Dismissal #5: Judge Says ‘Shotgun’ Complaint Unfair to NXIVM Defendants; May Dismiss Lawsuit

Judge Eric Komitee is presiding over the civil case against Raniere, the Bronfmans, Clyne and others.

FR is reviewing the February 1 hearing in the civil lawsuit, Sarah Edmonsdson et al, vs. Keith Raniere et al.

This is part #5.

The first three parts focused on the financial targets of the lawsuit, Clare and Sara Bronfman.

The fourth part dealt with Nicki Clyne, who is a defendant, used to tie in Bronfman conduct with the greater NXIVM/DOS enterprise.

The other defendants from whom the plaintiffs ostensibly seek money are Keith Raniere, Kathy Russell, Allison Mack, Danielle Roberts and Brandon Porter. None of them have enough to justify a multi year, 70- plaintiff, dozen-attorney lawsuit.

Raniere, Mack and Russell are not mounting a defense.

Clyne, Porter and Roberts represent themselves pro se.

Clare and Sara Bronfman supported Keith Raniere and helped him continue with his NXIVM endeavors, and/or racketeering enterprise. They are the reason for the civil lawsuit.

PT #1 Hearing: Motions to Dismiss in Edmondson v Raniere: Clare Bronfman RICO

Part # 2 Motion to Dismiss: Plaintiffs Allege Clare Bronfman Responsible for Raniere’s False Claims About Himself, Teachings

Part #3 Motion to Dismiss: Judge Tests Whether Complaint Has Enough to Keep Sara Bronfman in Lawsuit

Part #4: Judge Considers Dismissing Trafficking Claim Against Clyne; Compares Herself to Edmondson & Camila

At the hearing in the US District Court for the Eastern District of NY, after the Court, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and Nicki Clyne discussed claims against her, and whether they were legally sufficient, the  judge signaled the plaintiffs’ complaint would likely be dismissed.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs used, the judge said, “a shotgun” approach, where they lump all plaintiffs together into every alleged injury suffered, while accusing all defendants as if they were all responsible for every harm to every defendant.

The shotgun is impermissible, and grounds for dismissal. Of course, the shotgun was aimed at the only defendants worth suing in this matter, the Bronfmans.

The main author of the plaintiffs’ complaint, lead attorney Neil Glazer, was absent at the hearing.

The following exchange between plaintiff’s attorney William E. Hoese, of Kohn Swift & Graf of Philadelphia, the law firm of which Glazer is a member, and presiding Judge Eric Komitee, indicates that attorney Glazer was absent for reasons beyond his control.

Attorney Neil Glazer did not appear at the hearing held to hear oral arguments to dismiss the lawsuit he started in late 2017.

HOESE: I also want to say just that Mr. Glazer apologizes for not being able to be here today. I can’t really say anything more about it, but I just wanted to let the Court know he wanted to be here so.

THE COURT: Okay, I hope he’s all right.

HOESE: Thank you.

Then the court went to the shotgun. The judge said he previously advised the plaintiffs that there were shotgun deficiencies in the complaint. The judge now felt the plaintiffs did not correct them, despite being advised months ago.

Judge Komitee makes it clear that he will dismiss some or all of the lawsuit. What is on the table is whether he will dismiss “with prejudice,” meaning the plaintiffs are done. The lawsuit is finished. They cannot amend the complaint and sue again on the same grounds. The judge might also dismiss “without prejudice,” meaning the plaintiffs can ask the court to consider allowing them to amend the complaint.

Judge Komitee turned to one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Aitan D. Goelman, of Zuckerman Spaeder of Washington DC, for his response to the possibility that the lawsuit, or large swathes of it, is dead.

THE COURT: Mr. Goelman?

Aitan Goelman

GOELMAN: …I understand that the argument is basically ‘we [Judge Komitee] told you guys [the plaintiffs’ lawyers] that these were defects in the complaint. You had your chance, and now it’s too late…’ [dismissal with prejudice]

THE COURT: Right, but there’s still an assessment to be made [in my decision to dismiss some or all complaints] there as to the prejudice to the opposing party [defendants]. Like this case has gone on a long time…. And I’m not saying there’s a point of rule in this courtroom or anywhere else that if you’re offered an opportunity to amend [the complaint as the judge had done before with the plaintiffs] and you decline that you forfeit forever [dismissal with prejudice].

I’m saying that’s one factor, potentially, that’s relevant in the mix. Obviously, we should assess the extent to which you were really on notice [by the court] of the deficiencies at issue. How much time has passed since [the judge gave the plaintiffs notice]? … I mean, we have I think a pretty pronounced shotgun pleading problem with this complaint. And the Defendants have been saying it for a long time. The more I read the complaint, the more I come to the same conclusion… how many pages [is the complaint] in total?…

GOELMAN: Over 200.

THE COURT: Over 200 pages. And when I say tell me what are the facts that give rise to a predicate acts, I’m told [to] look at a couple of paragraphs that are hundreds of pages away from each other, and by the way, you have to interpret… you have to assess that predicate act by reference to the complaint as a whole, and draw all kinds of inferences that are not even explicitly articulated. And I might be more inclined to grant leave to amend if I thought that it would go a substantial part of the way towards solving the shotgun pleading problem.

It’s just going to make the complaint longer and more confusing, that might be relevant to the [my] analysis also. [But] not in a way that I think is helpful to you. Do you understand my question?

If it might militate against a finding of [a dismissal with] prejudice to the Defendants, if you are saying, at the same time, you ask for leave to amend [the complaint] that you’re going to simplify and streamline the complaint and make it a lot easier for everybody to understand what they’re accused of, you know.

You’ve got all kinds of claims here that you say every Plaintiff brings this claim against every Defendant, and then, you also have a thing about… multiple Plaintiffs or multiple Defendants on that claim.

How would you feel about the idea of, and I’m not saying I’m going to grant this, I’m just asking, is it possible that the amended complaint would come in substantially lighter and more focused than the complaint we have now? Because the answer to that question I think might inform the prejudice analysis you’re anticipating me making.

GOELMAN: Your Honor, are you talking about prejudice to the Defendants?


GOELMAN: Because under that paradigm, every complaint filed is prejudicial to Defendants because they have to defend against it.

THE COURT: No, no, no.


THE COURT: I’m saying the Defendants have been laboring for a year under the obligation to divine [what] they’re accused of in a complaint that really doesn’t make that clear. And [granting the plaintiffs] leave to amend it [the complaint] seems theoretically possible [but it] could make that problem either better or worse.

And if there was some concrete reason to believe that leave to amend would help focus this case substantially and tell the Plaintiffs exactly what they’re accused of doing [then] that might be relevant to the analysis [of whether to dismiss with or without prejudice]. Does that make sense and sort [of] distinguish this case from every other case in the world?

GOELMAN: I understand what the Court means. I’m still not clear about the definition of prejudice that the Court is using. But I will say this. We’ll do what the Court wants. If you tell us, if you dismiss it with leave to amend and, you know, indicate what you think the deficiencies in the complaint are, then we will attempt to write a complaint that cures those deficiencies.

The pre-motion letters by the Defendants contained allegations that the complaint was deficient in about 50 different ways. Now maybe the Court agrees with 10 of those. Maybe the Court agrees with 5 of those. I don’t think the Court agrees with all 50 of those. So it’s pretty impossible at that point, as Plaintiffs to go back and fix things, when you’re just being told to hold the whole thing sucks….

THE COURT: Well, every case has to be judged on its own merits….

GOELMAN: Can I just add one thing Your Honor?… The one claim that would be futile is if the Court agrees that because one or more Plaintiffs [Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, etc.] were also [high ranking members] in NXIVM, that inherently means they can’t be a Plaintiff in a RICO lawsuit. And that is something that the Defendants have argued. I don’t think it’s the law.

THE COURT: No, no.

GOELMAN: If it is the law, we can’t… change that.


Stay tuned for Part #6 of the hearing.

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • I am very curious to know what Mark Vicente thinks if Nancy and Lauren? Sarah has discussed many times her willing to forgive Lauren, and since part 2 of The Vow, she wants to forgive Nancy.
    Mark has not talked about forgiving anyone. I know he dealt with Nancy a lot. Did he know Lauren? Were they friends? Frank, any idea where Mark stands in forgiving these horrendous people?

  • How does Sarah Edmunson have any standing at all? She enabled and facilitated NXIVM for over a decade. Just being a “whistleblower” does not make someone a victim. She WILLINGLY got the brand then RECRUITED MORE WOMEN INTO DOS!!!!!! Let me be clear: other Plaintiffs may have legitimate claims against some of the Defendants, but my non-legal mind cannot process how Sarah is not a Defendant herself in this case. Same with Vicente, he is a snake as well.

    My one question: Will Sarahs branding video be allowed into evidence so the jury can see her enjoying it? That should blow a hole in her case.
    – Pilgrim

    • Interesting point. I’m not quite sure what the timeline is here. How long was it from when Sarah was branded to when she actually copped on the brand was Keith’s initials? I think that’s the salient part – when she realized the brand was Keith’s initials. That’s when she flipped and did a runner. I’d be astounded if she continued to recruit after that time.

      • Agreed. I would bet she found out after she recruited, however she was ok with the brand. The contents and meaning of it are not really important.

        • If it was me, I’d be super pissed to see it was his initials rather than the 4 elements. I’d feel like a cow that had been branded as Raniere’s property, and that would really shed a different light on the whole master-slave thing. And of course wouldn’t where the brand had actually been placed seem even worse?

          • There is a huge difference between a brand of the four elements and a brand of Raniere initials. Earth wind water and fire combined are infinitely inferior and less pleasing than sporting K.R. On your groin. Ask any Dossier member.

            But seriously the deception is abhorrent.

            And shows Raniere is lacking in total common sense if he thought that would not catch up with him and his followers. He was supposed to be the ethicist the man in charge of their ethics – and he led them to disaster. Because of a lack of ethics.

          • “But seriously the deception is abhorrent.’

            “And shows Raniere is lacking in total common sense if he thought that would not catch up with him and his followers. He was supposed to be the ethicist the man in charge of their ethics – and he led them to disaster. Because of a lack of ethics.”

            Well said, amici.

            This is exactly true.


          • “Earth wind water and fire combined are infinitely inferior and less pleasing than sporting K.R. On your groin. Ask any Dossier member.”
            Well said! LMAO!

      • She realized right away ( she said in the mirror) however she took at least 6 months to say anything about it…

        • That’s actually not what she said. Another woman in the cult saw the initials in the brand when Sarah showed her.

          But who cares?

          Sarah was blackmailed and realized everyone she knew for over ten years and trusted was lying to her.

          It was pretty level-headed to think and plan an escape. Especially after Sarah witnessed first hand what happened to defectors.

          She exhibited a lot of control. Another choice would have been to go to Albany and punch some faces.

          But that would have been the wrong move

        • 6 months? Wow! I didn’t get that impression when I saw her interviewed about it.

          Frank – do you have any info on this?

          • I don’t know when Sarah found out it was Raniere initials. I think she was afriad of making it known she was breaking with Raniere and Lauren at first and offered some pretense about her grandmother To escape from them.

            Nippy appeared upset about the brand being her initials and there was a memorable tape wherein he is wroth with Lauren and Jim Del Negro

            But I do not know the motives or why she pulled out. I do know she was out of it by May 2017.

          • Thanks Frank. Yeah, I remember in an interview she described how Nippy just flipped and threatened to pull the place asunder, but the impression I got was that her departure was pretty immediate – like the next day or something. I very much doubt she did any recruiting after that.

          • She knew by Dec 2016…

            I believe she pulled out when she became pregnant with her second child more than likely

            Made her money, wanted an easier life

    • Introducing Sarah’s branding tape would be a risky move because it opens it up for questioning about participating in the editing by Nicki Clyne and Nicki being a partreleasing of the tape to the media

      Because the tape was collateral. Or as the world knows it’s really blackmail it would also open up a discussion about that and Where is the collateral?

      It’s also very gruesome for the average person. No matter what the loyalists try to portray The Branding looks brutal, primitive, painful, unhygenic ritualistic and it’s not going to help them.

      If the branding was such z joy why don’t the dead-enders release their OWN branding ceremonies?


      • I have seen the branding video. It won’t help either side but it might be introduced as evidence. It was in the licensing revocation case against DR. Roberts bad she lost her license.

      • Hello!!
        Lauren released the branding tape ,you know, the woman who recruited her with her mom being president of the company AND BOTH have been dropped from said suit!

  • This is potentially really a big deal for the people directly involved particularly the defendants. But even if it gets thrown out that 120 years for their Vanguard will stand. And the loyalist will try to pretend that somehow the civil suit being dropped reflects on the unfairness of the criminal charges. But they’re never getting Keith out of prison. The civil suit is mainly interesting if they go forward because people want to hear the discovery. But observers who aren’t directly involved are not nearly as invested in this as the dead Enders and their crew. Keith will never get out of prison. And that’s a huge victory for justice and all the victims. Anything else is just gravy. Vegan gravy because of the lifestyle of most of the ESP folks. But still just gravy

    • I don’t remember the entire complaint, but it sounds like he may dismiss the RICO count, but, if there’s state claims, keep those.

      That would remand it to state court for state claims, as the federal statute would be gone.

      Is there more than one Federal statute plead? Are there state claims?

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com