Government Misled Jury About Camila’s Age When Reading Raniere Text Messages
For several hours on June 5, 2019, at the trial of Keith Raniere, Assistant US Attorney Tanya Hajjar and FBI Special Agent Maeghan Rees performed a live reading of purported text messages between Keith Raniere and ‘Camila.’
Hajjar performed the role of Raniere while Rees played Camila.
Many of these messages were raunchy in nature.
Up until this point in the trial, Camila had been presented as a fifteen-year-old Mexican girl.
It is common sense that without explicitly telling the jury how old Camila was when these messages were sent, they would subconsciously feel that she was still a teenager, and be repulsed by such messages between a middle-aged man and a teenager.
But in fact, Camila was 24-years-old at the time.
24-years old is how old Hedy Lamarr was when she became a star in the film Algiers. She later went on to invent a radio guidance system during World War II.
21-years-old is how old Sarla Thakral was when she became the first Indian woman to fly, in 1936.
Suffice it to say that a female in her twenties is not a child. She is a woman, equal to any man in her standing as an adult, presumed capable of making adult decisions.
Despite this fact, I believe the public, and likely the jury got the impression these texts were between Keith and a teenaged Camila, because of how the texts were introduced.
Before prosecutor Tanya Hajjar and FBI Special Agent Maeghan Rees did their live reading of the ‘texts’, Hajjar referred to an email from when Camila would have been eighteen years old.
HAJJAR: What is the date of issue on the passport?
REES: May 23rd, 2008.
HAJJAR: So based on Camila’s birthday of March 1st, she’s approximately — she’s 18 years old? [p. 3450]
Then, without explaining that Camila was actually 24 when she texted Raniere, [and leaving the jury with the impression that she was 18, hence the question about the age when she got her passport] Hajjar brought up the alleged Keith-Camila ‘texts’ from 2014 [six years later], the first one being as follows:
HAJJAR: Can you read the message sent by Camila on October 31st at 1:25 p.m.?
REES: Not only were you supposed to be my partner and my love, but you are also Vanguard. [p. 3453]
Hajjar did not explicitly inform the jury that these messages were not from a young, barely adult, 18-year-old Camila but rather from a 24-year-old adult woman.
Some might consider this a benign omission. They may be correct. In my opinion, this was a masterful sleight of hand.
Shortly thereafter, Hajjar and Rees go onto the following, infamous exchange between Keith and Camila [p. 3471 – 3472].
BY MS. HAJJAR:
Q Keith Raniere: Do you have physical desire?
[FBI Special Agent Rees] A Can emotional be enough?
Q If you want me to come tonight. I will under these conditions: There will be no talking. You will meet me at the door in the outfit you think I would find sexiest. You will arouse me, we will make love for my satisfaction and pleasure. You will do everything you can to provide that. I will finish and leave. Do you agree yes or no?
A Is there a reason why you picked 4:00 a.m. for this?
Q Forget it then.
A No no no.
A Why no talking.
A I don’t understand what’s going on!
Q Too much pride. I’ll text you tomorrow.
On the face of it, without additional context, it seems Keith is being a selfish partner. If Camila was 18-years-old, perhaps this could be seen as manipulative.
But in fact, she was a fully-adult 24-year-old woman. Is it a crime to be a selfish male partner to a 24-year-old woman?
Amazingly the judge, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, did a more extreme type of misrepresentation in how he introduced the “arouse me” text message at sentencing. Keep in mind that an adult man sending an adult woman an apparently selfish, demanding sexual message is not a crime.
JUDGE GARAUFIS: “Years after they met, Mr. Raniere told Camila he knew she was “special” ever since they first met each other when she was 13. Mr. Raniere exerted control over this child in every way imaginable. In one message, Mr. Raniere wrote her: “If you want me to come tonight, I will under these conditions: There will be no talking. You will meet me at the door in the outfit you think I would find sexiest. You will arouse me, we will make love for my satisfaction and pleasure. You will do everything you can to provide that. I will finish and leave. Do you agree yes or no?” [p. 145, Sentencing Transcript]
Garaufis calls Camila a 13-year-old, then a child, and then references the same sexual text message, as if Keith had sent it to a child – odious, repugnant behavior, of which common decency demands a 120-year sentence.
Except Camila was a 24-year-old, adult woman when Keith sent her that message.