NXIVM prosecutor Moira Kim Penza spoke at her upstate New York college on November 1.
Penza, a Binghampton University alumna who graduated in 2005, gave a lecture on the man she prosecuted, Keith Alan Raniere.
Penza was an English and history major and was a member of the debate team on campus.
“Binghamton prepared me to succeed when measured against the best of the best and to do so with courage, kindness, integrity and a commitment to service,” Penza said.
In her talk, she spoke about how she prosecuted Raniere. She said investigators discovered 12 terabytes of electronic information, the equivalent of 12 library floors worth of data.
The prosecution used very little of that electronic information at trial.
The most significant was the 22 photos of Camila taken in 2005 when she was 15. The FBI accidentally found the alleged child porn on a hard drive 11 months after they seized it.
Penza was the lead prosecutor and, after winning a conviction, left the DOJ to take a position in private practice with the law firm of Wilkinson Stekloff LLP in NYC.
Penza appears prominently in HBO’s The Vow season #2.
She said of her time preparing and trying Raniere, “I wasn’t making a documentary. My job was first and foremost proving the crimes that we had charged Raniere with. What you have to do when you are putting together a trial is really engage in some editing.”
Penza’ said her goal was to ensure Raniere would be put away for life.
“To know that he is in prison for the rest of his life is very satisfying, because I know that he is unable to hurt anyone else ever again,” Penza said.
When publications began reporting on NXIVM – starting with the Frank Report – Raniere went to Mexico. Penza knew they had to act fast, she said.
“When you’re investigating a federal crime as a prosecutor, you typically want to keep your investigation covert for as long as possible, presuming no one is in immediate physical danger,”
Penza said. “By then, we had enough evidence to charge some crimes, so we couldn’t wait any longer.”
Penza said, “My biggest fear was, until we arrested him, that there were women and children in danger.”
Armed Mexican men, possibly from the Mexican federal police force, apprehended Raniere in an AirBNB villa on March 26, 2018.
Lamentably for Raniere and five other women, he was arrested on the day he planned a DOS recommitment ceremony, which included the women each sharing his flaccid member in a fellatio session.
Instead of women, armed men came and whisked him away to El Paso, where FBI agents awaited. He has not seen freedom since then.
During the trial, Penza said she played a recording of Raniere and Allison Mack, in which the
DOS grandmaster spoke of how he wanted his women branded.
After Frank Report revealed DOS, Raniere told followers he had nothing to do with DOS or the branding. He was shocked, shocked to find the brand contained his initials.
Penza said, “By the time we got to trial, he couldn’t maintain that lie anymore because we had so much evidence from his emails and recordings where his involvement was incontrovertible.”
In trying to explain how people get sucked into following a Vanguard-like psychopath, she said, No one really joins a cult. People think they’re joining something that will help themselves or others. When something doesn’t feel right to you, trust your instincts on that and make sure you are looking out for places where there is an intolerance for other ideas. That is where abuses happen.”
Penza had a year-long internship at the Broome County Public Defender’s Office and did intake interviews of those arrested.
She said of her role, “Prosecutors have an enormous amount of power within the system. They get to act affirmatively in many situations, as opposed to reactively, which is what you’re often doing if you’re a public defender. I realized that at some point in my career, I wanted to have the ability to build my own cases….
“The ultimate point is: Are you doing justice?” Having spent that year at the public defender’s office when I was at Binghamton became important once I was a prosecutor. It was something I never forgot….
“My favorite thing is to be in front of a jury and synthesizing a complex case — being respectful of them and maintaining your credibility first and foremost, and being able to tell a compelling narrative.”
Penza urged people to be wary of high control groups, such as NXIVM.
“You can have exploitation of people when people feel they are going to be ostracized if they do not say what everyone else is saying,” she said. “There’s a lot of danger in these situations.”