This post is in response to Bangkok’s opinion editorial Raniere’s Rape of 15 Year Old Not a Crime in Most European Countries – But Raniere Gets 120 years.
As a point of clarification, the US Government did not convict Keith Raniere or sentence him for raping 15-year-old Camila.
Raniere’s crime of conviction for his conduct with Camila was racketeering. The predicate acts were possession of child porn and sexual exploitation of a minor.
While the age of consent varies in the US from state to state from 16-18, the age of consent for sexually graphic photographs is 18 in every state. It is federal, not state, law.
In no state can a person legally have sex with a 15-year-old. In most states, a person can have sex with a 16-year-old.
However, they are subject to serious criminal penalties if they take a graphic photograph of that 16 year old or posses a photo.
Raniere’s New York state [incharged] statutory rape offenses against Camila occurred in 2005-07, when she was 15-17.
He could legally have consensual sex with her in New York State once she turned 17, which was in March 2007. He could not legally take photos of her until a year later, March, 2008.
He could not possess photos of her if they were taken when she was under 18, no matter how old she was when he first possessed them.
There are two other factors that people who think Raniere’s conduct with Camila is excusable might consider in judging him.
First, Raniere was 30 years older than her. So when he first raped and photographed her, he was 45, and she was 15 – if we believe the allegations about him, which Camila has said were true.
I want to be as skeptical as possible, but I happen to think Camila is telling the truth. Thirty years – and the girl, a teen, under the age of consent – is a mammoth difference.
Even if there was no power imbalance or economic difference, it is enormous. I might go so far as to say that if the genders were reversed, it is still inappropriate.
It is not as if, as Raniere’s attorney argued at his sentencing hearing, he found her young, true, but he was a faithful life time partner to her.
Secondly, he was the leader of her community, and the power inequity could not have been much greater.
Her mother, father, two older sisters and older brother all followed Raniere. Her older sister lived with him. The entire family thought of Raniere as god on earth. They took his side against their own family members on more than one occasion.
They believed he was a unique and gifted spiritual man who was a compassionate mentor to all of them.
Hector, father of Cami, Daniela and Mariana, with Keith Raniere and Mariana’s son. Hector is the grandfather of the lad.
While Raniere could have been a mentor and fatherly figure to Camila, he chose instead to unleash his sexual deviance on her, disrupt her young life, and continue to upend her life for 12 years.
The texts the government introduced as evidence at the Raniere trial not only show powerful circumstantial evidence that he did indeed begin having sex with Camila when she was underage, but also that during the next 12 years – after she reached the age of consent and grew into her mid-20s – he kept her – tethered to his insane fidelity rules – and punished her or breaking them with a sadistic joy – kept her grounded, limited for basically his desires – the most selfish kind of sex. Power mongering – all disguised in the name of his helping her as he did for everyone – as he martyred himself.
He used the power inequality to hold this woman into place, involuntary servitude, coercive control, kind of a long-term rape.
Based on texts between them, I estimate 75 percent of the time he spent with her was sex.
The texts show he arranged to meet her, often using carrot and stick to get her where he wanted. He often had her sneak to meet, for the relationship must be kept secret.
More often than not, he used mind games as a master con artist, pretending to love this young woman, dangling hope of marriage and children, and for her to be the support and inspiration to the great man with his great world mission. All it was was ruthless control, a sick vengeful hatred, a lust for power and sex, and a need to enjoy her guilt and pain – which he created.
He was having the time of his life, as he stole the time of her life – her teenage years and most of her 20s.
There would be manipulative texts leading up to the meeting.
The texts would be silent for an hour, and then the texts resumed. In that hour, he came, had sex with her, and left.
Afterward, more mind games, texts of punishment for her not being attentive or good enough, or telling her how good she was, but how she had blown it all by being unfaithful to him, or praising her as the one he loved most to melt her heart – only to taunt her later.
He engaged in sex. That was his idea of their relationship – sex at her secret townhouse. Then he went away. An hour here and an hour there. Yet he dared to tell her they were married and shared a home – a home he would visit a few times a week to have sex and leave.
She spent all her days alone. He left a few items of clothing to act like this was home to mess with her mind. She lived a lonely life in a townhome, sparsely furnished.
Camila townhome at 120 Victory Way.
Raniere had Kathy Russell rent this townhouse in a phony name and pay cash a year in advance. Raniere hid Camila there, so he could sneak over and have sex without her sister, Mariana, who lived with him, knowing.
Raniere lived at 3 Flintlock and Camila at 120 Victory Lane.
Here is a look at her bedroom, a lonely room that the beast would come and desecrate from time to time.
He was Vanguard and could do no wrong.
Ironically, Raniere, 62, is now exposed to a woman much closer to his age. I am referring to the intersex prisoner, Toni Fly, 54, with whom Raniere shares a cell in the USP Tucson SHU.
They spend 23 hours daily locked together in their cell, from Monday to Friday. On weekends, they do not leave their space and are together 24 hours daily.
The SHU, as Raniere and Fly are experiencing, is cruel, though not unusual, punishment.
I can only imagine how hard the lack of variety is. Four cold gray walls, a room always locked, the lack of outdoor light, the hard bed, the same clothes, the poor food, the lack of toiletries, the cramped quarters, the lack of even a moment of privacy, the toilet at the foot of the bed and cold food eaten next to it, the rarity of showers, no music, no film, no internet.
It must create in the human mind a delusional state, a dream-like state where the mind must go to create colors and sounds, and mental endeavors to combat the monotony and persistent lack of hope or inspiration derived from external stimuli.
Raniere and Fly, confined in such a space for six months and counting, have only each other, from hour to hour and minute to minute.
Do they create or imagine alter personalities in themselves and each other? One sees a mirage of water in the desert or a mermaid in the endless sea. Seeing each other endlessly, do they see things that are not there?
Could Fly and Raniere see in each other the various persons and experiences they might see in multitudes of people if they were free to pick and choose their own company?
They wake and see each other. They see each other all day long. Nowhere to go. No way to escape. They always wake and see each other. They have no one else to see. They lie in bunk beds a few feet apart and hear the other’s breathing, snoring, belching. They smell each other’s breath and bodies.
In that halfway time between waking and sleeping – which may extend for hours in the SHU, or days, do they see the gamut of humanity in each other – from the grotesque to the beautiful?
Do they lust and project on each other? Or is the place so sterile and vile, and the familiarity so contemptuously cramped that only repugnance lives? Or could it be both alternately – attraction and revulsion? With nowhere to go to unleash it except upon each other.
At one moment, perhaps Raniere views Toni Fly like this.
But he has no one else. So he must revisualize.
I could imagine Keith’s immense need to lie and brag now limited to Toni Fly expanding to a new fantastic dimension.
There is no outside fact checker. Even when there was, he was not shy about lying about his accomplishments. But now, there is no internet and only one listener.
Sort of for fun, I once pictured Keith telling Toni:
“I’ve created a new patent pending invention called a transporter, which allows for teleportation by converting a person into an energy pattern, then beams them to another location, where they are reconverted into matter. My followers are building me a transporter and will beam me out of the SHU to FIji.
Most of all, I imagine two men in cramped quarters with nothing to do day after day who can’t escape each other. There is nowhere to go.
Maybe they talk of dreams.
Dreams they could share, like if they had not gotten into trouble but had taken the quiet road. Perhaps Raniere mightn’t have had a harem, started branding and blackmailing women, but settled down with one woman, maybe even Toni Fly, now that he is a woman, and they could settle down and have a family.
Fly did have a family once as a man. But he had a little trouble with at least one of them. He went to prison for raping his 16 year old daughter.
Here are two earlier mug shots of Fly, when he was apparently still a man – before his transition to a supposed woman.
And more recent mugs of Fly.
For now, they have only one another. They have to make the best of it. And see the best in each other.
It is crude, but the image below shows how I imagine they see each other sometimes when they desperately need to escape the boredom of being locked in a bedroom almost every hour of every day. They have only themselves to inspire each other.
They have to see with an eye of idealization, or they have only the four walls to depress them.
But perhaps this is beyond them now. And time hangs heavy.
Against the time when his transporter beams him up, or his lawyers prove the FBI tampered, or the BOP has no penological right to keep him in the SHU and must apologize for their egregious behavior, or against the time when that transporter of souls beams him up to wherever one goes when day is done, and one may forget the pusillanimous and spindly bodies that, caged in flesh, fooled the soul, fooled it into believing that one could be so low a creature as to call itself a Vanguard, and rape little girls and lie to women about motherhood, and love and being special and all that followed as if they had no souls.
The transporter worked well enough to beam him from Albany to Tucson via Mexico and Brooklyn, all the way to the SHU – he just magically appeared. And one day he will magically beam beyond, where there is none who calls itself Vanguard, and none to pay tribute or call one a Vanguard. There to rest and stop the endless prattle; to see it, as it is, an erratic exhalation, now suspended, for it takes too much errata to be the creature he is trying to hold on to being. That creature is done. But he may not know it.
One day, when his hopes are gone, when the tampering dies, when the last dingdong dead ender chooses to move on and find the fertile fields of life while they may, for time passes quickly – except in the SHU – and memories fade and they realize it was preposterous, just as it sounds to the rest of the world. Preposterous to the last of them, the last Nicki Clyne, and they leave him, and finally perishes the false and worthless notion of mouse-brained fools that he ever tried to help anyone.
And sometime after that, when hell, he thinks, will gape once more, and the last red and dying evening is not the sun going to its rest, he will see and be glad there are such things designed as transporters, though he invented them not.
Due to fate or karma, stark realities, scoundrels are whipped and burnt one day or another, mostly at sunset. Until then, they wind up in a cell with Toni Fly. They take the fall. They fell who fell. And never get out of prison until the horror grows mild and the transporter is ready.