By Eduardo Asunsolo
The last of the NXIVM defendants was sentenced today at the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn New York. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis presided.
The defendant, Kathy Russell, was sentenced to 24 months probation and no fine for her conviction of one count of visa fraud.
The judge noted she can’t afford to pay any fine. She also got 200 hours of community service, and a $100 special assessment. The judge said there should be no restitution.
There were also no victims making impact statements. The hearing lasted less than one hour.
The conditions of her two years’ probation were simple: She may not communicate with anyone affiliated with ESP, NXIVM, DOS or any other NXIVM-affiliated companies.
The defense attorney Justine Harris said to the judge that there are a few people, below the coach level and completely disconnected from NXIVM now, who are part of her rehabilitation. The judge said she might see them, as long as the prosecution agreed.
Further, Kathy may not go to any establishments connected to NXIVM or where people affiliated to NXIVM gather.
The judge pointed out that since she moved to Georgia, it is not likely that she will run into them.
He said, “I am not going to restrict you from traveling. Just don’t meet with ‘these people'”.
He left it to the probation department to determine if she needs a mental health evaluation or mental health treatment.
Prior to sentencing, her lawyer, Justine Harris, told the judge that Kathy was a victim. She has a new career. She is in quality control and that it is really hard at her age, 62, to make a change in careers.
The judge agreed she was a victim.
Harris told the judge that Kathy was fully “deprogrammed” and that it was remarkable since for 17 years she was coerced and blinded as to who Keith Raniere was.
She added that “I believe your honor was right in the leniency” shown to Lauren Salzman, who got probation at an earlier sentencing.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar, for the US Attorney’s office, did not push hard for prison and said that she was satisfied with the 6-12 months of prison suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines.
Before being sentenced, Kathy spoke, reading from a letter that she said “came from her heart.”
She was permitted to read while seated since her voice was weak and was at times barely audible.
The judge smiled at her. She started crying. The judge interrupted and said [evidently he had read her letter] “I found your letter thoughtful and very emotional.”
Kathy calmed down. Still, as she read, she choked up and alternately cried. The judge had his hand on his cheek in a show of compassion.
Kathy apologized for her criminal decisions but admitted she was unable to say no to Keith.
“He is a monster who destroyed so many lives,” she said.
“It is truly a horror that I believed Keith was an honest, honorable man,” Russell told the judge. “I have never known or met anyone who went to the lengths he did to manipulate, abuse, and harm.”
Russell said she is “deeply ashamed and regretful for what my actions have caused and what it meant to be someone who supported and was complicit with Keith.”
She spoke of her son and wanting to be a good mother.
When she was done, the judge asked Kathy if she was ready to be sentenced. She said yes.
Seemingly to assure her, he spoke of mercy, as well as justice, and noted that she had pled guilty.
The defense had submitted a number of emails between Keith, Clare Bronfman and Nancy Salzman written to Kathy and vice versa.
The judge noted that these emails made him more certain that his sentencings had been fair. These three received the harshest sentences: Raniere -120 years; Bronfman – 82 months; and Salzman – 42 months.
Contrasted with Allison Mack, 36 months, Lauren Salzman, probation and Kathy Russell, probation.
Speaking of Bronfman, Nancy Salzman and Raniere, he said, “Clearly, they took advantage of her.”
The judge also noted that Kathy was financially struggling and had been abused before joining NXIVM.
“Now she has a community that is the opposite of NXIVM,” he said. He also noted that she is a good mother, according to the letters of support.
“You basically have shown you have been rehabilitated and incarceration would stop your rehabilitation,” the judge said.
In handing down his sentence of probation, he said “This is the final event of a four-year-old litigation that has demonstrated to everyone the great harm that can be done to so many by so few. But this sentencing has represented the relieving of the horror that happened upstate. There is no one associated with this litigation that does not feel the harm that Keith Raniere has caused.”