear, we blame, our dependencies on one another are self-limiting, and a running list of additional things that he compiled over time. He started pointing out “relationship issues” and mused about a concept called “relationship certification.”
The idea was that people should go through a process of education on how to be in healthy adult relationships, and likely shouldn’t be in any romantic relationships until they have completed such an education. It became really taboo in the early days of ESP to date anyone or to be in any romantic relationships.
Within the first year of ESP, I dated a few people and was hazed mercilessly by Keith and his devotees. I was not “relationship certified.” So, never having had a long-term romantic relationship, I stopped dating all together. I didn’t date anyone for almost 2 years for fear of ridicule. In retrospect, it’s not surprising that I was open to having a relationship with Keith when he approached me in my third year in the organization. Also, not surprising, a relationship with Keith was the only relationship anyone was permitted to have. Since it was Keith, it must be “progressive for growth” and no one criticized me. I believed I was making good choices. He told me I was his wife now.
Within the first 6 months of my relationship with Keith, I knew this was not what I wanted. However, as I previously witnessed with my mother, I didn’t know how to leave without having an ethical breach with Keith, who was the head of our business and entire community. I also did not want to disappoint my mother and cause any potential harm to her business endeavors with a person whom at this time she revered.
Keith promised that if I were to prioritize him, my personal growth, and our community, I might qualify to “earn” things I wanted for myself. Early on, I expressed to him that I wanted children, and he agreed that we would have children together someday. Conversely, he also threatened me: if I questioned him or interfered at all with his initiatives he would walk away and never speak to me again. This subtle abuse and manipulation by Keith started early and continued throughout my time in NXIVM and DOS.
I can now see Keith’s pattern of starting relationships with vulnerable women, and, by positioning himself as an authority, disguising the relationships as a type of “mentorship” intended to foster “growth.” Over time, I have witnessed him gain control in countless others’ lives and exploit them for his own ends. And, as a result of our own deficiencies, we became willing, albeit sometimes in the beginning unaware, coconspirators. Unfortunately, it took me too long to see his conduct for what it truly was.
As my time within NXIVM progressed, I focused mostly on my work and on building my career. I traveled a lot. I didn’t see Keith that often. I was lonely, but I was told that I could transcend that to become self-reliant if I worked hard enough.
If I had any reaction to anything concerning Keith, him not seeing me, him having sexual relationships with others including my friends, him reneging on his commitments to me, him promoting people without merit, anything resembling a failure on his part, a devotee would show up at my house to point out how badly I was behaving. I was told that I had issues – any emotional reaction was deemed an issue – and that was the reason Keith couldn’t be around me. I was affecting his health by putting undue burden on him. I was a bad example, not how a leader should behave. If I wanted to continue to hold any leadership positions in his organizations, I needed to get in line.
I believed my work in ESP/NXIVM was good. I loved the curriculum and the idea that I was helping others. I can see how I imbued Keith with the tenants of the “humanitarian” model he had purported to live by. I projected that he was wise, noble, principled, and that his only goal was to help humanity become better. I was told, and also came to believe, that any doubt I had in my mind concerning Keith was due to my own shortcomings. I also imposed this perception on others. I allowed Keith to exploit my good intentions and use me as a tool for his own ends. I was a good tool because I wanted so desperately to prove I was a good person and, at the time, I believed my worth was only measured when Keith acknowledged it because he was the Gold Standard in our community and in my life. I was so very wrong.
Sadly, it took me two decades and also two indictments to be able to see Keith Raniere for who he truly is, and understand the totality of what I participated in. I don’t know how to communicate to you what happened inside me when I realized I had made such a big mistake. My whole world collapsed.
From January 2017 until my decision to plead guilty in March of 2019, I was confronted with many facts about Keith and his conduct, ultimately all our conduct, especially concerning DOS, but other things as well.
Initially, I was still viewing the allegation under the NXIVM/DOS filters. I was not able to piece everything together until later in the criminal case, when I read the government’s Enterprise Letter and the whole picture was laid out for me. My delay in understanding was due in large part to the time it took to review and process the actual evidence that substantiated my concerns and the fact that Keith did a lot to keep this information from everyone.
I would be remiss though, if I didn’t also acknowledge my extreme cognitive dissonance concerning Keith. I could not come to grips with what it would actually mean that I traded almost everything I valued in my life to support someone that lives in such stark contrast to what is actually good and right in the world.
In the months following my arrest in July 2018, I sat alone in my house reviewing the discovery materials for my case. In reading the hundreds of letters Daniela wrote to Keith and the thousands of communications between Keith and Camila, I soon started to dramatically shift my perspective on everything. It was like seeing one of those magic eye hidden pictures. It’s hard to see at first, but once you finally see it, it’s so obvious and you can never not see it again. Except in this case, seeing it meant seeing the things in my life that I am the saddest about and most ashamed of.
The manipulation and years of abuse that I participated in and was complicit in became very clear. This almost destroyed me, but also, it gave me a clear path and a direction. It is the main reason I pled guilty and testified in this case.
I see my errors in clear focus, so many… but I couldn’t for so long. It terrifies me now to think would what have happened if it were to have continued and how many more victims would have been affected.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever truly understand the totality of what occurred. What we all did to ourselves and to each other. I’m not sure if I can ever really understand the impact of my failures and misperceptions or how much I hurt people. It’s really hard to come to grips with the fact that I believed so much in the goodness of what I was doing, and I really cared about everyone. I really love everyone I hurt. And I have to live with this horrible truth every single day.
I think about Camila especially. I think back to what she was like when I first met her. She was so smart and so enthusiastic about learning. She was so hopeful for the future, and she had her whole life ahead of her. I have spent endless hours revisiting memories, replaying conversations in my mind, reviewing facts in an effort to understand how Keith systematically permeated her family and irreparably fragmented it at the very core. I think back to Daniela’s confinement and the trauma I participated in. I am terribly sorry for what I did and will regret my actions against Daniela for the rest of my life.
I think of my friends who I enrolled in DOS. The friendships we shared and the trust they placed in me. The lies and misrepresentations I made believing I was upholding principles. The constant stress I put them under and the fear I instilled believing I was helping them become stronger. The permanent scars on their bodies, a constant reminder of pain and trauma that I inflicted upon them, and my ultimate betrayal of their trust. I am both saddened and sickened by what I did to the people I love.
I wish I could go back. I wish I could take my participation back. I wish I had been stronger and seen things sooner.
I have heard that people believe I accepted a cooperation agreement to lessen my sentence, but that’s not the truth. I knew before I sat down for my initial proffer interview with the government that I had no guarantees with respect to the outcome of my situation. I went into my proffer with no knowledge of whether I would be offered a cooperation agreement or not, and I was fully prepared to go to jail for my conduct. In the end, in choosing to cooperate, I was mentally prepared to accept any consequences so long as I had the opportunity to tell the truth about our conduct.
That’s how I could live with myself, by telling the truth about what happened and trying to help resolve the case. I still believe with all my heart that I made the right decision.
I am still trying to fix what I feel has been broken within me through my relationship with Keith and others within his circle, and through my own actions and conduct.
He groomed us and taught us to hurt ourselves and each other under the guise that we were doing some good in the world. It took time to start see my way outside that web, and it’s been incredibly difficult at times to untangle everything.
It has been the hardest to make sense of and understand my actions and conduct within DOS. I had come to normalize tremendously self-destructive practices and an abusive social culture believing it was principled and character building. So, when I enforced this on others, it came from a very convoluted perception of the world, yet I felt completely congruent in my belief I was helping them.
I look back in horror at how I could have believed such things were acceptable, much less progressive, but I couldn’t see some of these things until even after Keith’s trial when I began counseling and actively working to push beyond the incredibly fortified indoctrination I had endured the last 20 years of my life.
What is clear to me is the person I want to be, and although misguided, who I have always tried to be, a good person who seeks to better themselves and contribute in a positive way to the wellbeing of others. I hope others can see how sorry I am and how all the efforts I have made since my guilty plea have been in the interest of healing and trying to do good in the world.
I have spent my time in home detention in deep contemplation and self-reflection.
I have sought to educate myself to work in the field of animal care with a specialized focus in treating skin and coat disorders. This has been both therapeutic for me and helped add quality to the lives of others. I have sought out classes with experts in the field of animal behavior and welfare and worked for very little or even no income at times to increase my skill sets. I have found trusted mentors with established records in this area of expertise and have taken on difficult cases working with dogs suffering from alopecia, bacterial and fungal infections and congenital skin disorders. I have built consistent and positive relationships with those around me and have started my own business to better serve my community in this area.
Although much of my family has been facing major health issues, we have been working to rebuild our relationships and support each other during this time. My parents and grandparents have helped me emotionally and financially over the past few years. With their support, I have grown my business to service 30 of my own animal clients and am on track to become more self-sufficient in the next 12 months. I am, for the first time in my adult life, completely separate from Keith and NXIVM, and I have taken the reigns in my life back to form a career, separate from my mother.
For two decades, I allowed Keith to govern almost every area of my life. This stunted my ability to think for myself, to be my own person and to ever view myself as independent of Keith or NXIVM.
I looked to Keith for guidance, I overrode my own value system and went against my better judgment believing I couldn’t trust my decision-making ability. I now see that Keith not only took advantage of this blind trust, but he required it, which is something much more calculated and sinister. This was a toxic relationship, and I am confident that had I had a sense of self, I would have removed myself from the horrible acts that led to my Indictment.
I know that I am not the first or the last person to be vulnerable to manipulation. However, I hope my situation can serve as a cautionary tale to others, and that I can stand as an example through my guilty plea and my testimony to individuals who may find themselves in a similar situation. I hope I can also demonstrate that people can change. Through acceptance of responsibility and commitment to righting our wrongs, every day, we can change our lives, grow beyond our toxic dependencies, and break the cycles of abuse we have perpetuated. I hope to be able to use my experiences to help raise awareness and bring about positive change for those who struggle with this.
At 45 years old, I am finally in a stable and consistently positive and progressive situation. I feel proud of my choices and relieved to finally have a life that is my own, an experience I have never had prior to now. I feel grateful to the Court for the opportunity to spend my home confinement in this way. It has forever changed me, and most days, it is what keeps me from spiraling.
I have struggled with nightmares to the effect of Keith starting DOS up again, and I don’t know how I got back into that situation or how I’m going to get out In my dreams, I have conversations with my mom about deciding to resign from my position in NXIVM and I fight with my old friends trying to show them that there’s something bad going on and no one will listen to me. I wake up yelling or shaking. During the day, I have panic attacks. I have trouble being in public. I have difficulty going places alone.
My desire is to live a quiet, private life where I can focus on my work, continue to support my family through their health challenges, and most importantly be an advocate for others that are in similar situations so that all of this will not have happened in vein.
As you consider the appropriate sentence for me, I want you to know that I will not be a detriment to others. I will not reoffend. I am deeply sorry and regretful for how I have adversely impacted the lives of others, and I intend to make up for what I have done. I am healing in a balanced, responsible, and productive manner, and I embrace a life goal to help others who have suffered a similar fate do the same.