Dancers and Donuts Lawsuit
A lawsuit in the US District of Arizona is entertaining readers. It is US prisoner Keith Raniere, v. USP Tucson, his prison. Raniere’s quest is to speak and meet with his power of attorney, Suneel Chakravorty. The prison won’t let him. Chakravorty is also the manager of Raniere’s legal team.
FR gave the BOP’s arguments in the story:
Raniere’s attorney Stacy Scheff replied to the BOP.
Raniere is the plaintiff.
The defendants are
- US Attorney General Merrick Garland
- Michael Carvajal, Director Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Danon Colbert, Warden USP Tucson
- Lt. Anthony Gallion, Special Investigative Service [SIS] at USP Tucson.
Raniere claims USP Tucson’s cutting off communications with his power of attorney is retaliation because he is getting red-hot on the tail of FBI tampering in his case. Chakravorty is the coordinator of that effort. The prison scrubbed Chakravorty from Raniere’s phone list on May 3.
That is the same day Raniere’s attorneys filed a Rule 33 Motion accusing the FBI of criminal conduct. The SIS and the Counter-Terrorism Unit [CTU] recommended cutting contact off. Tucson Warden Danon Colbert agreed. The SIS and the CTU coordinate with the FBI for prison investigations.
The BOP denies the FBI influenced their decision to cut Chakravorty. Lt. Gallion says he didn’t know Raniere accused the FBI when he scrubbed Raniere’s approved phone call list.
The BOP’s argument for blocking the prisoner and his power of attorney are
- They criticize the US Criminal Justice System
- They seek Publicity
- They are a danger to the safety of prisons in Arizona and Brooklyn.
- There was no established relationship before Raniere’s conviction.
- There is a relationship via NXIVM
- Suneel is not an attorney-sponsored paralegal
- The judge’s sentencing orders for Raniere when he is released at age 161. His 2120 release date bars contact with Suneel and other Nxivm affiliates for five years. Chakravorty will be 131 when the no contact provision commences.
Raniere has until Sunday, June 19, to file more Rule 33 motions. There is a three-year time limit from the date of conviction. Raniere’s criminal conviction was on June 19, 2019. In an earlier filing, his lawyer says Raniere has more Rule 33 motions to file.
Scheff seeks a Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order. Both motions seek a judge to compel the prison to allow Raniere to speak with Chakravorty.
Scheff’s entire argument is here. Below is an abbreviated version, with my notes in [brackets and bold.]
By Stacy Scheff
Case No.: 4:22-cv-00212-RCC-PSOT
Merrick Garland, US Attorney General; Michael Carvajal, Director Federal Bureau of Prisons; Danon Colbert, Warden USP Tucson, Anthony Gallion (all in their official capacities), Defendants
The Defendants complain about many things, but none of them are justification for preventing Plaintiff from speaking to his Power-of-Attorney and the manager of his legal team, Suneel Chakravorty. Plaintiff summarizes the Defendants’ arguments here without conceding them:
1 “Disparagement”: First, the Defendants complain that Plaintiff and Mr. Chakravorty disparaged the judge and the criminal prosecution in his criminal case.
2 “Publicity”: Second, that the non-privileged and monitored phone calls were used in podcasts and other publicity. Doc. 14, p.3.
3 “Dancing women and Donuts”: Third, that Plaintiff is charged with posing a security risk to the prison by causing women to dance outside the prison and offer prison employees donuts and coffee.
4. “Established relationship”: Fifth, that Mr. Chakravorty did not have an established relationship with Plaintiff prior to his incarceration. Doc. 14, pp.5-6.
5. “NXIVM affiliation”: And finally, that Mr. Chakravorty is “affiliated” with NXIVM. Doc. 14, pp. 6-7
The Defendants appear to admit that their justification for banning Mr. Chakravorty consists mainly of their dislike for his effectiveness in assisting Plaintiff: the disparagement of the government; the established relationship standard (which conveniently contains exceptions to either having or not having an established relationship based on vague references to “the security… of the institution”); and the
NXIVM affiliation arguments are all factors that can also be viewed as perfectly innocuous and legal activities that are reasonable for the Power-of-Attorney and paralegal/manager of the legal team.
The Defendants argue that Plaintiff still has access to his attorneys, and that Mr. Tully has never issued a pledge to supervise Mr. Chakravorty’s activities. However, Mr. Chakravorty had been communicating with Mr. Raniere – without incident -up until May 2, 2021, when Defendants suddenly decided that, in their opinion, Mr. Chakravorty “did not have an established relationship with Plaintiff prior to his incarceration.”
Defendants also argue that Mr. Chakravorty is suspect because of his NXIVM affiliation. However, both cannot be simultaneously true: either Mr. Chakravorty had an established relationship with Plaintiff via his alleged NXIVM affiliation, which would weigh in favor of allowing communications, OR he did not have an established relationship with Plaintiff and therefore no NXIVM affiliation, which would also weigh in favor of allowing communications, according to Defendants’ logic.
Defendants here are using misdirection to show the Court the picture that they want it to see: i.e. ‘heads I win, tails you lose’.
Additionally, NXIVM was never adjudged a criminal organization, only Plaintiff’s “inner circle”, which does not include Mr. Chakravorty.
Therefore, any NXIVM affiliation is entirely innocuous and insufficient to justify any legitimate penological goal.
Defendants also argue that, because Mr. Chakravorty spoke to Plaintiff on a monitored line, he voided the attorney/client privilege. This is also a logical inconsistency: Defendants admit they do not recognize Mr. Chakravorty as a legal professional, despite his position as paralegal and manager of the legal team. Therefore, he was forced to communicate on a monitored line. This allowed Defendants to listen to the conversations and determine whether the communications posed any threat to the prison, and if so, to take steps to mitigate the harms.
Despite all this monitoring, Mr. Chakravorty was allowed to visit with Plaintiff until May 2, 2021. Now, Defendants seek to use these monitored communications against Plaintiff’s claims, including the Disparagement and Publicity arguments.
Mr. Chakravorty has full transcripts of the phone calls that Defendants complain of, and take out of context. Additionally, those calls were made in the larger context of the post conviction relief efforts. These transcripts and other evidence that provides full context will be filed as soon as possible as an exhibit to this motion.
However, the fact that Mr. Chakravorty has been the moving force behind Plaintiff’s post-conviction relief efforts does not detract from his central role in managing the legal team. Defendants fail to draw a significant distinction between being an “ardent” supporter, and being a trusted power-of-attorney and paralegal and legal manager.
There is no reason why he cannot be both. Indeed, Mr. Chakravorty is more than just a paralegal. He is the linchpin of the legal team, having hired and fired attorneys for Plaintiff. Therefore, being able to speak with his attorneys does Plaintiff no good without the technical interpreter and supporter, who has been the driving force behind Plaintiff’s post-conviction relief efforts for nearly three years.
[Scheff rebuts the BOP’s argument that Supreme Court rulings support a district court should not second-guess prison administrators who have to maintain security of prisons even if it encroaches on prisoner’s constitutional rights. Then she gets back to what everyone wants to know more about:]
Things such as Dancing women and Donuts outside the prison fences pose no obvious threat to prison security. Indeed, Defendants admit that the problem was easily solved by moving Plaintiff to a different side of the prison.
Keith Raniere on this side of the prison could see dancers perform for the inmates.
Nor does Publicity pose any threat to prison security, but rather is a crucial right: When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.
Finally, regarding the Defendants’ request that Mr. Chakravorty be supervised by an attorney, he is willing to comply.
Plaintiff has an extremely narrow window in which to finalize his post-conviction relief petitions based on newly discovered evidence. Defendants are actively thwarting those efforts by imagining threats to institutional security that have no basis in reality.
Plaintiff will be irreparably harmed if he is forced to miss this window of opportunity.
On the other hand, Defendants will suffer no harm or burden at all – only the burden of enforcing the constitutional rights of those they claim to be “correcting”. For the United States of America, the Constitution can never be a burden.
Therefore Plaintiff has met all of the factors necessary to obtain an emergency Order that Plaintiff be allowed to communicate with Mr. Chakravorty.
Lamentably, some of our least erudite readers have asked for pictures of the dancing girls that the BOP said threatened security at MDC. Others asked for photos of the donuts. I will reluctantly accommodate their request.
The staff at MDC apparently did not relish the donuts the NXIVM dancers were prepared to offer. They turned them down.
While I do not have actual photos of the donuts offered, I know a good donut when I see one.
FBI at Work
An FBI agent came to a rancher and said, “I need to search your ranch for illegal grown drugs.”
The rancher says, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there.”
The agent pulled out his badge. “See this? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I want on any land. No questions asked. Have I made myself clear?”
The rancher nods politely and goes about his chores.
Later, the rancher hears loud screams and sees the agent running for his life. Close behind is the rancher’s bull.
With every step, the bull is gaining ground. The agent is terrified.
The rancher throws down his tools, runs to the fence, and yells at the top of his lungs, “Your badge! Show him your badge!”