I am making a YouTube video series depicting the NXIVM case and, among other things, it includes the opening statements in the Keith Raniere trial.
I happened to write it.
I will tell you more about this video series in subsequent posts and when the time comes ask interested readers to view it.
That is not the point now. What I did was condense some 18,000 words or so down to about 3,000 words. In other words, to condense the opening and closing and the judge’s opening instructions to the jury which took more than an hour and half and condensed it to about 15 minutes.
I thought it might be of interest for some readers to see this condensed version.
Here is my shortened version of Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis’ jury instructions to open the case. It is based on his own words but abbreviated and I tried to include the most essential elements of it and the spirit of it without the technical and lengthy legal instructions.
Members of the jury, we are about to begin the trial of the United States’ criminal case against defendant, Keith Raniere. I am United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. There is one defendant in this case: Keith Raniere.
Please stand, Mr. Raniere. Thank you.
The indictment in this case charges the defendant with racketeering conspiracy, and racketeering – with racketeering acts, which include identity theft, visa fraud, forced labor, sex trafficking, extortion, money laundering, sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of child pornography.
The defendant is also charged with forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and sex trafficking conspiracy – sex trafficking conspiracy is the conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize or solicit persons or to benefit from participation, in reckless disregard that force, threats of force, fraud or coercion or a combination would be used for commercial sex acts by force, fraud, coercion or a combination, and he is charged with two counts of sex trafficking – commercial sex acts which offense was affected by force, fraud, coercion or a combination of such means.
I remind you that the indictment is not evidence. The defendant Keith Raniere has pleaded not guilty
You must presume Keith Raniere is not guilty unless you determine, at the time of your deliberations, that the government has met its burden of proving each of the elements of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
Keep an open mind until all of the evidence has been received.
Opening by Assistant US Attorney Tanya Hajjar:
The defendant Keith Raniere claimed to be a leader but he was a con man. He targeted people who were looking to improve their lives. He drew them in with promises of success, money, better relationships, and once he gained their trust, he exploited it.
The defendant said he was a mentor but he was a predator. He targeted young girls, selecting some for special attention. He offered to mentor them and that was an excuse to groom them for sex.
The defendant took advantage of these young women, emotionally and sexually.
The defendant pretended to be a guru but was a criminal and along with an inner circle he committed crimes: extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, fraud, and production and possession of child pornography.
During the course of this trial, you will hear about NXIVM and DOS, organizations that were based on the defendant’s so-called teachings.
His followers called him “Vanguard.” They called him “Grand Master.” He sold himself as the smartest, most ethical man in the world. He compared himself to Einstein, to Gandhi, and he recruited millionaire heiresses, TV actresses. He drew in followers that put their trust in him and he used that trust for the things he wanted: Sex, power, and control.
The defendant maintained control over his followers and his criminal organization. No one could challenge his authority.
The defendant took graphic, naked photographs, close-up photographs of women’s private parts. In the defendant’s hands, these photographs didn’t just serve his sexual needs. These photographs became instruments of coercion and control. He used them to blackmail and extort. He used them to increase his power.
In 2015, the defendant started an organization which was called DOS recruiting women to serve under him as his slaves. These women recruited other women.
It was through DOS that the defendant executed a criminal plan involving forced labor, extortion, wire fraud and sex trafficking.
The DOS slaves were told they would have to get a brand to symbolize their obedience, to symbolize their commitment, and this brand was done with a cauterizing pen, that burned the skin and left a permanent mark.
The slaves were told that the branding would be a bonding experience and a symbol of their empowerment, but what they didn’t know was they were being branded with the defendant’s own initials, “KR” for Keith Raniere.
After the DOS slaves were recruited, the defendant gave them assignments that involved providing naked photographs. Some assignments involved doing work for the defendant’s benefit and some involved having sex with the defendant.
He hired private investigators. He filed criminal complaints to silence victims. He filed lawsuits to intimidate enemies. This was organized crime and Keith Raniere was the crime boss.
Within the community, he was untouchable. His inner circle knew to carry out his orders and they became an extension of him. They did everything for him. They cooked his food, they paid his bills and they helped him commit crimes.
Even though he controlled virtually every aspect of his victim’s lives, he said this was about women’s empowerment, but during this trial, you will learn the truth and the evidence will show that what the defendant wanted had nothing to do with empowering women and had everything to do with enslaving them, everything to do with satisfying his desire for sexual gratification, for power and for control.
Marc Agnifilo’s Opening Statement
You haven’t heard much about the truth so far. What you’ve heard is conclusion. a lot of slogans. You’ve heard a lot about the names of certain crimes, but you haven’t heard what you’re going to need to know the truth. This case isn’t about labels. It’s not about jargon. It’s not about headlines.
My client, Keith Raniere is on trial for his life, in a very important, very significant case.
One of the things you’re going to hear about is a concept called criminal intent and whether he has it.
Probably the single greatest thing, that’s ever been said about empathy and looking at the world through someone else’s eyes was said in To Kill a Mocking Bird.
Atticus Finch is talking to his daughter Scout. Finch is a defense lawyer, and he’s defending someone named Tom Robinson. And he says to Scout, “you can’t really understand a man until you crawl inside his skin and walk around in it.”
And one of the things I’m going to ask you is to crawl inside Keith Raniere’s skin and walk around in it.
The Government says a lot people believed in NXIVM and now they don’t. A lot of the witnesses will take the stand and say NXIVM was wonderful. It’s going to be described as serene and wonderful. They had barbecues and played volleyball and the other thing they’re going to say is they got a lot out of NXIVM.
Let me give you kind of a basic, dumb it down version, a NXIVM for dummies: What makes people happy? It is when they have a strong sense of their own ethics. You want to be happy? Keep your word. Do what you say you’re going to do. Live up to your responsibilities, because you get a form of self-confidence when you realize you’re being a good person. Happiness is not material items.
You’re going to hear that 17,000 people took NXIVM courses, CEO’s, executives, actors, actresses, and they took them because they got something out of them. You’re going to hear this from witnesses.
Now, one of the things my colleague with the Government talked about was control: he’s controlling people. I want to talk about control.
Every skier who won a gold medal was controlled by some ski coach. Every 18 year-old kid who comes from Biloxi, Mississippi or Hauppauge, Long Island who becomes a Marine, is controlled by a drill instructor. The issue isn’t control; it’s intention.
What’s behind the control? Control can make Marines. bring gold medal winners.
So why is Mr. Raniere being controlling?
Ask the why.
What you will see is this is something people signed up for. They were not there to go shopping and eat cake. They were there to make their lives better and they signed on to this.
You heard about someone who got recruited then did something they didn’t want to do then somehow someone got forced to do something.
As you’re listening to the evidence, think, “what about personal responsibility?” What about saying “hey, I don’t want to do that” or “I do want to do that.”
Another thing you’re going to see a lot of in this case is naked photos. No one had pictures taken without their knowledge.
Is it shameful? Is it bad? Is there anything wrong with the body? No, of course not. Especially not your own body. Why would anyone dislike their own body? There’s nothing wrong with your body; there is nothing wrong with you; there’s nothing to be ashamed of and it should be celebrated. It’s not sexual.
When you look at the pictures, look at everything, look at the lighting; there’s nothing that changes the simple fact that this is just a body.
it’s not sexualized. It is just a natural body in its natural state. That’s what you will see.
Let’s talk about DOS. It was created by Keith Raniere, to be a sisterhood, a woman’s organization, a secret society of women.
Men have had secret societies.
Get a dollar bill, turn it over, look at the other side and there is a pyramid with an eye as homage to the Freemasons, who had a major role in the creation of this country. They were all men.
Keith Raniere thought women should have a secret society
He created a sisterhood, to last forever; there are vows, something called collateral Some witnesses are going to say, “I was intimidated by the collateral, I was coerced.” I don’t think those are conclusions you’re going to come to… but why collateral?
Because it backs up your word.
When I was a kid, if I said to somebody “I swear to you I climbed that tree to the top,” they will say “no, you didn’t; and I would say cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”
It’s a silly way of saying, basically, “no, no, I did do it; I’m standing by my word.”
To give you an instance, I am a guitar player and want to lose weight and I come to you and say, “I’m having the hardest time losing weight.” And you say, “I’ll tell you what – if you don’t lose two pounds in a month, give me your guitar.”
That’s collateral, that’s all it is. Basically backing up my promise to something I want to do, and you’re going to hear this; it doesn’t have a bad intention, it has a good intention. None of the collateral was ever released.
Women are giving naked photos, writing things about family members that are false or true for collateral. None of it was ever released ever. You know how they say, “never say ‘never’?” I’m saying “never,” it was never released!
They never had any intention of releasing it. You can take the fact that it was never released and backfill it to what they were intending to do and it was never released because there was no intention of it ever being released.
Now, there is going to be a lot of talk that this was sex trafficking because women were bringing women into the group. These are best friends. These women love each other. They trust each other. For you to believe the Government’s premise, you would have to conclude that these best friends, rather than doing this because they love each other and are best friends, something else entirely, something inexplicable, is happening and instead they’re looking to hurt their best friend.
Lauren Salzman and Sarah Edmondson master slave and best friends at one time.It’s like they become a vampire, looking to harm their best friend. You are not going to believe it because it doesn’t make any sense.
You will listen to all of this, step by step, and, if it doesn’t make sense, it means it didn’t happen that way. One of the rules of trials, if it doesn’t make sense to you, it probably didn’t happen that way. And one of the things that doesn’t make sense is that best friends would darken on each other and look to hurt each other. it doesn’t make sense because it didn’t happen that way.
You’re going to hear a lot about life in Clifton Park, 2001 to 2017 So what happened? This was going along fine. Everybody was fine. Everybody was happy. Everybody was playing volleyball and having picnics. So what happens?
There is a woman who recruits a DOS slave. And there’s something called “Abrahamic Tests.”
All of you that know your Old Testament, Abraham was given an assignment to take his son Isaac and take Isaac to Mount Moriah and offer him to God.
Abraham being a man of faith endeavored to do it and, at the last minute, God says, “You showed that you’re a man of faith, you don’t have to do it.” And Isaac is spared and Abraham becomes a biblical hero, the ultimate man of faith.
So one of things that happened in DOS is the women are given an assignment to seduce Raniere. They can be very clear that the assignment was not to have sex with him. The Government said the assignment was to have sex with him. That’s not the case.
The assignment was to seduce Raniere.
One woman her name is India [Oxenberg] gives the assignment to Jessica [Joan], and Jessica misunderstands the assignment.
Jessica thinks the assignment is “I have to sleep with Raniere.” Jessica says, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. and I’m not going to do it.”
Someone named Mark Vicente finds out. He loses his mind. He goes off the rails. He goes to India’s mother and pushes the ‘mom button.’
He goes to mom and says, “Your daughter is in grave danger. This is really serious. You have to do something.”
And there’s this huge groundswell meant to basically obliterate DOS, NXIVM. And what you end up having is this schism. There’s one big happy family which breaks into two.
A lot of the people on the Vicente side are going to come here and testify about what a horrible time they had in NXIVM, and how they were coerced and abused and all these things are terrible. But you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, will have emails. text messages. and you see will see the truth.
Now, yes, there are controversial aspects. Keith Raniere had multiple intimate partners. He had some partners for 30 years, 35, 40 years.
You might say, “I would never do that. I think it’s morally wrong.” And that’s your opinion. But that’s not one of the charges.
You’re going to find that he had sex with three sisters from Mexico, Dani, Cami, and Mariana. You’re going to find he has a baby with Mariana. You might say, “that’s terrible.” Not charged with that. Just not charged with that.
You’re going to hear he was having sex with a fair amount of people. Some got abortions. You might say, “I’m against abortion. Abortion is killing. Abortion is wrong. Abortion is repugnant.”
He’s not charged with that.
Parts of this case you’re going to find distasteful. Parts of this case you’re going to find are inconsistent with your own morality. I cannot defend every aspect of this case. I don’t have to.
I’ll tell you one thing I am going to defend. I’m going to defend his intentions. I’m going to defend his intentions to my last breath in this courtroom. I’m going to defend his good faith. I’m going to defend his good faith to my last breath in this courtroom.
In late May to June the 3rd of 1940, the British get stuck in the north of France and they commit a tremendous military blunder and literally the Germans marched them up to the ocean in a little town called Dunkirk. There’s a real fear that England is going to overtaken by the Germans.
On June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill goes into Parliament and gives one of the great speeches of the 20th century.
Churchill says to Parliament, in the face of fear, in the face of what seems to be overwhelming force against him, “We will defend our island home. We will defend it on the shores. We will defend it on the seas. We will defend it in the air. We will defend it in the cities and in the towns.”
And I will defend my island home in this courtroom and my island home is Keith Raniere’s good faith.
My island home is Keith Raniere’s good intentions. And I will fight with my every last breath, until this trial is over, until all the evidence is in, until the shooting is done. And, at the end of all of that, the flag of freedom will be flying above my island home because I will have successfully defended it.
I don’t have to defend everything to win this case. But I will defend his good faith. And, at the end of the day, if you find that he had good faith and, look hard, examine it. Don’t take my conclusions, don’t take my word for it, study the evidence. Study the text messages. Study the emails. And ask, why did he do it?
If you do that, you’ll conclude that, at the end of this case, that I have defended my island home and he was acting in good faith and you will find Keith Raniere “not guilty” of each and every charge.