Keith Alan Raniere is 61 years old today. He is celebrating his birthday in solitary confinement at USP Tucson. This is his 36th day in solitary which the Bureau of Prisons euphemistically call the SHU, which stands for special housing unit.
And it is special. A prisoner confined there spends 23 hours per day alone in a cell approximately 10 x 8 [the size of a small bedroom] with a toilet and sink inside the cramped space. Raniere gets out for an hour per day for exercise. He is permitted to shower once or twice per week and gets a total of 30 minutes of phone calls per month.
Attorney calls, I am told, are made in handcuffs so that he cannot take notes.
This is Raniere’s third birthday in prison. The last two were at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center and last year’s celebration was during the COVID protocols and he very likely was in lockdown, though not necessarily in isolation.
Prior to these last three birthdays. Raniere’s celebrations were more elaborate. In fact, they took on the character of a 10-day gala, called Vanguard Week. Vanguard is the name/title Raniere was sometimes referred to within the NXIVM organization and was meant as an acknowledgment of him as the leader of thought for the NXIVM community.
Vanguard Week was held at the YMCA resort in Silver Bay on the shores of Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. As many as 500 people attended, most of them paying more than $2,000 to take part in the retreat, which included an almost exclusive commingling of NXIVM adherents with Raniere at the center. Classes and performances, competitions, and late-night gatherings were meant to support the solidarity and culture of the community.
Some people have quipped that while it is called Vanguard Week, the event lasted 10 days, which suggests that either there were three days left over, or Raniere has had a new dispensation for the true length of a week.
Where Raniere will spend future birthdays is at this moment unclear. It is unclear for several reasons. He has been sentenced to a 120-year sentence predicated largely on his convictions of racketeering, sex trafficking, and forced labor. As it stands today, the 61-year-old would, to complete his sentence, be obligated to serve an additional 99 years, presupposing he earned the necessary time discounts for good behavior.
His release date is June 27, 2120. He would be 159 years, 10 months and one day old should he survive.
If he were to serve his sentence and emerge as what some arguably might call a rather elderly man, he would then be obligated to submit to a five-year probation period and register as a sex offender, should such registries still exist in the 22nd century.
There is always the possibility that he may not serve out his sentence. If he did, he would surpass the current record for time served by Paul Geidel, who spent 68 years and 296 days in prison, starting when he was aged 17, in 1911, on charges of second-degree murder.
Geidel had a 20 years-to-life sentence and actually walked out of prison in 1980 at the age of 85. He died at the age of 93 in a nursing home. In the interim, Geidel was incarcerated during WW1, prohibition, the depression, WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war.
If odds were made available for gamblers in Las Vegas, by oddsmakers who analyze these things, I would venture that the odds would be somewhere around 10-1 that Keith Raniere will leave prison as Mr. Geidel did.
Most, I think, would bet that he will serve the remainder of his life and die in federal prison. The average life expectancy of a 61-year-old man in America is 20 years. This is likely to be shorter for prisoners. Raniere’s life expectancy, should he comport with the reported estimates, is reduced to 10 years – since prison conditions are so harsh and punishing that some suggest that a person ages at the rate of 2-to-1 inside US prisons.
On the other hand, Raniere has been described as a super-athlete, an expert at judo, health and fitness, and with a superlative mind. He might, through the powers of the mind, be able to extend his lifespan far beyond that of the ordinary man, be he prisoner or freeman.
He might survive his sentence and hop out of prison as a spy centenarian + sexagenarian, with two months to spare just before his 160th birthday, with time enough to plan Vanguard Week 2120.
Raniere might also win on appeal.
He is appealing his conviction and is expected to file a supplemental brief by September 20th, adding new issues and expanding issues already raised by his erstwhile attorney, Jennifer Bonjean. His appeal is before the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Raniere’s principal argument is that he did not get a fundamentally fair trial and that charges of sex trafficking and forced labor were hyperinflated beyond recognition and in contravention to the intention of lawmakers who crafted and approved those laws.
The alleged sex trafficking in Raniere’s case did not bear any resemblance, his lawyers argue, to true sex trafficking, which usually consists of women forced to undergo repeated sexual encounters over a period of time where money changes hands, with the trafficker selling forced sex of his victims.
In Raniere’s case, he argues, the victim, known only by her first name, Nicole, experienced a single sexual incident, which lasted perhaps no more than an hour, and where no money changed hands.
The uniqueness of the charges in his case was evidenced, Raniere argues, by the judge having to adopt brand new jury instructions to ensure that the conduct fit the charge of sex trafficking.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis – and I only mention this because it forms a part of the appeal – dispensed with the pattern jury instruction on sex trafficking – in essence telling the jury that sex trafficking need not require any actual pecuniary exchange [no money changed hands] but could be more intangible. The payment for trafficking could be paid not in money but in the form of a social benefit.
As for forced labor, Raniere argues that he did not instruct any of the victims to work under duress and that their forced labor comports with no known case with these charges. Typically, Raniere’s attorneys argue, victims of forced labor are low income, often foreign-born, people of little or no education and devoid of means, often of minority status, people sweated into harsh working conditions for long time periods with little or no pay, and from which conditions they cannot escape.
The victims of the Raniere forced labor were ostensibly volunteers, they were a couple of middle-class white women, who did such things as transcribing a videotape for several hours or writing a report on articles – work done at a computer, on the victim’s time and at her place, in the comfort of her home and limited to less total time of actual labor than what a typical forced labor victim does, in terms of hours, in a week.
While the main argument against this is that forced labor – whether for 40 hours in the comfort of one’s home at a computer – or in a sweatshop working 18 hours per day for only the payment to barely feed and clothe oneself – is still forced labor.
And that the women who were forced to labor under Raniere were coerced to do so since they had given members of Raniere’s inner circle damning photos and other information about themselves that struck them with the fear of the release of this material which Raniere perhaps unwisely called collateral.
The racketeering charges are also wrong, according to Raniere, who challenges the dubbing of his friends and students as a “racketeering enterprise” whose common goal was to support him, and made criminal by a series of random, unconnected acts, most of which are not only unrelated to each other but time-barred as well, kept within prosecutorial range by the “fabrication” of an enterprise that exists wholly in the prosecutors’ creative minds and permitted to be prosecuted by a biased judge.
Or so, Raniere says.
Of course, the judge, the prosecutors and the jury disagreed, and he was convicted but in the case of the latter, Raniere’s arguments that he had a biased judge is part and parcel of his appeal and on occasion, this argument can overturn a conviction of a jury should the appellate judges agree. The likelihood of success in the 2nd Circuit however is low. Less than 10 percent of appeals are successful.
If the appeal fails, Raniere may still have a chance at enjoying a future birthday beyond the gated prison walls.
One is if he appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and the justices decide to hear it and grant the reversal of his conviction – which I would say is remote, and were I an oddsmaker, I would give odds of this at 100-1
Then there is the Rule 33 motion Raniere’s attorneys plan to file.
The motion is based on allegedly “newly discovered” evidence of tampering with a seized hard drive and camera card used to help convict Raniere of possession of child porn and sexual exploitation of a minor – Camila
The gravamen of the anticipated Rule 33 motion is that FBI agents added, planted or altered evidence to the seized hard drive and a camera card [to establish the link between Raniere’s camera and the hard drive to show Raniere took the pictures].
Raniere alleges agents kept the hard drive and camera card in their personal custody for months, rather than turning them into the evidence room within 10 days of being seized, as FBI protocol reportedly recommends.
Adding further to the complicated motion, as it has been described by individuals with the knowledge of the subject, the camera card and/or hard drive was changed or altered while in FBI custody, the camera card was accessed by a person or persons unknown while in FBI custody, dates appear to have been modified manually, and folder names appear to have been altered, with one curious discovery of what would normally be an impossibility: a backup folder being younger than its contents.
Perhaps all of this can be explained in some innocent way or perhaps the information said to be contained in the forthcoming motion is in error, but these are serious allegations.
Though Raniere has claimed that he is among the top three problem solvers in the world, he is not, according to sources, entirely reliant on his own self-proclaimed genius but is supported by, reportedly, four prominent cyber experts. These experts have been paid by Raniere’s supporters, yet his supporters argue the caliber of these experts is such that they would not falsify findings and damage their credibility for the sake of Raniere and in opposition to the FBI.
In addition, the reports purportedly state that the experts make such statements as that the tampering by the FBI of evidence is clear-cut, convincing, shocking, surprisingly laden with “fingerprints” and entirely provable via other experts.
In short, the reports, Raniere supporters say, unequivocally point to tampering – and evidence will show this beyond a reasonable doubt.
All this remains to be seen, of course, and no doubt we will see this if and when the Rule 33 motionis filed.
The good news is that these things are susceptible to proof more firm than opinion and confirmation bias. Whether it is in favor of the birthday boy or against, is not relevant. The facts will likely demonstrate themselves or fail to on account of insufficient evidence, which is tantamount to saying there is no proof.
However, if there is proof, and there may be for it is well established that forensic evidence in the cyber world often leaves infallible traces, and we can see this proof.
Then we will know if the supporters of Raniere are living in a delusional world, or if they have stumbled upon an egregious crime by government officials, one far greater than any Keith Raniere has been convicted of committing.
As we have previously written, Frank Report takes no position on this allegation of evidence tampering except that, should it be true, it is beyond disturbing, that the evidence in question that allegedly was tampered with or planted or somehow not found originally on the seized hard drive but placed there later [whether it be true photos of Camila when she was 15 or not] is perhaps the most significant single issue in the entire trial.
The discovery of contraband pictures of 15-year-old Camila was the sea change of the entire case.
If there is even a granule of truth contained in this Rule 33 motion, bolstered by purported cyber experts’ reports, it should not be buried or beaten back by a technicality, or obscured from public scrutiny to protect the good name of the FBI or just because the man who alleges it is despised and to many a despicable creature who deserves to be in a solitary cell, alone, on his birthday and to never see freedom again.
If a poisonous tree grew in Brooklyn, whether it was used to convict the devil himself, it cannot stand.
That said, there is a long way to go from mere allegations to true evidence. I looked at the original findings by one expert of Indian nationality. I am told that there are three US experts, who had access to much more actual evidence, whose reports are far more extensive and damning.
I must also discount for the bias of supporters and keep an open mind. It may be true or untrue, but it is unreasonable to make any claim until the evidence is presented.
However, should it be true and there was tampering, there stands a very good chance that Raniere will get at least a new trial, since the Camila evidence was by far the most important evidence used to convict him at trial and she represented the only arguably non-adult to be called a victim.
I can well imagine that Raniere, like most of us on our birthdays, takes a moment to acknowledge the joys and sorrows we’ve had in life.
If it is true what his critics say about Raniere, that he is a psychopath incapable of normal human emotions or thoughts, he perhaps feels nothing but annoyance in his cell at the reminder of his punishment – and his segregation from all humanity on the date of his birth – a date previously used for his followers to give him the tribute rarely seen by anyone short of the Caesars.
It is his birthday and you have to wonder: Raniere has not experienced a moment of freedom in three years, not touched the green grass or walked the fields, or, if you will pardon an oft-repeated joke found on these pages, donned his birthday suit with a comely, slender lady, this man with a purported twenty wives. And birthdays can be hard or sweet. It is perhaps more than idle curiosity to wonder if Raniere feels that any of his fall from luxury and splendor to isolation was any of his own fault.
In any event, though he may not be likely to hear it and to the extent it may be possible, Happy Birthday Keith.