A man named Suneel Chakravorty wrote to me after I published Wake up, Suneel; Raniere Lied About His Baby Son & Mother:
He wrote, “With all due respect to your advanced age, and a tip of the hat to yours and K.R. Claviger’s confirmation bias, the attorneys for Keith Raniere did NOT agree to the prosecution’s request for delays as Claviger and you seem to suggest.”
“OK,” I told Suneel, “I’ll check out the history of trial delays, though I do not recall weighing in on this before.”
Here is what I found.
Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico on March 25, 2018, and brought to the US within 24 hours, where he was arrested on an information supported by an affidavit of FBI Special Agent Michael Lever
Raniere was placed in pretrial detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY on or about April 1, 2018.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis denied him bail on three separate occasions.
Three weeks after he was arrested, on April 17, 2018, Raniere was indicted on sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor (Dkt. 14). Allison Mack was also indicted at the same time.
Raniere requested a speedy trial, seeking a date of mid-July.
Mack, who was out on bail subject to home confinement, did not join with Raniere in seeking a speedy trial, their first public break.
On May 4, 2018, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis denied Raniere’s request and set trial for October 1, 2018, about 180 days after his arrest.
On July 23, 2018, the prosecution filed a superseding indictment, adding four co-defendants, Clare Bronfman, Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman and Nancy Salzman, and new charges, including racketeering conspiracy (Dkt. 50). There were NO charges or predicate acts of child porn or exploitation of a minor filed at that time.
The five co-defendants were subject to home confinement and non-contact with him, each other, and all NXIVM members who were coaches or higher and on the NXIVM coaches list.
On July 25, 2018, Raniere asked the judge to keep the October 1, 2018 trial date.
Based on the superseding indictment and four new defendants, the judge moved the trial date to January 7, 2019, about 10 months after Raniere’s arrest.
In September, the prosecution asked for a further adjournment, seeking instead of January, a March 18, 2019 trial date.
In opposition, on September 11, 2018, Raniere’s attorneys asked the judge to keep the January 7, 2019 date.
The judge approved the prosecution’s request for adjournment.
The new year came.
On January 11, 2019, the prosecution again moved to adjourn the currently scheduled March 18 trial date.
The defense moved to keep the March date, writing, “The Government’s adjournment bag is now empty. There are no more defendants to add, there are no more superseding indictments on which to ruminate. It has to try the case. No more excuses.” (Dkt. 280)
A few days later, the judge adjourned the trial, setting a date of April 29, 2019.
Discovery of Child Porn on a Hard Drive
By mid-February 2019, none of the six co-defendants had taken a plea deal.
Marc Agnifilo previewed a bit of the defense when he argued that all the victims were consenting adults.
On February 21, 2019, Special Agent Lever found images of Camila, allegedly under the age of 18, on the hard drive that case agents seized in a raid of Raniere’s library 11 months earlier.
Now, the case was no longer one of mainly white, affluent, middle-class, educated, intelligent adult victims, who, in almost anybody’s book, would never be classified as victims. Now the case was about the exploitation of a child, incapable of giving consent.
On March 13, 2019, the government filed a second superseding indictment, adding explosive charges of possession of child pornography and two counts of sexual exploitation of a child (Dkt. 430). That same day, Nancy Salzman entered a plea of guilty.
The discovery of child porn by the FBI changed the trajectory of the case; the driving force that it created seems to have caused Raniere’s co-defendants to make motions to sever or supplement their motions to sever their trials from defendant Raniere.
On March 18 and 22, 2019, co-defendants Bronfman, Russell and Mack filed motions to sever their trial from Raniere, arguing that the new charges would make it impossible for them to have a fair trial, since child exploitation, which none of the co-defendants were charged with, is considered one of the most heinous crimes in America.
Kathy Russell’s lawyer, Justine A. Harris, wrote to the judge, “The risk of unfair prejudice is heightened by the new inflammatory charges against Mr. Raniere. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine allegations more prejudicial to a defendant than those charged here – sex crimes against a child and child pornography.” [Dkt. 463]
Clare Bronfman’s then-lawyer, Mark Geragos, wrote in a letter in support of her motion to sever, “Mr. Raniere is now charged with child exploitation and child pornography. These new charges are even more inflammatory and prejudicial to Ms. Bronfman than the DOS charges, which already warranted a severance…. As we have already shown, courts sever RICO cases to avoid unfair prejudice, and it is difficult to imagine a more compelling case than one in which a co-defendant is charged with sex crimes against a child….
“The alleged fact of a sexual relationship between a man in his late forties and a fifteen-year-old is alone likely to be so offensive to potential jurors and selected jurors as to deprive Ms. Bronfman of a fair trial. But here, the evidence that the government will introduce to prove the enticement and child pornography charges is so likely to appall and offend the jury that the evidence will define how the jury perceives not only Raniere, but also the women surrounding him at trial. These explicit and close-up photos—allegedly of a minor—suggest such a disregard of social norms and possibly the laws regarding sex with minors that it will be difficult for jurors to believe this did not carry over to other aspects of Mr. Raniere’s life; thus, this evidence will unfairly and inevitably infect the jurors’ perceptions of people like Ms. Bronfman, who were close to Raniere.”
Allison Mack’s lawyers, William McGovern, Matthew I. Menchel, Sean S. Buckley, and Gabriela M. Ruiz, wrote in their motion to sever, “added disturbing allegations against Raniere, including two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of possession of child pornography…. The Child Exploitation Acts are unrelated to any of the allegations against Ms. Mack, including the alleged RICO enterprise…. the Court must sever Ms. Mack from the trial of Raniere.” [Dkt. 461]
The judge denied all motions to sever and every co-defendant accepted plea deals, leaving Raniere to stand trial alone.
Defendant Lauren Salzman, following her mother’s lead, did not try to sever her case, but entered into a plea agreement on March 25, 2019. She agreed to become a cooperating witness and testified at trial that it was the child porn and exploitation of Cami, in part as evidenced by text messages, that persuaded her to take a plea deal.
On March 15, 2019 – three weeks after the second superseding indictment was issued – defense counsel was provided an opportunity to view the hard drive containing the child porn pictures of Cami. This was almost a month before trial was to begin.
Two days later, Raniere’s attorneys moved to sever the newly added child pornography and sexual exploitation counts from the trial, or delay the trial, arguing that the defense would need to retain a forensic expert to review the evidence, writing: “This may not be done in twenty-six days.” (Dkt. 436)
The judge denied the request and ordered the trial to start on May 7, 2019.
Raniere’s attorneys complained that, as of April 22, 2019, less than two weeks before trial, the prosecution had not turned over their forensic reports on the Cami pics, despite being asked repeatedly by the defense to do so.
On May 7, 2019, the trial began, with Raniere as sole defendant.
On June 19, 2019, he was convicted on all counts.
So, it appears Suneel is right. The defense did not consent to adjournments requested by the prosecution. Every adjournment sought by the prosecution was granted. Every adjournment the defense sought was denied.
By itself, that does not require a new trial. New evidence is needed. Did the FBI tamper with the Cami pictures? Did Raniere not take those despicable photos and stupidly leave them on a hard drive in his library? Prove it.
Did the FBI not get them lawfully? Prove it.
Show me evidence – not tell me about a series of coincidences, like delays in trial or that the FBI seized the hard drive first and discovered evidence on it last.
No number of coincidences – or alleged diverse treatment of the prosecution or the defense by the judge – changes Raniere’s innocence or guilt.
They might have gone to speedy trial and Raniere would likely have been convicted, even without the Cami pics. The defense might have gotten an adjournment after the Cami pics were found and Raniere still would have been convicted. If the defense found the child porn pics were tampered with, all that would have happened is they would have dropped those charges, the FBI agents would have been punished, and Raniere would still go to trial and have been convicted.
If tampering did occur, you should be thankful of the judge’s rulings. You got three years to find evidence of tampering.
Now if you can prove it, Raniere might get a new trial, or because – if it is proven – the government acted so improperly that vacatur is required and there is always a small chance the government may not seek a new trial.
However, the deadline is drawing near – June 19 2022 – to file a Rule 33 motion.
I’d be much more willing to believe you, Suneel, if you could show some solid evidence rather than speak of coincidences, which could mean nothing at all.
Is there any chance we can see some real proof? The lack of it and the insistence on coincidences are making some of our readers just a little suspicious that you do not have any proof.
Viva Executive Success!