Federal prisoner Keith Alan Raniere filed a federal lawsuit against four individuals for their treatment of him in USP Tucson.
Raniere is suing Warden Barbara VonBlanckensee, and Lieutenant Anthony Galleon.
He accuses these two of retaliating against him because he filed a Rule 33 motion. His motion accuses the FBI of tampering with evidence in his criminal trial.
Raniere is also suing BOP Director Michael Carvajal and Attorney General Merrick Garland. He accuses them of tolerating and overlooking retaliation against him.
Raniere’s lawyer is Stacy Scheff of Tucson, who specializes in prisoners’ legal issues.
Raniere is serving a 120-year prison sentence.
Raniere alleges USP Tucson Warden VonBlanckensee was behind the limitations that have been imposed on his communications with lawyers.
He also alleges the prison terminated his contact with Suneel Chakravorty, who has his power of attorney. For a year, the prison prevented Chakravorty from visiting him. Two weeks ago, they terminated Raniere’s right to call Chakravorty.
Chakravorty is the main architect of Raniere’s Rule 33 motion, and the two men have spent hundreds of hours working out the details of the filing.
According to the lawsuit:
More than a year ago, Chakravorty visited Raniere in prison. During that visit, officials told Chakravorty to leave the prison. They informed him that the warden had revoked his visitation rights.
Among the reasons given was that they had monitored the Frank Report and found that he wrote several stories. He was therefore a member of the media, which they say he did not disclose.
In one Frank Report story, Chakravorty disclosed he met Raniere on a specific date. Prison officials said this conflicted with the disclosures Chakravorty made to them when applying for visitation.
The prison did not reinstate his visitation privileges. The prison did continue to allow Raniere to speak on the phone with Chakravorty.
From that time, they communicated by phone. The prison routinely monitors and records some of these calls for all inmates. Raniere’s conversations with Chakravorty focused on a Rule 33 motion alleging evidence tampering by the FBI.
Almost a year later, Raniere’s attorney, Joseph M. Tully, filed a motion to stay the appeal with the 2nd Circuit. Tully’s basis was that he intended to file a Rule 33 motion seeking a new trial in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District, which is where Raniere was convicted.
Tully disclosed to the 2nd Circuit the main allegations of the forthcoming Rule 33 motion.
Tully’s motion alleged three forensic experts concluded that the FBI tampered with evidence, and that BI agents committed perjury. The FBI tampering concerned child pornography and sexual exploitation charges.
On the same day, Nicki Clyne tweeted about the new evidence. Her tweets received approximately two million impressions, according to the lawsuit.
On May 3, 2022, Tully filed the Rule 33 motion. Less than 24 hours later, the prison terminated Raniere’s phone call with his lawyer, Tully.
Raniere’s prison counselor pulled him out of the area where he spoke to his attorney. The counselor ordered Raniere to go to Lieutenant Galleon’s office.
Lt. Galleon asked Raniere about people on the approved list of people that he could call — and the approved list of people who could visit him. Some were attorneys or attorney’s agents, like Chakravorty.
Lt. Galleon told Raniere his list was “scrubbed,” including lawyers.
Raniere would have to re-apply to the Unit Manager to call or receive visits from anyone. He also told Raniere that Chakravorty was unlikely to be re-approved.
Raniere asked Lt. Galleon why he was doing this. Lt. Galleon claimed an investigation was underway but declined to discuss it.
Raniere reapplied and spoke with some contacts, including his lawyers, but not Chakravorty.
On May 6, 2022, prison officials terminated another call between Raniere and an attorney.
On that same day, Raniere filed his lawsuit. Raniere contends, “federal prison wardens retaliate against individual prisoners based on personal animus.” He argues this retaliation is connected to his Rule 33 motion. The BOP and the FBI are under the direction of the US Attorney, whom Raniere is also suing.
His suit accuses officials of interfering with his First Amendment right to have access to the court.
Raniere seeks a preliminary injunction preserving his rights. In addition, he is also seeking to be able to communicate with his attorneys and Chakravorty. He also seeks attorneys’ fees and costs accrued in bringing this action.
Raniere’s suit accused prison officials of unlawfully frustrating and interfering with Raniere’s First Amendment access to court; retaliation against Raniere based on rights protected by the First Amendment; and violating Raniere’s Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.
The case was assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins.
Benjamin O’Cone, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.