United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, who presided over the trial of Keith Raniere, has delivered what could be a death blow to Raniere’s chances of getting out of prison.
On April 14, 2023, Raniere filed the motion to compel the production of evidence to analyze and test evidence relating to the child pornography photos. Raniere was seeking:
- two forensic copies of the camera card and corresponding FfK log files;
- a file listing of the ‘Western Digital hard drive that contained images of child pornography
- CART examination notes.
Raniere includes in his motion to compel assertions that the photos of Camila were fabricated, based on a report by retired FBI agent J. Richard Kiper, which reviews the photos’ metadata and the chain of custody of evidence introduced at trial.
On July 21, 2023, the Government responded to Raniere’s motion to compel the production of evidence and Raniere’s Rule 33 motion for a new trial.
Government and FBI Experts Counter Claims of Evidence Tampering
The Government attached Camila’s declaration and a sworn declaration from a senior computer scientist with the FBI.
In this declaration, James Loveall responds to the Kiper Report, concluding that Kiper’s report “repeatedly ignores plausible explanations for observed phenomena in favor of allegations of tampering.”
On October 23, Raniere responded to the Government’s response.
He asked the court to consider only the motion to compel evidence production, not his outstanding Rule 33 motion, asserting that he needed the evidence to support his motion for a new trial properly.
In Raniere’s Reply, Judge Garaufis wrote:
“He addresses portions of Loveall’s report, but he generally does not respond to Loveall’s reasoned explanations for the metadata issues, which thoroughly refute Kiper’s key findings.
The Reply also does not respond to the Government’s review of the significant evidence introduced at trial, separate from the photos’ metadata, that demonstrates that the photos were taken by Mr. Raniere when Camila was fifteen years old.
Unfortunately for Raniere, Judge Garaufis takes the time to list the other evidence that suggests that whether the FBI tampered with evidence or not, Raniere is indeed guilty.
Evidence Goes Beyond Metadata
IIn addition to the photos, which the FBI found on a hard drive seized from Raniere’s library, Judge Garaufis points to the evidence supporting the charges, which include:
- Text messages from Camila where she referenced her sexual relationship with Raniere beginning in 2005 when she was 15;
- Communications from Raniere referencing the photos;
- Testimony from Camila’s sister that she was aware of the relationship before Fall 2006;
- A folder containing nude pictures of the other women with whom Raniere had a sexual relationship and in which the pictures of Camila were found;
- Testimony that Raniere sought to take similar pictures of other women;
- Camila’s medical records, which included statements indicating she was in a sexual relationship with the same partner since she was underage
- Testimony from Camila’s sister identifying her as the person in a sanitized version of the photos.
Lastly, Judge Garaufis notes, Raniere:
“does not respond to Camila’s declaration in which she confirms the authenticity of the photos, that she was fifteen when the photos were taken, and that Mr. Raniere took these photos at the time when he began sexually abusing her.”
On November 6, Judge Garaufis denied Raniere’s motion.
Based on the denial, things look bleak for Raniere’s Rule 33 motion for a new trial.
Keith RaniereThe judge pointed out that Raniere had access to the material he now seeks during the trial.
The judge wrote:
Prior to Mr. Raniere’s trial, the photographic evidence and the metadata relating to the photographic evidence was available to the Defendant.
Mr. Raniere’s defense team, including a retained forensic expert, was given access to review the evidence at the office of the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team (CART). And at trial, the Defendant’s counsel cross-examined FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Booth about this evidence.
Booth acknowledged in this testimony that the metadata was not reliable as to when the photos were taken and also that he was unaware of who accessed the camera card on September 19, 2018 while it was in the FBl’s possession.
Judge Garaufis concluded Raniere provided no legal justification for his request, failing to cite any cases where a court allowed post-conviction access to digital evidence that the defendant could have accessed prior to trial with due diligence.
The judge concluded Raniere does not have:
- Brady rights to this information;
- Post-conviction due process rights to this information
- The right to this information under principles of “elemental fairness.
Raniere’s motion largely relied on cases where the defense sought not camera cards or hard drive metadata evidence, but DNA evidence testing, something different from the evidence Raniere requested.
Judge Garaufis mentions in a footnote that when a defendant requests DNA evidence:
The federal statute requires, among other things, that the applicant asserts under penalty of perjury that they were actually innocent of the federal offense, id. § 3600(a)(l) and that the proposed testing would raise a “reasonable probability that the applicant did not commit the offense,” id.§ 3600(a)(8)(B).
Judge Garaufis spoke of the core of the issue– the victim, and that Raniere sought the evidence to prove the FBI was tampered with the photos of Camila, but does not claim he is innocent of the underlying crime – of taking the photos.
Camila’s Declarations Affirm Authenticity of Photos and Abuse by Raniere
Judge Garaufis wrote
Camila did not testify at Mr. Raniere’s trial, but she submitted a victim impact statement prior to his sentencing, and a sworn declaration in response to this motion.
In this declaration, Camila affirms that she reviewed each of the photographs at issue and is certain she is the subject of each of them. She vividly recalled the circumstances in which the photos were taken and that Mr. Raniere took the photos. And she confirms that the photos were taken when she was 15 years old.
In both the victim impact statement and the declaration, Camila also affirms that Mr. Raniere began to sexually abuse her in 2005, when she was 15 years old and he was 45 years old.
Raniere does not deny anywhere in his filings that he took photos of Camila in 2005 when she was 15 and possessed them in his library until 2018, when the FBI raided it and took his hard drive.
Judicial Reasoning Behind the Rejection of Raniere’s Request
Judge Garaufis wrote:
“A review of the record and the case law provided by the Defendant makes it clear that Defendant’s motion is frivolous.”
Raniere won’t get the evidence he seeks, and there is a strong possibility that this signals the judge’s feelings about the Rule 33 motion for a new trial, and that signal is, Raniere won’t get one.