Frank Report covers the federal civil lawsuit, Sarah Edmondson et al., v. Keith Raniere, et al.
Most of the claims of the 70 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are based on emotional damage.
This is a case where no one alleges they lost a limb or an eye; or broke a leg or a spine. There is a financial component; some people paid money for NXIVM courses and want their money back based on consumer fraud. But no one is saying they lost millions or even several hundred thousand,
This is primarily a case of psychological damage.
Regardless of how the alleged crimes and torts fill us with horror, this case is based on the plaintiffs’ feelings.
Most of them allege they have some mental instability caused by fear, and belated recognition that they have endured emotional harm from the defendants, mainly the lead one, Keith Alan Raniere.
Nearly all the plaintiffs at one time thought they made a splendid decision in associating with the defendants and their companies. They had emotions of joy and happiness as they told their minds they were onto something extraordinary. And that Keith Raniere was a great gift in their lives.
Now their emotions are hurt, and despair has come. As is seen in the complaint, some tell themselves that they are permanently damaged.
Just as they once thought NXIVM or Raniere could guide them, they now believe only a therapist can. They are “Hopeless Number One.”
Some of the plaintiffs say they will never heal from their emotional trauma. This may be true, but, sadly, anyone should think so little of themselves that they adopt a belief that they can never heal their emotions or from their depressed outlook on life.
If they lost an eye, I would agree that it might not be healed, but if they are psychologically damaged, I hope they can recover with courage and effort.
But none of this getting healed plays well when suing the Bronfmans.
I expect everything in the lawsuit to be couched in terms of extreme pain and grave sorrow, hopelessness, and despair by a procession of plaintiffs and possibly an equal number of therapists to corroborate.
This case is about proving mental and emotional damage, being hypnotized, brainwashed, victims of coercive control, fraud, and deception, which caused emotions to change from happiness and delight to sadness and depression that is lasting and costly to heal.
Everyone knows emotions are fickle and not easily measured. A jury can judge them, and the best means of persuasion are tears, real or crocodilian.
But, unlike the judge in the criminal case of USA v Raniere, the civil court judge, Eric Komitee, will likely be skeptical of every teardrop. He won’t stop a cross-examination because a couple of tears happen to fall. This is about money, which has a cooling effect on judicial temperament.
Of course, it is not entirely up to the judge. As they did of Raniere in his criminal case, the jury might wind up hating the civil defendants — and do the needful — blame it on the Bronfmans — and extract some of their ready cash from the two sisters.
That won’t happen fast. It will take a year or more to get to trial, and after that, if the plaintiffs or at least some of them win, there will be an appeal. No money may change hands for years.
Will Be No Cakewalk
To get to trial, the lawsuit must survive pending motions to dismiss by the Bronfmans. I will guess that some or all of the claims will survive the motions. And, if the case is not dismissed, it will go to trial unless it is settled, which will not easily happen.
The Bronfmans are known for spending more on lawyers than they might pay to resolve the matter.
This is not a stubborn or misguided principle, or because they have so much money, it doesn’t matter if they spend an extra million or two on legal expenses.
Not settling, making plaintiffs prove every inch of the way, with severe and exacting discovery demands, probing interrogatories, and pounding depositions have a deterrence value.
If the rich settle easily, they encourage lawsuits. A reputation for spending whatever it takes to make it unpleasant for plaintiffs means the next potential plaintiff will not be as quick to file a claim.
This is about money for both sides, and everyone knows it, and in the cold conference room with a battery of lawyers, crying victims will get no sympathy in their depositions.
Like Judge Garaufis did when one of Raniere’s attorneys complained about the judge not granting him an hour continuance so he could attend the funeral of a friend — when the civil victims cry at depositions, one of the Bronfman attorneys will hand her a box of Kleenex and continue questioning.
Top Flight Attorneys
The Bronfmans night not offer a nickel to settle, but they have not spared any expense in paying the attorneys who represent them.
You can google these names for yourself.
Judge Will Be Different
Be advised upfront, anyone who thinks this will be a coddle-the-victims show, the plaintiffs will not get the same treatment from Judge Komitee, a Trump nominated federal judge, as they got from Judge Garaufis.
As happened in the criminal case, Judge Komitee won’t always rule against the defendants.
Defendants May Not Be Seen
In the courtroom, the defendants will not be present.
The primary alleged wrongdoer will not be there unless, somehow, by the time this goes to trial in two or three years, Raniere has won his appeal or proves his claim of FBI tampering.
The hateful Raniere will not likely be on display for the jury to loathe.
Clare Bronfman might still be in prison and won’t appear.
Her sister, Sara, won’t be there. She will not likely leave her palatial estate in Portugal to come to the USA.
All the jury is likely to see from the defense if it goes to trial are the Bronfman sisters’ lawyers — and maybe Nicki Clyne, Danielle Roberts, and Brandon Porter, who represent themselves. The other defendants either cannot or seem not to want to appear.
Plaintiffs Will Put on a Fine Show
As for the plaintiffs, they will have an advantage, for they will appear — some 70 plaintiffs — one after another telling the jury tales of emotional torture, of woe, and being brainwashed, coerced, or manipulated, some of them right into the bedroom of the ghastly, odious Raniere, whose picture will be shown to the jury.
As they tell their horror tales, count on the tears to flow.
The criminal case was a virtual Niagara, with every NXIVM witness weeping at one point, even the one male NXIVM victim.
One media outlet described the male’s crying as “blubbering,” an indication of gender bias, for none would dare say a woman who cried up several gallons, as blubbering.
In the civil case, I expect a tsunami of tears to erode the shores of Bronfman’s claims of non-responsibility. Every tear shed will be as if to say, “Blame the Bronfmans for these saline drops that fall from my eyes of which I cannot control or stop.”
After a thousand tears and 100 stories of horror, the jury may be so lathered up that they won’t care who did what. They might not care whether Sara Bronfman knew a thing about DOS or if the law doesn’t hold her responsible for a reckless Vanguard.
She’s rich, and these poor women suffered.
Will Sara Pay If She Loses?
I suspect that Sara Bronfman has no more ties to the USA. She probably moved her assets out of the USA before the civil suit was filed, in anticipation of it and the possibility of the US Department of Justice seeking to seize some of her assets
If the plaintiffs win, there may be a matter of jurisdiction.
I do not think that simply because she is defending the case, she is at risk of having a collectible judgment. The act of defending this matter, something which she can afford, could be a flexing of muscle or trying to contain reputational damage without capitulating.
Much of her money is managed by an individual based in NYC, who manages many of the wealthiest families in the world. He knows how to shield and shelter money.
On the other hand, the attorneys for the plaintiffs may have developed a plan to address this, for it is not something they are unaware of – that Bronfman would not leave her money sitting for them to collect.
But there are experts in the field of collection. It remains to be seen how far they can get.
Clare Not Untouchable
On the other hand, Clare Bronfman, under the watchful eye of the feds and in prison, is not free to move assets around.
Much of her money is in a trust she created before the criminal trial, which she does not control. The trust may not be subject to judgment. It does not matter. She has enough assets outside the trust that there is certainly money that could be collected if she loses the suit.
This case may boil down to Clare Bronfman alone.
Blame the Bronfmans
Judge Eric Komitee knows civil law, and before he was a judge, he was steeped in high-stakes civil litigation.
He will have carefully prepared jury instructions. He will likely tell the jury what they need to find as fact to blame the Bronfmans, which is all this lawsuit is about.
The plaintiffs do not need to prove to the jury’s satisfaction that Raniere is guilty of the harm they experienced or that Allison Mack or Nancy Salzman were rascals. That is almost a foregone conclusion.
They have one thing to prove: That it was the Bronfmans’ fault, that they are legally to blame for what Raniere et al. did.
Most plaintiffs likely had little contact with the sisters. Blame-the-Bronfmans, therefore, has more to do with blame-their-money.
How it was used, what it enabled, what these sisters knew or should have known when they provided financial support, and whether the law supports them paying for what Raniere did. There is case law, negligence, willful blindness, and its defense, the old notion that “my money ain’t me.”
This is going to be an exciting fight.