If successful, her case would be referred back to U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis with a recommendation that he re-sentence her to a more appropriate term.
In the brief, Bronfman’s attorneys, Ronald S Sullivan Jr. and Daniel R. Koffmann, argue that Judge Garuafis heaped “misdirected vengeance” in punishing Bronfman “because she has not renounced Keith Raniere.”
Bronfman was convicted of immigration and identify theft offenses, sentenced to 81 months, a fine of $500,000, forfeiture of $6 million, and restitution of $96,605.25. Her sentence of 81 months is three times the upper end of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines range calculated for her offenses by the Department of Probation.
The brief argues there is an “unwarranted” and “staggering” disparity, comparing Bronfman’s sentence to NXIVM codefendants Allison Mack, who received a sentence of 36 months, and Lauren Salzman, who received no prison time.
“Ms. Mack and Ms. Salzman were far more involved in the core conduct at issue in this case than Ms. Bronfman was,” Bronfman’s attorneys wrote. “They were high-level members of DOS who recruited new members, devised and carried out the branding ceremony, and were active, committed participants in the conduct underlying the inflammatory allegations in this case. The district court characterized their conduct in uncommonly reproachful terms.”
Bronfman got the longest sentence, despite having the lowest Guidelines range. The Sentencing Guidelines range for Mack was 168 to 210 months. Salzman’s Guidelines range was 87 to 108 months. Bronfman’s range was 21 to 27 months. Judge Garaufis sentenced Mack to a sentence that is 82% lower than her Guidelines range and Salzman to a sentence 100 percent lower, while sentencing Bronfman 300 percent higher.
“Next to Mr. Raniere, Ms. Mack and Ms. Salzman bear vastly greater culpability than any other defendant for the conduct at issue in this case,” Clare Bronfman’s attorneys wrote. Mack and Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy and cooperated with the prosecution. Salzman testified at Raniere’s trial and Mack produced a recording of her and Raniere designing the branding ceremony
“There is no principled basis for the district court’s decision to imprison Clare Bronfman for nearly seven years, Allison Mack for three years, and Lauren Salzman and [NXIVM defendant] Kathy Russell for no time at all,” Bronfman’s attorneys argued.
They argue that the disparity violates 18 US Code Section 3553(a)(6), which requires courts “to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.”
The attorneys noted in the initial appeal that other defendants, outside of the NXIVM case, with the same charges as Bronfman, received average sentences of 33 months.
“No special circumstances justified sentencing Ms. Bronfman to more than twice as much prison time as similarly situated defendants across the country, much less the active, first-line DOS ‘masters’ who were at the center of the criminal conduct alleged in this case,” Bronfman’s attorneys wrote.
They seek the Court of Appeals to direct Judge Garaufis to sentence Bronfman all over again.
“In order to do justice to Clare Bronfman and maintain the integrity of the criminal justice system,” the attorneys wrote, “this Court should vacate and remand for resentencing.”
“Whatever justification may exist for the district court’s contempt for Mr. Raniere, the misdirected vengeance underlying Ms. Bronfman’s sentence cannot bear the weight needed to justify an extraordinary upward variance and a shocking disparity between her sentence and her codefendants’ and similarly situated defendants,” her attorneys wrote.
Kathy Russell Also Invoked
The last co-defendant to be sentenced was Kathy Russell, a bookkeeper for NXIVM. She pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud. Judge Garaufis sentenced her to no prison time, noting that Russell was a victim of Raniere and that she had renounced him.
The attorneys wrote, “Ms. Bronfman’s conduct is far closer to codefendant Kathy Russell’s than it is to anything Ms. Mack or Ms. Salzman did. Ms. Russell… like Ms. Bronfman, did not participate in or plead guilty to racketeering. Like Ms. Bronfman, Ms. Russell was a nonviolent, noncooperating, first-time offender… Yet unlike Ms. Bronfman, Ms. Russell received a sentence of no prison time, while Ms. Bronfman sits behind bars for years to come….”