Dossier Project cofounder, Linda Chung, has written a thoughtful article on Allison Mack entitled A Very Sad Day in History and a Reflection of Our Society Today – the sad day being June 30, 2021, the day when Mack was sentenced to three years in prison.
Chung, 51, a former lawyer, is currently in the financial services industry. She knew Mack personally from having taken NXIVM training sessions together over four years. Chung believes “Allison was betrayed by her government, the legal system, the media, and some of her former friends” but presumably not by her former friend and master, Keith Raniere.
I am reprinting below a substantial portion of her article with my comments interspersed to encourage debate.
Linda Chung: Allison is a victim in this case. But not in the way most people perceive…. Allison Mack is not the person the media has portrayed her to be. Her name is now forever associated with a “sex cult.”…
I believe Allison plead guilty because she faced more possible jail time if she chose to go to trial instead of accepting a plea deal.
In her article, Linda Chung writes about how 97% of federal criminal convictions come through plea bargains, which she calls “government coercion” – and which is also “known as the “trial penalty.”
This is when a defendant is offered a lighter sentence before trial compared to after trial. In Allison’s case (like most other federal cases), there is immense pressure from the government to take a plea deal. It is understandable why she did take a plea deal and renounced Keith. Yet this decision is so tragic because I believe she was not guilty of any crimes.
Allison’s view of Raniere changed. Once, they were kisses sweeter than wine. Somehow, perhaps under the coercive control of the government, Allison began to realize they had turned to vinegar.
Chung: Allison also probably realized that she would not get a fair trial as a co-defendant of Keith Raniere’s. She, along with his other co-defendants, accepted plea deals shortly after Keith was charged with possession of child pornography.
Parlato: Once the government announced they had child porn charges – which occurred about a year after Raniere’s arrest – all his codefendants (who had previously stuck together aided by Bronfman-paid attorneys) fell like dominoes and took plea deals leaving Raniere to stand trial alone.
Chung: However, now it is clear and conclusively proven by forensic experts that the “child porn” evidence was actually planted and photos were altered while in FBI government possession (which will come out in court shortly).
Parlato: Chung does not state how or to whom this was conclusively proven – other than herself and other Raniere supporters. Did the FBI tamper with child porn evidence? Raniere’s defense team retained three forensic experts who prepared reports indicating they believe tampering occurred. However, these have not been submitted to scrutiny nor have the authors stood for cross-examination in an evidentiary hearing. They have also not been officially submitted to the prosecution for rebuttal.
For almost a year supporters of Raniere said they planned to file a Rule 33 motion for a new trial based on this new evidence. Their deadline is June 19, 2022 to do so, or lose the claim. If and when they do file the Rule 33 motion, then we will see if there is conclusive evidence of tampering. I look forward to the filing. In the meantime, I cannot say it is anywhere near conclusive.
Chung: … Allison was probably advised by her lawyers to accept a plea deal because it is very difficult to defend against a child pornography charge because the evidence is supposedly dispositive and because of the tremendous prejudice it evokes.
Parlato: And her lawyers were right. She would have been convicted of sex trafficking and have gotten a minimum 15-year sentence instead of the three years she got.
Chung:… People ask why would a person take a plea deal if they are not guilty? What would you do if you faced a much longer prison sentence if you went to trial instead of a plea deal?
Imagine this scenario: You are part of women’s secret sorority with some unconventional practices. The government presents you with two choices: 1) Disagree with the government’s narrative and face arrest and a potential long prison time or 2) Agree with the government’s narrative and say you are a victim of Keith Raniere to avoid arrest and prison time. Even if you knew you did not commit any crimes, which would you choose?
Is it possible that the government believed the stories of a few women (who either faced prison time or public shaming, or wanted fame and money) because prosecutors wanted to win this big, high-profile criminal case? Imagine this scenario: A young prosecutor who was in charge of a very high-profile case had no hard evidence to support the crimes and was relying mainly on a few witnesses. Is it possible that the government overstepped its authority and criminalized sexual behavior because it was perceived as unconventional?
Parlato: The young prosecutor Chung is referring to is Moira Kim Penza, who first read about the story in the New York Times and decided to run with it, to find federal crimes and make a case. She succeeded.
Chung: When one thinks of “sex trafficking,” do you think a common sense interpretation of this qualifies?
An adult 29-year old woman [Nicole] engaged in a consensual single sex act with another adult woman [Camila] while a man [Raniere] watched them perform this sexual act.
The man was charged with sex trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in prison for this act. The woman [Allison Mack] who did not participate in the sex act was sentenced to three years in prison. No money was exchanged as a result of the sex act and is therefore not a commercial sex act.
Parlato: The sex trafficking of Nicole consisted of a solitary act when Nicole was led blindfolded and tied to a table where Camila performed oral sex on her while Raniere watched. No money changed hands, but Mack was said to profit from it by rising in the esteem of Raniere.
Chung: Sex trafficking laws were intended to make it a crime to sexually exploit people for profit and as an economic activity. A key element of the crime is that the sexual act must be a “commercial sex act” that is “on account of” anything of value is given to another person.
In other words, there needs to be a causal relationship between the sex act and the item of value. It does not appear the prosecution met this burden of proof. Moreover, the judge in this case did not instruct the jury to determine if the sex act was “on account of” anything of value.
Parlato: It is true that the judge did not give the standard federal jury instruction for the sex trafficking of Nicole charge, which is one of the issues of Raniere’s appeal. He changed the instruction at the request of the prosecution over the objection of the defense.
Chung: In this case, [the sex trafficking charge involving Nicole] where no money was exchanged, does this constitute a “commercial sexual act”?
Does this seem like an example of government abuse of power and overstepping its jurisdiction? Do you really want the government involved in private sexual acts of its citizens? By this example, a co-worker who sets up her colleagues on a date and the founder of the company could be accused of “sex trafficking.” Again, quite absurd.
Did you know that this woman [Camila] who participated in the sex act was also represented by a class-action lawyer [Neil Glazer] who along with other “victims” were planning to sue Keith Raniere and the Bronfman sisters for millions of dollars?
Parlato: Camila has joined a civil lawsuit with about 70 other, former NXIVM plaintiffs who are suing 11 NXIVM defendants, including the Bronfman sisters, who have the deep pockets.
Camila’s claims are that Raniere and Nancy Salzman groomed her from age 13 to be a sex object for Raniere, in part by isolating her from her family, that Raniere took sexually explicit photos of her and had sex with her starting when she was 15, then forcibly raped her on occasion after she reached the age of consent and numerous other claims.
Chung: Do you think that this [the lawsuit] could be a motive to testify against Keith Raniere? She was recently awarded $400,000 restitution even though there was no evidence of any damage or physical harm. People ask why would people misrepresent or lie? As was said in the show Breaking Bad, “just follow the money.”
Parlato: Actually I think Camila was awarded $500,000, but I do not think Raniere paid any of it to her or any other adjudicated victim, who in total were awarded some $3.4 million. That could be because he has no money.
Chung: Another “victim” in this case is India Oxenberg who claims she is scared of Allison. Did you know that India participated in DOS for almost three years with no complaints and praised both Allison and DOS consistently for helping her improve her life? Yet after the media and government became involved, India now claims she was abused and coerced. What could explain this change?
Parlato: One of the things that explain the change is that India realized she might land in prison for something she did not create and could not defend. Right or wrong, her self-preservation instincts kicked in, perhaps with a little help from her family and friends. She saved herself from what Allison experienced.
Of note here is that both women came to the same place with Raniere – that he is a monster. India came to it before she was charged. Allison came to it after she was charged. Right or wrong, their timing was critical. Allison had a chance early on to escape the penalty and do what India subsequently did. Instead, she stuck with Raniere and it was to no avail. She later renounced him. If she was going to renounce him, early renunciation would have spared her immeasurable pain. Allison could have come out as a victim too by saying everything she said a year and three months earlier. Had she done that, Allision would probably have had a docuseries instead of a prison cell in Dublin CA.
Chung: …. India did the same practices as Allison (e.g. acts of care, readiness drills, acts of self-discipline, etc.) and had slaves just like Allison.
India was Allison’s slave, who was Raniere’s slave. One big difference between the two was that Allison knew Raniere was the founder of DOS, and recruited women under false pretenses that he was not. India did not know Raniere was the founder when she was recruited. Allison also deceived people into thinking that the brand was something other than what it really was – Raniere’s initials.
Chung: India was originally “co-conspirator #2” (Allison was “co-conspirator #1″). India was never even arrested. I believe India was rewarded for betraying Allison and blaming Allison for her own choice to join DOS and get a brand.
Parlato: Again it was just a matter of timing. India was in the USA working for near-minimum wages, remaining loyal but not funded by Bronfman millions. Allison was down in Mexico, preparing to give Raniere a joint blow job with four other women on the day he was arrested. After Allison’s arrest, India was tardy but ultimately got advice from her mother, Catherine Oxenberg, and her lawyers, and used common sense to avoid a cruel fate. India likely realized her chance at staying out of prison lay at denouncing Raniere and Allison – and by cooperating with the feds. So she did both.
Allision came to the exact same conclusions but a year too late. By then, her hand was weak and she got the best deal she could make – by denouncing Raniere. She got three years instead of life in prison.
Chung: This is a familiar pattern used by prosecutors to put innocent people in a situation that puts one person against others. India probably had to cooperate with the government or else she would be arrested. Can you see how this is a horrible situation to put people in?: Be a victim or else you are a “victimizer.” India was never charged yet she was co-conspirator number two. In contrast to Allison, India came out as a hero. Did you know she was paid by Starz to executive produce and also star in the show?
Do you think this could be a reason why she changed her view of DOS and Keith Raniere? The show seemed like more of a public relations show used to exonerate India’s role and responsibility in her own life and her choices.
Parlato: If that is so, then let’s give credit to India for a great comeback. How many people can be involved in the most odious public relations nightmare of the decade – NXIVM – stick to it to the last minute, and then turn it around and come out a hero? In a world of survival of the fittest, India is fit. Allison is far less fit. Raniere is the least fit of all. He got life in prison.
But this does not mean India’s story should be dismissed. It should be evaluated carefully. In contrasting Allison and India, I only wish to point out that they both did the same thing – they were both in DOS. They both denounced it.
India’s timing was a hell of a lot better.
Chung: The judge in this case sentenced Allison to three years while Lauren Salzman, a co-defendant, was sentenced to no prison time. Allison was isolated from some of her wife [Nicki Clyne] and closest friends for several months and she chose to accept a plea deal instead of facing potentially more prison time if she went to trial. I don’t envy her position. I have seen many pictures, emails, videos taken during her time in the years prior to her arrest. She looked happy and full of life. In my opinion, her words renouncing Keith did not sound like the Allison I knew. I believe she had to renounce Keith Raniere and go along with the government’s narrative so she could get a more lenient sentence of less prison time.
Parlato: I think this is true. Even her decision to divorce Nicki as a lead-up to sentencing was meant to show she was renouncing and repudiating Raniere and all his supporters. She had the example of Clare Bronfman’s sentencing beforehand. Bronfman determined not to denounce Raniere and the judge sentenced her to three times the sentencing guidelines or 81 months. Mack got 20 percent of the approximate15-year sentencing guideline, or 36 months. The message was clear – denounce Raniere and be free or support him and spend years in prison.
Chung: This is such incredible coercion and an example of government abuse. Such a tragedy that she is serving any prison time. Given what happened, is it possible that the people involved did not commit any crimes? Is it possible that crimes were committed by the government, prosecutors, and lies were perpetuated in a hate campaign orchestrated by people who wanted money, fame, and media attention? Too many people believe the sensationalized horror stories that mainstream media and so-called “docudramas” perpetuated. This too shall be one of those sad times in history that innocent people were wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit…