Talk about bad timing.
Keith Alan Raniere, a.k.a. “Vanguard”, a.k.a. Federal Inmate # 57005-177, has been placed in solitary confinement, a.k.a. “the SHU,” Frank Report has learned.
Raniere, now in his third year of a 120-year prison sentence, assigned to USP Tucson, was suddenly removed from his unit and thrown into the Special Housing Unit (SHU) where he is cut off from contact with other inmates, regular phone calls, and email – and has extremely modified visitation, little to no access to the commissary and, most significantly, very reduced contact with his attorneys.
The timing is bad since the deadline for Raniere’s supplemental appellate brief is September 20th – and being confined to the SHU makes it difficult to participate in discussions with his New York City-based lawyers, Marc Fernich and Jeffrey Lichtman, who got permission from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to file a 5,000-word supplement to Raniere’s original appeal of his conviction.
Raniere was placed in the SHU on July 22nd, just two days after he appeared via video conference from USP Tucson for his restitution hearing in Brooklyn federal court.
In the fiery hearing, Raniere’s attorney Marc Fernich and Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis had a confrontation which saw Fernich complain about Judge Garaufis not permitting an hour delay in the proceedings so that he could attend a friend’s funeral.
Garaufis mockingly had his clerk offer a box of tissues to the complaining attorney, which was followed by Fernich berating the judge, who in turn lashed back at Fernich. What followed was an extraordinary event as the judge and defense attorney Fernich sat staring at each other – Fernich at the defense table and the judge on the bench, in silence for literally 30 minutes.
The impasse ended with Fernich offering a not-so-very-convincing apology.
It is not known if Raniere’s solitary punishment is a result of Fernich’s behavior. It is known that Fernich was not advocating for his client but miffed because of a personal matter.
At the same hearing, the judge demanded that Raniere return the collateral – naked photos and other damaging and personal information – to the DOS women, and Raniere, appearing on the telescreen, disavowed any knowledge of the present whereabouts of the collateral or that he had ever known where they were since he had never seen any collateral.
This might have annoyed the judge and, in turn, prompted the prosecution to encourage the prison to dump the man into the hole.
The reasons for Raniere being in solitary might not be related to any of these matters but the timing is indeed suspicious.
Raniere is now nearing 30 days in solitary and it appears he may be spending yet another 33 days there.
The timing is brilliant if one suspects collusion between the Bureau of Prisons and the prosecution, which are, incidentally, both under the control of the Attorney General.
While Raniere sits alone in his solitary cell, he is prevented from going to the prison law library, from making regular contact with his attorneys, or making contact with agents and friends who could help facilitate the flow of information between him and his attorneys while the calendar ticks on the timeliness of his supplemental appellate brief.
Frank Report has learned that it is not uncommon for prisoners thrown into the SHU to be permitted only sporadic phone calls with their attorneys and while speaking with them, they are handcuffed, with hands behind their back, making it impossible for them to bring notes or take notes.
Raniere retained Fernich to review the trial record and the appellate brief filed by attorney Jennifer Bonjean, to determine whether any significant issues may have been missed and attempt to remedy the omissions.
The trial record alone comprises more than 7,000 pages of transcripts, plus about 1,000 pretrial and sentencing documents. His being in the SHU, while a brand new lawyer works to understand an extremely complicated case and appeal, makes this a due process issue. Raniere will be extremely prejudiced by his confinement.
Raniere is appealing a seven-count jury conviction, including 15-year RICO and RICO conspiracy charges, and the 120-year sentence that was imposed after a six-week Brooklyn federal trial before Judge Garaufis.
In his appeal, Raniere challenged the sufficiency of the evidence as to most of his counts of conviction and raised a number of other arguments. His co-defendant, Clare Bronfman, has also challenged the procedural and substantive reasonableness of her sentence – which was triple the sentencing guidelines. She was handed a sentence of 81 months.