This is Part 2 of Suneel’s dissection of the conduct of Judge Garaufis during the prosecution of Keith Raniere.
Readers say, “What right has a lowly creature like Suneel, a stubborn, foolish follower of the man this judge rightly sentenced to two lifetimes in prison,” to judge of an august, distinguished, impeccable, eminent, esteemed, and unimpeachable jurist such as the Honorable Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis?
Suneel replied: “Even a cat can look at a king.”
And look at him he has done, and look and look again. But where this is all leading to is easy to guess. If Suneel cannot come up with his promised evidence of FBI tampering, all the cat-viewing of blessed and only Potentates, King of kings, and Lord of lords will not make a bit of difference in the outcome: One cat named Vanguard will be living and dying in federal prison. Time is running short.
Suneel already published Part 1 as Suneel: Judge Was Deeply Biased in Raniere Case- Before He Heard One Word of Evidence. That post took us up to the trial itself.
The Trial of Keith Raniere
By Suneel Chakravorty
May 7, 2019
Before the show trial began, the judge told the jury, “I may find it necessary to admonish the lawyers, and if I do, you should not show prejudice toward a lawyer or that lawyer’s client because I have found it necessary to correct him or her.”
And correct, he did and admonish did, but only the defense.
Opening statements. Judge Garaufis gave prosecutors free reign to spew utter nonsense and falsehood while intervening and restraining the defense on something obvious and trivial.
It was his signal to the jury of how he, their master, felt.
In his opening remarks, defense attorney Marc Agnifilo said, “[Keith] is on trial for his life in a very important, very significant case.”
The judge would have none of it. He didn’t want the jury to think anything but what he wanted.
While it was pretty apparent that what Agnifilo meant was that Keith, at age 59, was facing a life sentence, was on trial over whether he would ever be free the rest of his life.
But too-obvious Garaufis told the jury that Raniere was not on trial for his life — this was not a death penalty case, [duh] and gave the jury an instruction that what defense counsel said, “was a hyperbole because the death penalty is not an issue in this case.”
I don’t know what the jury thought, but it came across to me that the defense attorney said something false and would need to be kept in check throughout the trial for erratic and dishonest exaggeration.
The judge did not respect Agnifilo, perhaps because he was defending a man Garaufs despised and wanted to signal to the jury that it was their duty to convict.
On the other hand, the judge never once corrected or admonished the government.
Compare Agnifilo’s polite, if hyperbolic remark, with the opening statement of AUSA Tanya Hajjar where she issued a slew of outrageous, hyperbolic ad hominem statements, such as Raniere “was a mentor, but he was a predator, “He targeted young girls… to groom them for sex,” “His followers called him “Vanguard.” They called him “Grand Master.”, “[His organizations] were pyramid in structure… and always the defendant at the top.”, and “The defendant started having sex with Camila when she was just 15… At that time, the defendant was 45.”
The judge could have corrected the prosecutor and told the jury that Keith was not on trial for a charge of underage sex or that he was not charged with operating a pyramid scheme. He said he didn’t want the jury to be misinformed by hyperbole. But he did not intervene.
The trial lasted from May 7, 2019 to June 19, 2019. During that time, Judge Garaufis had a one-sided sense of decency.
When something prurient could help Keith, it was not allowed.
For example, the judge balked at cross-examination about Sylvie having her first orgasm from Keith.
The judge said, “I don’t want orgasms to be the subject.”.
Yet the judge made no such comment when the government questioned Daniela with questions such as “Did you feel the defendant have an erection?”, “Did you feel the defendant penetrate you?”, “Was there any evidence that the defendant had ejaculated?” and “I didn’t know what to do with the semen … once I swallowed it.”
“I never had an orgasm.”
When it could make something seem consensual, it was denied.
When it made Keith look dirty, it was allowed.
Another example that shows the double-standard was that Agnifilo wanted to admit a photograph of the leaders of the Nxivm fitness company “Exo-Eso,” where they are on the beach in Fiji where training was being held, and they are in bikinis and smiling.
Agnifilo wanted to show these to challenge Mark Vicente’s testimony that the company was abusive.
AUSA Moira Kim Penza thought these bikini photos were not “appropriate.”
The judge allowed the images but warned, “Before it becomes too much, just stop.”
Bikini-clad adults were not inappropriate, but this is the same judge that allowed the prosecution to submit 145 nude photographs of adult women with their genitals exposed, purportedly taken by Keith, into evidence – even though there was nothing illegal about the photos.
The prosecution wanted them in, saying “it establishes the time frame” of alleged child porn photos taken the same year.
The defense objected that the metadata in the pictures could establish the timeframe without showing the nudes. But the prosecution wanted the graphic nudes to disgust the jurors.
But why did they have to do that?
Metadata was used to date the photos anyway. Yet, the same judge who was offended by bikini photographs allowed 145 graphic pictures of nude women, with their vaginas fully exposed into evidence.
Another example of this double-standard is that the judge did not allow defense counsel to question Nicole, the alleged sex trafficking victim, about her sexy text message where she wrote that she wanted “hot, rough sex” from Keith, which would have been absolutely relevant to the sex trafficking charge. The texts would have shown she was in a voluntary, desirous relationship with Keith and wanted the sex kinky, hot and rough.
The prosecution objected, and, of course, the judge sustained.
Yet the judge allowed the prosecution to submit an incredible amount of cumulative text messages that were not even authenticated that were allegedly between an adult 24/25-year-old Camila and Keith, which were recited for hours in a dramatic reading, where AUSA Hajjar played Keith, and FBI SA Maeghan Rees played Camila.
Defense counsel objected as to the authenticity of the texts.
Yet the judge allowed these messages to come in. There were only a handful of probative messages about how DOS began and the purported underage relationship. What was the purpose of hours of salacious texts between an adult 24/25-year-old and extremely sexually eager Camila and Keith?
How did text exchanges about penis size and taste of semen have any relevance to the charges?
This seemed like theater, devised to dirty Keith up. What is the probative value of the below exchanges (from June 5-6, 2019 testimony of FBI SA Maeghan Rees) between adult Camila and Keith? Messages like these were read for hours:
- Keith: There will be no talking. You will meet me at the door in the outfit you think I would find sexiest. You will arouse me; we will make love for my satisfaction and pleasure. You will do everything you can to provide that. I will finish and leave. Do you agree yes or no? [the judge recited this text in his sentencing so outraged was he at this legal discussion between two adult sex partners]
- Camila: can I ask your permission for something? Can I shave the kitty?
- Keith: Then make it a special pussy shot. Invite me like you would invite nobody else.
- Keith: Is he circumcised?
- Keith: Sex is very important, especially now. Coming in you and in your mouth is vitally important, but you have to like everything better about it, and I can’t reconcile that.
- Keith: Do you like his fluid more than mine?
- Keith: Did you ever prefer his taste [of semen], et cetera, over mine?
- Keith: You chose to be with him because you liked the taste of his semen better? ? ???
- Camila: Taste; he is mild and sweet. Consistency; not too concentrated. Quantity; small amount. Intensity; strong release speed.
- Keith: He is shorter and thinner penis-wise?
- Keith: Is he longer when I’m fully hard?
- Keith: Did he hit the back of you?
- Keith: I know his penis is 6.75 fully erect and mine is 7.5, so I am looking at how you are slanting things.
- Keith: It is highly doubtful he was even close to as sweet. I actually have a very strong basis for that. Mild maybe… Less volume definitely, but you put less volume as a plus. It is always a minus because I can put the rest elsewhere. No, most people don’t come because of the back; I was just pointing out I was 7.5 that morning.
- Keith: I’m sorry to ask this. Did R poke the opening of your vagina with his penis?
- Keith: Unfortunately, the most intense stimulation requires two or three mouths. But as a single mouth, you’re fantastic.
- Camila: Okay. I need to warm up to the idea of two to three mouths, but if that were the case, could I be the one to drink you?
- Keith: I was amazed how your body would pull the energy out of me. It would seem like it searched every corner out of my body and pulled every last bit. Each encounter was so amazing.
The judge also allowed abortion records of Daniela. Yet, abortion had nothing to do with the charges, and the defense already stipulated there was a sexual relationship.
It was apparent – assure his guilt. In Brooklyn, NY, a percentage of the jurors were anti-abortion. It was purportedly brought in as “evidence of means and methods of the charged enterprise, specifically, the actions of the late Pam Cafritz, an alleged co-conspirator.”
It had no probative value, but it served Judge Garaufis; plan to make the anti-abortion jurors hate Keith.
May 22, 2019
The most memorable instance of bias was when the judge, in a stentorian voice, shocked the courtroom when he told Agnifilo, “Okay, that’s it. We’re done,” and ended his cross-examination of Lauren Salzman, whose false plea he had taken.
He explained that it was because she got emotional.
Yet before dismissing her, he asked the prosecution, “Redirect?”, and they said “No, Your Honor,” and he asked again, “Nothing?” then dismissed her, thus revealing it wasn’t about emotion, but rather it was about the fact that she was about to expose that her plea before Garaufis was false, and she did not have criminal intent.
Here is that exchange:
Agnifilo: Was your intention to hurt people, or was it to help people?
Q: What was your intention when you were in DOS?
THE COURT: You may answer.
Lauren: My intention was to prove to Keith that I was not so far below the ethical standard that he holds that I was — I don’t even know how far below I am. I was trying to prove my self-worth, and salvage this string of hope of what I thought my relationship might someday be, and I put it above everything else; I put it above my friends, and I put it above other people helping them in their best interest. That’s what I did when I was in DOS.
THE COURT: Okay, that’s it. We are done.
AGNIFILO: Okay, Judge. Thank you.
THE COURT: You are done.
AGNIFILO: I know. I am done.
THE COURT: No, I said you’re done.
AGNIFILO: I know. I am.
THE COURT: So, you can sit down. Redirect?
HAJJAR: No, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Nothing?
THE COURT: All right, the witness is excused. You may stand down.
Then the judge explained to Agnifilo that Lauren is a “broken person,” indicating a bias towards believing she was a victim.
The judge also declared, “This is not DOS,” implying he thought DOS to be an abusive organization, even though it was not claimed to be a criminal organization. Finally, at the end of this exchange, the judge metaphorically disrobed and said, “And before I’m a judge, I’m a human being…. I’m done.”
June 5, 2019
The judge expressed disapproval of Keith’s polyamorous relationship with three sisters in a sidebar about the Camila texts.
Agnifilo objecting that Camila, a co-conspirator, had her last name shielded, the judge said, “you can’t use the last name for Camila. I mean, it is just a fact that — you know, this is a choice that, apparently, Mr. Raniere made to engage in this behavior with three sisters. [the judge became a fact finder] That is a creation of your client, it is not a creation of the Government, [though they alleged Raniere had sex with three sisters, the defense had not] so I am not going to have Camila’s last name, even though she is a co-conspirator, or alleged to be a co-conspirator, disclosed because that would end up disclosing the name of a victim [Daniela], or alleged victim So we are not going to do that. Just that’s life, you know. That was Mr. Raniere’s choice; that wasn’t the Court’s choice.”
But it was the court’s choice to fact find mid-trial that Raniere had slept with three sisters and that that was something worthy of disdain.
June 13, 2019
The judge was alert and active throughout the trial, yet FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth’s critical perjury lulled him to a sleepy twilight.
We know the judge was alert. During Mark Vicente’s cross-examination by Agnifilo, the judge interjected to ask how long flights to Fiji were.
When Agnifilo questioned Sylvie about people in NXIVM being vegetarian or vegan, the judge was quick to intervene, “Well, just a moment. Vegans or vegetarians?” to which Sylvie clarified, “Mostly vegetarian.. Not everyone was vegan..”
But during his remarkable testimony, FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth revealed that the camera card was given to him in an unsealed cellophane bag. He couldn’t remember who gave him this vital evidence.
Then he told the audacious lie that every prosecutor knew was a lie. A judge who has been on the bench for 19+ years and presided over 500 cases knew it was a lie: evidence “doesn’t always come to us sealed” and chain of custody “doesn’t necessarily need to be” maintained.
The judge stayed silent about Booth’s critical perjury, as did the prosecutors.
Here is that exchange:
Q And do you usually receive electronic evidence in unsealed boxes or bags?
A Not always. Sometimes the case agents would have needed to look at the item beforehand, and they might have unsealed it. So, it doesn’t always come to us sealed.
Q And when an agent unseals evidence, a record is made of that?
A Not always.
Q Should a record be made of when evidence is opened or unsealed?
A No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t necessarily need to be.
Q Is it fair to say you have no idea when the box with the camera was unsealed?
A No, I do not.
June 17, 2019
When the prosecution evasively gave their rationale for interstate commerce for sex trafficking, in their closing argument, that it “can be met in many ways, but at least because Nicole took either Amtrak or Greyhound to and from Albany the day of that assignment — Amtrak or a bus, a commercial bus.” – yet Nicole testified she was already in Albany the day before and did not travel on the day of the alleged sex trafficking incident – the judge remained mute despite the prosecution’s false statement about jurisdiction.
He did not clarify to the jury as he did when Agnifilo said, in his opening statement, that Keith was on trial for his life, that the element of travelling by bus or train – hence affecting interstate commerce was not met that day.
June 18, 2019
The judge gave a non-pattern jury instruction for commercial sex, which just happened to fit the government’s non-pecuniary and novel commercial sex argument. It seems he had decided on this course of action before the trial.
For example, he allowed a question in the juror questionnaire – Question #80, “Under the law, the facts are for the jury to determine, and the law is for the Judge to determine. You are required to accept the law as the Judge explains it to you even if you do not like the law or disagree with it, and you must determine the facts according to those instructions. Would you have any difficulty following the Judge’s instructions?”
Then, on the first day of trial, in his opening remarks, he told the jury, “ I will give you the final and controlling statement concerning the law to be applied in this case including what the elements of the crimes are” and “I will give you orally and in writing the final instructions concerning the law which you must apply to the evidence received during the trial.”
“I instruct you that the law as given by the Court in these and other instructions constitutes the only law for your guidance. It is your duty to accept and follow the law as I give it to you even though you may disagree with the law” and “please do not concern yourselves with the legal questions”.
This all flies in the face of the principle of jury nullification yet seems harmless enough, except when we combine that with the judge’s non-pattern jury instruction that changed the sex trafficking law to comport with the government’s novel theory of commercial sex, where anything of value could be construed preposterously as just making someone happy or social status – “A thing “of value” need not involve a monetary exchange and need not have any financial component.”
After the Trial
October 27, 2020,
The judge made biased, conclusory comments at Keith’s sentencing about Camila, who did not testify at trial but who did give an unsworn victim impact statement.
The judge said, “But had she [Camila] testified, it would have taken the jury ten minutes to convict him, because what he did to her, and she is totally believable”
Here’s that exchange:
The judge cut Agnifilo off multiple times during the sentencing in a heated exchange; for example, the judge said, “So I do not want to talk about theory. I have heard enough about Mr. Raniere’s theories. I am talking about the facts.”
Agnifilo says, “Okay. I’m — I’m talking about intent, and so I’m not — I’m not trying to not talk about it —,” The judge says, “How is it — excuse me. Pardon me. What about intent — what do you think the intent is if you have a 13-year-old girl and a 43-year-old man and two years — and that girl is being spoken to, and a development of a relationship is occurring, and then two years later, she is having sex at age 15 with a 45-year-old ….”
The judge sentenced Keith to 120 years, yet there was no violence in the case. No one was threatened to be hit. There were no drugs, no weapons, not even theft of property.
Yet he was sentenced to 120 years.
A final point… the judge sentenced co-defendants differently based on whether they denounced Keith or not.
Clare Bronfman got the longest sentence of the co-defendants despite having the lowest Guidelines range.
The Sentencing Guidelines range for Allison Mack was 168 to 210 months. Lauren Salzman’s Guidelines range was 87 to 108 months, and Clare Bronfman’s was 21 to 27 months.
Judge Garaufis sentenced Allison to 36 months, Lauren to no prison time, and Kathy Russell to no prison time.
In Clare’s supplemental appellate brief, her attorneys write, “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….” What’s the difference? Clare didn’t denounce Keith. If you denounced Keith, you got a lesser sentence.
You may think I selectively included the above examples. Still, I challenge you to go through the entire court records and find a single instance where Judge Garaufis was biased towards Keith Raniere.