Richard Luthmann is a writer and contributor for the Frank Report. A former attorney and federal prisoner, Luthmann recently appeared with Scott Johnson and Peter Mingils on Building Fortunes Radio.
Radio Personality Peter Mingils
The following is not a verbatim transcript, but an edited for print version of the topics discussed.
By Richard Luthmann
I met Keith Raniere in the Brooklyn MDC during his trial. He was one tough dude for having the stamina to go through a six week trial.
The physical toll alone is extraordinary.
I wrote an article for the Frank Report about this.
That article talks about the process a defendant undergoes if he chooses to exercise his constitutional right, go to court and challenge the prosecution’s case.
Your day begins at 4:14 am, when a guard awakens you with instructions to prepare for court.
By five o’clock, they take you downstairs at the MDC to a holding pen. They strip search you. Then put you in court jumpers.
After that, you wait in the Receiving and Delivery area in a holding pens, until the US Marshals Service comes.
The US Marshals transport prisoners between the prison and the courthouse throughout the United States.
On a typical day, the Marshals would take Raniere at about 7:30 am.
This meant he had already three and half hours of preparing and waiting, mainly in holding pens, before he even left the prison.
Keep in mind that Raniere, the defendant’s experience, was not unique. Every innocent until proven guilty defendant undergoes the same experience.
After the Marshals arrived, they would shackle him and other defendants headed to court that day. Then he and the other court-bound prisoners in handcuffs and shackles boarded a prisoner transport bus, with blacked out windows – and headed to court.
Agents of the U.S. Marshal Service outside a Federal Courthouse.
Raniere would board the Eastern District bus, shackled down, and the bus would depart. The drive was about a four-mile journey from the MDC in Sunset Park to Downtown Brooklyn where the Courthouse is.
The bus would drive under the Federal Courthouse into the parking garage. The prisoners would then be escorted off the bus and into holding pens under the courthouse.
Keith would probably get to the courthouse at about 8:30 am. He now had more than four hours logged in, either in shackles or in a holding pen.
He would then wait in the basement holding pen until it was time to go upstairs.
Court usually starts between nine and 10 am. So when the time came, Raniere would be brought upstairs to the floor where his trial was held and be led to another pen next to Judge Garaufis’ courtroom.
If he was lucky, he might get a chance to talk to his lawyers before he goes into the courtroom.
The Ceremonial Courtroom in the Eastern District of New York Courthouse
Once Raniere entered the courtroom, he would have his handcuffs taken off. But he would have two marshals seated nearby, watching him to ensure he did not make any sudden movements.
Prosecutrix Moira Kim Penza presents an exhibit to the jury at the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
By the time he was actually in the courtroom, and ready for the trial, he logged in between five and six hours of pure hell.
As for food, his only morning meal was a bologna sandwich and an apple.
Keith did this every day for six weeks during his trial.
During the lunch break, the Marshalls would escort Raniere back to the holding pen by the courtroom, and he would get a bologna sandwich and an apple for lunch.
Judge Garaufis denied Raniere bail thrice.
The return trip is almost as hard as the trip to the court. While court ends at 4 or 5 pm, it takes a couple hours to get back to your cell.
By that time, there is no more hot food. Your dinner is another jail sandwich.
For Raniere, it was sub-par nutrition every day during the six week trial.
Trying to press your right to trial in the Federal System is a hard thing to do. I give Raniere credit because he told me as much when I met him on numerous occasions when I was traveling to court and we got a chance to talk.
We commiserated about the harsh conditions, and because we had the same prosecutrix Moira Penza of The Vow fame.
Raniere and Luthmann’s shared AUSA Moira Penza.
As for Moira Penza, Keith and I talked a lot about how we both believed she was engaged in some very sharp practice.
Keith has filed a Rule 33 motion alleging the FBI tampered with evidence. He alleges, and the facts seem to support him, that the FBI planted child pornography and other adult photos to make it appear they were all in a file together on a hard drive. They may have deleted other items, changed metadata, and manipulated evidence on the hard drive and a camera card.
In the Federal System, and in most systems, the buck stops with the lead prosecutor. A prosecutor exercises great control over FBI agents, so there is a strong relationship between a federal agent and a prosecutor.
If a federal agent does anything untoward, it is a constitutional error.
If they engage in misconduct, the prosecutor cannot just throw that agent under the bus. The buck stops with the head prosecutor.
Head prosecutors are imputed with the actions of their agents. In the NXIVM case, Penza was the head prosecutor. She was also the head prosecutor in my case and many other cases.
If there was misconduct in the Raniere case, what kind of misconduct was it?
Experts reviewed the digital evidence.
Dr. J. Richard Kiper: “In my 20 years experience with the FBI, I have never seen data manipulation, evidence tampering anything like this on this scale.
Stacey Eldrich: “I worked in the FBI for about 10 years. It is clear that the photos in this case were planted there.”
Steve Abrams Esq, cyber lawyer: “This is the most serious tampering of evidence that I’ve ever seen.”
Wayne B. Norris expert witness for digital forensics: “It’s inescapable that the FBI proactively created fake evidence.”
Stephen Bunting; Computer Forensics expert. “It was changed while in FBI custody, it was changed, it was modified and was altered.”
William Odom “In 25 years of digital forensic investigations, five of which was with the FBI, the amount of technical ability and premeditation to perform this fraud in the case against Mr. Raniere – I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Let’s assume for a second that these experts are right. Suppose FBI agents went rogue and planted evidence to ensure Raniere, a bad guy went away.
They probably did not need to plant evidence to convict him, given how the deck is stacked against criminal defendants in Federal Court.
But maybe they would only have sentenced Keith to 20 years instead of 120 years.
Is evidence seized by the FBI secure from tampering and destruction by Federal Special Agents?
If Raniere’s claims of evidence manipulation are substantiated, many hard questions are raised for the Federal Government.
What is the problem with Federal Agents putting their thumbs on the scale of justice for a guy you “know” is guilty and you are going to convict anyway? Isn’t law enforcement supposed to put away “bad dudes”?
If this activity is condoned, do we even have a constitutional republic anymore?
If there was tampering, did Moira Penza or anyone else in the Eastern District of New York US Attorney’s Office or somebody of authority in the FBI involved know?
Moria and others may have had a motivation to look the other way. Winning this case led to big things for Penza and others.
And if it happened in the NXIVM case, did it happen in other cases?
Are these practices still happening?
In the next segment, Richard Luthmann discusses Keith Raniere’s pending Writ of Mandamus with the Second Circuit US Appeals Court seeking to disqualify Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Additionally, Luthmann discusses the troubling conditions at the MDC-Brooklyn and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fight for social justice.
Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. Once a fixture in New York City and State politics, Luthmann is a recovering attorney who lives in Southwest Florida and a proud member of the National Writers Union.
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