In an effort to defend Keith Alan Raniere and explain their own roles in the NXIVM saga, several people have stepped forward to publicly state their positions. One of these is the Elliot brother we never hear from, He is Brian Elliot.
He does not need much introduction since he does that for himself. Frank Report does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed by Elliot. But for those following the NXIVM story, it is a part of the story.
By Brian Elliot
I am an entrepreneur who has started or co-founded several businesses and nonprofit initiatives, including a national network of summer camps for children whose parents have/had cancer, a nationally recognized mentoring program for deaf children, and an LGBT rights organization.
Brian Elliot got his master’s degree at a Harvard.
I have a BA in Public Policy from Stanford University, an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where I was both a Zuckerman and George Fellow and named a Harvard Business School Social Entrepreneurship Fellow.
I was introduced to Executive Success Programs (ESP) while running the LGBT advocacy organization I founded in New York City shortly after finishing graduate school.
Our mission was to help win marriage equality in New York State.
I enrolled in my first ESP course because I struggled to manage the day-to-day stresses and demands of leading an organization.
My first ESP intensive was transformational; it had a positive and lasting impact on my personal and professional life.
After taking the course, I noticed that my stress levels had lowered significantly, my confidence and ability to fundraise had dramatically increased, and I had become more compassionate with others with whom I disagreed.
I had gotten so much value and personal insight from the course that I decided to take many more courses offered through NXIVM companies in the following years. Their effects on my life were similarly profound and undeniable.
I found that the more courses I took, the more of a centered, goal-oriented, self-disciplined, and emotionally balanced leader I became.
I found the level of education of many NXIVM courses to be on par with, or even more advanced, than the classes in my formal education, particularly in the areas of understanding ethics, emotionality, leadership, and productivity.
After being a student of ESP for a couple of years, I decided to become an ESP coach and, several years later, a trainer. I eventually opened an ESP Center in San Francisco with the hopes of providing other entrepreneurs with such an impactful personal growth education.
I deeply enjoyed helping people achieve results similar to my own.
Throughout the approximately seven years that I was a participant and coach in the organization, I did not witness any conduct I believed was criminal.
The Prosecution of Raniere
On or about March 25, 2018, I was subpoenaed to testify in front of a federal Grand Jury. I was confused and troubled about why I was subpoenaed. At the time, I understood that the criminal investigation involved allegations regarding a women’s group, DOS. I did not know about DOS before it became public in June 2017, and I was never involved with it.
I was also surprised that I was asked to meet in person with the Government twice throughout the proceedings of the case, which I did.
During my interface with the Government, I recall a few interactions that were problematic and concerning to me.
The first interaction was communicated to me through my attorney, who relayed his initial conversation between him and the lead prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Moira Kim Penza. He told me he had called Ms. Penza before my Grand Jury testimony to share with her a preview of the responses that my brothers and I would be offering at that hearing.
I remember my attorney summarizing his interaction with Ms. Penza by stating that, unhappy with his position, she “literally screamed.” at him on their call.
My attorney, who was a former AUSA, said he had never experienced someone behave like that towards a fellow attorney and that her lack of professionalism was astounding to him.
Even before my attorney debriefed me from his call, I was already bewildered why my brothers and I— with no prior knowledge of DOS before it went public—were being subpoenaed in the first place.
But after hearing about this prosecutor’s conduct towards my attorney, I became even more concerned about the tactics the Government might use with me if that’s how they treated my attorney.
I had never been questioned before by a prosecutor. Knowing that this prosecutor “screamed” at my attorney left me amply fearful heading into my Grand Jury appointment.
Secondly, in my first in-person meeting with the Government in April of 2018, my impression of that meeting was that the Government was looking for me to respond in certain ways to their questions, and was frustrated when my truthful responses about my experiences in NXVIM did not conform to their narrative.
In one instance, I remember the prosecution asking me about the use of “collateral” in NXIVM and why I did not view it as blackmail. I explained that my understanding of collateral and its use within NXIVM was that it was a voluntary tool used by consenting parties for personal growth.
My understanding of collateral was based not only on what I had learned from NXIVM courses but also from Behavioral Economics research from Yale University, which I had found on a public website called Stikk.com (and, to my knowledge, has no relationship to NXIVM).
I illustrated my understanding and experience of using collateral by sharing an example of how I had used it:
A friend and fellow classmate of mine from Harvard (who had also taken NXIVM courses) developed an accountability “buddy system” that involved using money as collateral.
I shared that we had designed a weekly check-in system to help us improve our self-discipline and be more successful in our respective entrepreneurial ventures. We each made weekly commitments to ourselves (such as: “Make five fundraising calls”) and reported to each other to ensure we completed each weekly task.
To give “teeth” to my commitments and incentivize myself to follow through with them, I gave $500 to my accountability partner to hold “in escrow” for me.
If I ever failed to do my self-defined weekly task by the deadline I had set, I told my friend it was his job to donate my $500 to an “anti-charity” (a charity whose mission goes against my values—this idea I had gotten from Stikk.com). This $500 served as the additional “weight” I needed to ensure I followed through on my commitment.
Because I put this additional weight behind my goal, I always followed through with my commitment (thus, my friend never had to send in the $500).
Over time, my self-discipline dramatically improved—far more than ever before I used collateral as a tool for personal growth.
I understood this type of setup with collateral may have been hard for an outsider to understand; and more, an outsider without the context of the intricacies of the whole setup might believe my friend was holding my $500 as a tool to manipulate my behavior. However, both of us knew this setup was, in fact, entirely voluntary because I set up the commitment and the terms (if anything, I was using him as a tool to help me).
I chose appropriate collateral and gave direction to my friend on how to use it in a way that would specifically motivate me to achieve my own self-defined weekly goals.
For it to work, I had to trust that he would send the $500 to an anti-charity that I specified if I failed to do my weekly task.
In addition to sharing my understanding of collateral, I shared with the prosecution that before DOS had become public, the interactions I had with other NXIVM community members about collateral were all in line with the understanding that I had outlined—that individuals chose what collateral would be helpful for them to uphold their own goals.
That collateral was given to a trusted friend in the same type of an “accountability buddy” setup.
Only after DOS became public did I see some people’s perspectives on the voluntary nature of collateral change.
After sharing this information with the prosecutors at my proffer session, I recall them getting frustrated and seemingly unsatisfied with what I was sharing.
I then remember them pushing me to agree with their narrative that collateral was indeed blackmail, even though that narrative was wholly inconsistent with my own experience of what it was.
It was also wholly inconsistent with how I saw NXIVM community members use collateral for years—as a voluntary, proactive mechanism of self-motivation and accountability.
In the prosecution’s follow-up questions, they asked me how I felt about the way some people used collateral and if that felt weird to me, separate from my rational thoughts on the matter, which I had just explained to them in detail.
I found their questions about my feelings on the matter strange because I understood justice to be based on thoughtful and objective evaluation, not the whims of how people might feel about certain topics or what is uncomfortable for them.
As a gay man who, until this last decade, was denied the freedom to marry because it “felt unnatural” to many people, I was well aware that people’s feelings about uncomfortable matters (including those that involve consenting adults) can cloud actual justice and rational thought about those matters.
I recall sharing that some practices with collateral that I heard about “felt” odd to me, but I didn’t think that made them wrong.
The final and most concerning act the Government took in this case was an intimidation tactic used on my brothers, Marc Elliot and Justin Elliot, and myself in which the prosecution used a direct threat to suppress public discourse about character assassination in the media and its relationship to the justice system.
Inspired by conversations and ideas to promote honorable civil discourse in the media, in mid-June 2019, Marc posted to social media an advertisement for a talk he was going to give entitled, “Who’s Next?: The Rise of Character Assassination and the Loss of Human Decency.” An alternate title of this talk was “Kindness Above All: The Rise of Character Assassination and the Loss of Human Decency.”
The talk was not intended to discuss matters, evidence, or witnesses in the ongoing NXIVM trial.
I helped Marc develop some content for this talk.
On or about June 24, 2019, my brothers and I received a call from our attorney. My recollection of this call included my attorney saying the prosecution was “infuriated” by Marc’s post and that they demanded he immediately cancel the talk.I recall my attorney saying that Ms. Penza took this post as a direct attack on her integrity.
Based on this call with Ms. Penza, my attorney believed she would do anything she could to pursue all three brothers if Marc carried through with his speech.
I recall my attorney relaying that Ms. Penza said something to the effect of, “If it weren’t for the First Amendment, I would already be coming after them.”
This made no sense to me, because if our actions were only intended to be exercising First Amendment rights and raising public awareness about upholding principles of justice and human kindness in the media, I thought: “Why would that be grounds for the prosecution to ‘come after’ anyone?”
Our attorney said Ms. Penza viewed Marc’s talk as a “recruitment for NXIVM.”
This was troubling and confusing to hear for several reasons:
First, it wasn’t even clear to me if NXIVM still existed as an actual entity at that time, and thus “recruitment for NXIVM” certainly wasn’t one of the aims of the talk.
Furthermore, Marc intended his talk to be distinct from NXIVM. I recall the talk he had practiced with me was about the perils of character assassination in modern society and its potentially harmful impacts.
I remember Marc’s experience of character assassination while being part of NXIVM as one of many examples he discussed in his talk.
Our attorney, a former AUSA himself, explained the playbook for how easy it is for the Government to make anyone appear to be criminal, particularly in RICO cases.
In light of the threat I had understood the Government had tendered, I made the difficult decision to immediately sever ties with dozens of longtime friends, colleagues, and business partners who were part of the community formed around NXIVM.
Left the NXIVM Community
I also ceased helping my brother develop his talk. I made these decisions not because of knowledge of criminal activities or intent related to the talk, but because I feared the threat of malicious prosecution if I did not comply.
Within two weeks, I left New York City and moved to my Midwestern hometown.
Due to the Government’s threat, I had to completely rebuild my life, my social network, and my business.
All the while, I still could not see what was wrongful about my brother posting a talk about the loss of human decency in public discourse and the negative effects of character assassination in society and in our justice system.
I was concerned about the Government’s attempt to suppress free speech in this instance.
If anything, my experience with the Government’s threat illustrated one of the points my brother’s talk was trying to make—prejudice against anyone who was part of the NXIVM community spurred the erosion of due process and the allowance of miscarriages of justice.
Nevertheless, given the high-profile nature of this case and the degree to which I saw character assassination as a prosecutorial tactic in the case, I chose to step away from my involvement in my brother’s thwarted public education campaign altogether.
Now, almost four years later, I am sharing these occurrences at risk of instigating a similar retaliatory reaction from the Government.
Once I reestablished communications with many longtime friends who had been part of the NXIVM community, I learned that the experiences of intimidation I had with the Government was not an isolated case.
Having studied public policy and government in both my undergraduate and master’s education and having long been committed to social justice, I felt it was my civic duty to share my experience so that these concerns could be evaluated alongside the testimony of others to ensure that due process was upheld.