During Raniere’s six-week jury trial, the government called some 15 witnesses. Among these were cooperating witness Lauren Salzman, Daniela, and DOS victims Sylvie, Nicole and Jay.
The government also called Mark Vicente, James Loperfido, Rick Ross, Steven Herbits, Kathy Russell’s landlord, a BDSM online sales manager, an expert in clinical and forensic psychology who specialized in interpersonal violence and trauma, several custodian witnesses, and four law enforcement witnesses.
Following the close of the government’s case, counsel for Raniere made an oral Rule 29 motion attacking the sufficiency of the evidence as to the sex trafficking and racketeering counts. The district court denied the motion.
On June 19, 2019, the jury convicted Raniere of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking, and attempted sex trafficking and found that the government had proven all 11 racketeering acts identified in the indictment..
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis sentenced Raniere to 120 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Bronfman pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement with the government, to two counts:
- conspiring to conceal, harbor and shield from detection one or more aliens [Sylvie] for financial gain
- the unlawful transfer and use of a means of identification of another person [Pam Cafritz] with the intent to commit and in connection with attempted tax evasion.
Judge Garaufis sentenced Bronfman to 81 months’ imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and, as set forth in the plea agreement, over $6 million in forfeiture and restitution.
On appeal, Raniere asserted that:
(1) the jury instructions for the sex trafficking offenses and related racketeering acts were erroneous and the government failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict as to those counts;
(2) the government presented insufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict on the forced labor, child exploitation, obstruction of justice, identity theft and racketeering offenses
(3) Judge Garaufis denied Raniere a fair trial by admitting certain evidence related to
- his sexual abuse of a minor victim;
- limiting defense counsel’s cross-examination of cooperating witness Lauren Salzman
- requiring the parties to refer to certain victim-witnesses by their first name or nicknames only.
Bronfman asserted that the court committed procedural error in sentencing her to a three-times the Guidelines sentence of 81 months’ imprisonment. Her sentencing guidelines were 21-27 months.
The government responded that:
None of Raniere or Bronfman’s dozens of arguments and subarguments covered in more than 37,000 words of briefing. have the slightest merit and that, naturally, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals should affirm the judgments.
And more specifically for the following reasons:
• Raniere did not preserve his challenge to the district court’s sex trafficking instruction regarding the phrase “anything of value,” and there is no merit to his claim that the court erred by using “because of” rather than “on account of” or by adding a sentence not found in the “Sand instructions” that counsel agreed was a correct statement of the law.
• The government adduced sufficient evidence to support Raniere’s convictions of sex trafficking, child exploitation, obstruction of justice, identity theft and racketeering offenses;
• The district court did not err under Rules 401 and 403 in admitting certain communications between Raniere and Camila, evidence of Camila’s abortions and photographs of Raniere’s other sexual partners.
• The district court did not abuse its discretion in ending the cross examination of Lauren Salzman, in light of counsel’s repetitive and irrelevant questioning and, in any event, any error was harmless given Raniere’s failure to call Salzman as a witness himself when given the option and his failure on appeal to identify any line of questioning he would have pursued.
• The district court did not err in permitting victim-witnesses to testify using only their first name or a pseudonym to protect their privacy, where the defendant had access to their identifying information and could fully investigate prior to their testimony.
• The district court did not apply the legal concept of willful blindness to find that Bronfman “bore culpability” for DOS and the court’s substantial upward variance is supported by the § 3553(a) factors.
Before we get into more detailed arguments of the appeal, let us in our next post look at the government’s extraordinary description of NXIVM, Raniere and his cohorts.