Below you’ll find an anlysis of each charge as well as the trial transcripts for US v. Keith Raniere.
The case of Keith Raniere has been a deeply controversial one. The media’s relentless coverage of his trial and conviction has left the public with an unequivocal belief in his guilt, and with his personal growth company NXIVM that offered classes to 17,000 students over 20 years being falsely labeled as a “sex cult.” However, as we delve into the case and examine the evidence, it becomes apparent that our perception of Mr. Raniere’s guilt may have been influenced by prejudice, sensationalism, and incomplete information. After all, he was sentenced to 120 years in prison without a single charge involving violence, weapons, drugs, rape, or even his having sex with anyone. Most alarmingly, the FBI manipulated evidence and framed Mr. Raniere with child pornography charges. The manipulation, fabrication and planting of this evidence has been proven in recent years, after the trial, by seven independent forensic experts, including four former FBI examiners. In the following analysis, we will meticulously examine the legal proceedings and evidence for each charge in the case, revealing that Mr. Raniere’s innocence is not as implausible as it may seem. In fact, by the end of this document, you will see that despite the overwhelming perception of guilt, Mr. Raniere is actually innocent of all of his charges. This can be shown by just what was presented at trial, and there is additional evidence, not used at trial or not available at trial, that makes this even more clear.
There were seven counts introduced in the trial indictment. The “meat” of the case is in the Racketeering count (Count 2), as most of the other counts are duplicates of alleged racketeering acts, so debunking the Racketeering debunks almost the entirety of the case. Let’s begin there.
Important Note: Please keep in mind that for Racketeering (RICO), because of the statute of limitations, there needed to be a predicate act occurring on or after July 2013. The alleged acts that occur in that time period are highlighted in GREEN below. Without any of those, Racketeering and Racketeering Conspiracy are knocked out. Additionally, without RICO, Mr. Raniere’s co-defendants’ charges fall away as well, as they were charged under RICO, and most of them took plea deals and are currently in prison.
The Racketeering count was a hodge-podge of unrelated acts that shared no tangible common criminal purpose, however the government argued that the “inner circle” of friends and associates of Mr. Raniere was the enterprise and their common purpose was to promote him for their own benefit. Mr. Raniere, as part of the activities of this ‘enterprise,’ was alleged to have participated in eleven predicate acts.The actual conduct underlying each predicate act does not meet the elements of the criminal statute, and many of them seem absurd to have been brought as charges in a criminal case. They are summarized briefly below, after a summary of the relevant people involved.
In the following predicate acts, it will be clear that the government ‘created’ criminal charges against Mr. Raniere by twisting non-criminal conduct to try to fit the legal statutes, blaming him for Daniela’s criminal conduct, and using doctored child pornography “evidence.” He is innocent of each of the following alleged acts.
Contrary to public perception, none of the acts alleged involved sex with Mr. Raniere. Each of the predicate acts are broken down in more detail below, followed by the other counts of indictment.
*Note: Without Acts 2-4 and 9-11, RICO falls away, due to statute of limitations.
The government’s key witness, Daniela, testified that around Christmas Eve 2004, at age 19, she flew from Mexico to Canada and then illegally crossed over the border from Canada to the US using a fake ID. She said that Mr. Raniere came up with the plan and arranged for Kathy Russell, a co-defendant, to go to Canada and help to drive Daniela back to Albany. Daniela used a fake sheriff’s ID for an Ashana Chenoa, and records show that a Lisa Chenoa was a deceased person who had the same DOB as the fake sheriff’s ID. Additionally, border-crossing records show that an Ashana Chenoa did cross-over around Christmas 2004. Thus it appears that Daniela did in fact commit a crime, however, there was no proof, apart from Daniela’s testimony, that Mr. Raniere was involved in this plan. There are also several inconsistencies, contradictions, and problems with Daniela’s story, which alleged that this was all Mr. Raniere’s plan and that it happened the way she testified. For example Daniela claimed that the woman who provided her transportation crossed over to Canada and then back with her, but there is no customs record of that person crossing the border even once. Read more here (Summary of RA 1).
The government presented nude photos of a female on a hard drive that they seized in March 2018 from a townhouse that Mr. Raniere used. They relied on timestamps in the photo metadata to argue that these photos were taken in 2005, and that 22 of them were of a subject who would have been 15 at that time. In recent years, after the trial, seven independent forensic experts, including four former FBI examiners, have each concluded that the digital evidence (a hard drive and camera card) was extensively fabricated and manipulated, and that the photos on the hard drive were planted. They also found that some evidence manipulation occurred in FBI custody, which was confirmed under oath by the government’s FBI witness himself, along with many violations of critical evidentiary protocol, breaking of the chain of custody, and perjury by the FBI’s expert about the reliability of using the timestamps as evidence of when the photos were taken. These unreliable and manipulated timestamps are what the government used to calculate the age of the subject in the photos, therefore classifying her as underage and classifying the photos as child pornography. Thus, not only is Mr. Raniere innocent of these heinous charges, but he was framed through evidence manipulation involving criminal acts by FBI/DOJ personnel. Read more here (Report of Evidence Manipulation by FBI/DOJ Personnel).
Daniela testified that around 2005-2006, she attempted to hack into the emails of Kim Snyder and Joe O’Hara unsuccessfully. Then, using a technique called ‘keylogging,’ successfully hacked into the email accounts of Edgar Bronfman and James Loperfido. Thus, according to her, she again had engaged in criminal conduct. Just like with her illegal border crossing, she said that this was Keith’s plan and that he asked her to do it, but there is no hard evidence that Keith was involved or even knew about these in these hacking efforts. Read more here (Summary of RA 5).
The government alleged that in 2008, Keith Raniere conspired with Mark Vicente, Kristin Keeffe, Nancy Salzman, and others and altered video tapes used in a civil case against Stephanie Franco, specifically that health claims were purportedly edited out of educational videos. However, there was no allegation that any specific claim had been edited out, nor any evidence showing any videotape turned over in that suit that was actually altered. Read more here (Summary of RA 6).
Daniela testified that in 2008, at Mr. Raniere’s request, she keylogged one of Pam’s computers Daniela said the purpose of the keylogging was to capture Marianna’s email and Facebook account. There is evidence that Keith was involved in this keylogging effort, however, Marianna has never claimed this was not authorized nor has she claimed to be a victim. This was not criminal, but a private matter between romantic partners that took place over a decade ago. Marianna and Keith have stayed together and in 2017, almost a decade later, she and Mr. Raniere had a son. Read more here (Summary of RA 7).
The government alleged that in 2010, Mr. Raniere orchestrated, along with Lauren Salzman and Daniela’s family, that Daniela, then age 22, be confined to a room or be sent back to Mexico, and while in the room she had to complete a book report. Daniela testified that her identification documents were taken from her, though she says not by whom. This intervention from her family was after a string of alarming behavior from Daniela, including multiple instances of theft, including from local retail stores. Perhaps a bizarre-sounding family intervention, this was that, a family working with Mr. Raniere and Ms. Salzman to help correct a growing string of destructive, criminal behaviors. What should have been a weekend in her bedroom, which was unlocked, in her family’s home, where her family was living, to contemplate her actions and make a plan to make things right, and finish a book report that had been assigned to her turned into a battle of wills where Daniela stayed in that room, rent-free, for 22 months, being fed 3 meals a day by her family, and often sneaking out, but never completing that book report. At some point, for a period of time, her mother went into the adjoining room and, as a penance or type of encouragement or solidarity, took on the same limitations of staying in her room. Ultimately, Daniela left the room, and her father and Kristin Keeffe drove her to Texas to cross the border, where her father had arranged for his work colleague to pick Daniela up. Note that along the way, Daniela admitted she stole money from her father. Whatever this situation was, it was not Mr. Raniere trafficking Daniela for forced labor and document servitude, nor was there criminal intent. Instead, it was Daniela’s defiance to not correct her bad behaviors that led this to be a battle of wills. This was a personal family matter that Mr. Raniere had provided advice to the family who were actively and knowingly involved in this disciplinary action.
The government alleged that Mr. Raniere aided and abetted the extortion of members of DOS to obtain property in the form of ‘collateral.’ Specifically, Nicole, a DOS member underneath Allison Mack, testified that the fear of her collateral being released is why she kept submitting more. See Trial Transcript Pg. 4017. The government presented the narrative that collateral was a mechanism of extortion, however the actual testimony presented shows collateral was not a mechanism of extortion, and was not intended to be, and the purpose of collateral was not to obtain property. Collateral was part of a voluntary agreement of membership in DOS. This is evident from the testimony of Lauren Salzman, a ‘first-line’ member of DOS, who described a rigorous, two-step process of recruitment, as well as the testimony of Nicole as to her process of being recruited into DOS.
Ms. Salzman testified that first a woman would be invited to learn about DOS. Before she could learn the information, she would need to give ‘collateral,’ something that would ensure she would keep the information secret. Several women declined to give collateral at this stage, indicating that of course they had a choice. If she wanted to learn that information, she would give collateral, and would then learn the four key elements of membership in DOS: (1) a brand, (2) a piece of jewelry to be worn at all times, (3) terminology of “master” and “slave”, and (4) lifetime vow of obedience to the one who recruited them. These conditions were meant to represent and reinforce the woman’s solemn and serious lifetime commitment to her growth, in this extreme mentorship, philosophically intended to provide true accountability, without societal influences which tend to coddle women, when they are faced with adversity, and hold them to a lesser standard than men.
After hearing these extreme conditions, a woman could either decline, or they could join. Some women declined. If they wanted to join, they would be required to collateralize their ‘vow’ by submitting additional collateral. Again, at each stage of this process, the collateral had a specific purpose and a specific scope and was voluntary.
All DOS recruits were adult women capable of consenting or not to these stages of the process. They knew that once in DOS, they were expected to obey their master. The “master-slave” mentorship relationship, inspired in part by Eastern philosophy, was a selling point of DOS, not a nasty surprise. Typically the “master” was a close, trusted friend of many years who cared for them and whom they respected and wanted to grow with. These terms were not meant literally, and in as much as the “slave” would be obedient to the “master,” the “master” took on a lifetime responsibility to be a mentor to the “slave.” Total obedience to one’s master of course would include the giving of additional collateral, the purpose of which Ms. Salzman explained was to solve the issue that existing collateral would sometimes no longer become current, for example control over a credit card that had expired. The practice of collateral was a voluntary one that the members of DOS understood was to back their word and their personal commitment to joining this group, which was a way for them to grow personally through a trusted network of lifelong female friends.
Nicole testified that this is how Allison Mack explained the purpose of collateral, and that is also what Ms. Salzman testified to. The purpose was not to obtain property, whether it be nude photos, damning letters, or access to assets.
Further illustrating the good intent of the collateral process is the fact that there were even two steps to the recruitment process. If the intent was to entrap women, you would not tell them the most extreme, possibly objectionable conditions of membership before they joined, but they did, because they wanted to be sure that those who joined knew what they were signing up for and were truly interested.
Finally, no one in DOS ever released any members’ collateral, nor did any witness testify in the trial to ever being threatened with the release of their collateral. On the contrary, there were several examples in the trial where DOS members refused to do tasks assigned by their ‘master’ or failed to do them, and the worst thing that happened was that their ‘master’ voluntarily decided to take a cold shower. This was a controversial group that used collateral to back their commitment to their membership, but it was not a group where extortion was committed. Even in Ms. Salzman’s plea and her cross-examination, she states that her intent in DOS was to do good. Allison Mack, in her plea and at her sentencing, made similar statements. The fact that Nicole testified that she felt afraid of her collateral being released and that’s why she gave additional collateral does not negate the voluntariness of the process and does not make it State Law Extortion. (Certainly many people are afraid of losing their house and that’s why they make their mortgage payments.)
10A: Sex Trafficking
The government argued that an incident on May 31, 2016 where Nicole, in Albany, received oral sex from Camila, both women in their 20’s, was an act of sex trafficking. Let’s go through each of the elements of sex trafficking:
The government made a single incident of oral sex, with no threat of collateral release and no threat of violence of any kind, into sex trafficking. Furthermore, there are additional emails, photos, and video communication between Nicole and Mr. Raniere in the year following, during which time they entered into a personal romantic relationship, which disprove the narrative that this oral sex act was an unpleasant experience or that she was at all coerced.
10B: Forced Labor
The government argued that Nicole reviewing 55 essays and transcribing 5 hours of video for Pam Cafritz’s memorial, both allegedly DOS assignments, and doing ‘acts of care’ such as helping Ms. Mack with things like groceries and coming up with a list of ideas of things to do when she came into New York City, were forced labor.
The 55 essays and 5 hours of video fell under the scope of the lifetime vow of obedience, and the essays were considered a benefit to the members as well. These tasks were part of an agreement, not ‘forced.’ Also, additional evidence, not used at trial, such as her actual ratings and reviews of those essays indicated she enjoyed reading them. As to Ms. Cafritz’s memorial, emails between Mr. Raniere and Nicole show that Nicole expressed caring sentiments and condolences and wanting to support Mr. Raniere at a time when he had lost his life partner of over 30 years tragically to cancer. Finally, the ‘acts of care,’ were akin to things that friends do for each other, and the purpose was to develop one’s caringness. It was part of being a DOS member, within the scope of DOS membership, and not forced labor.
Given the usual cases where sex trafficking and forced labor are charged, it is clear that the government tried to stretch to make the alleged conduct match these charges, but even on their face, they are absurd, and the underlying conduct was not criminal.
In November 2016, Mr. Raniere’s life partner of 30+ years, Pam Cafritz, passed away due to brain cancer. She left her estate to him. After her death, her credit card continued to be used at times by Marianna, and Mr. Raniere signed checks from her bank account to pay for certain expenses. Note that he signed in his own name, not hers, and the bank had no issue. The government charged the posthumous use of her accounts as conspiracy to commit identity theft for tax evasion. But there was no evidence this was done to evade taxes, or even could have been. This was handling finances, after a loved one who left everything to Mr. Raniere had passed away, in a similar way as before she had passed. It was not done with criminal intent. Read more here (Summary of RA 11).
As Mr. Raniere is innocent of every one of the predicate acts of Racketeering, so too is he innocent of Racketeering Conspiracy.
The government argued that Nicole, and Sylvie, reviewing the essays in DOS and the ‘acts of care’ were forced labor. However, this has been debunked in Racketeering Act 10B. Thus, Mr. Raniere is also innocent of this count.
The underlying alleged conduct is the same as Racketeering Act 9, State Law Extortion, and the debunking of coercion here is the same. Thus, Mr. Raniere is also innocent of this count.
Here the government alleged that there was a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in the form of the alleged sex trafficking of Nicole, which has been debunked in Racketeering Act 10A. They also point to an example where Sylvie testified she received oral sex from Mr. Raniere. However, this alleged incident also fails to be sex trafficking. It has no coercion, no commercial element, and no interstate component. Thus, Mr. Raniere is also innocent of this count.
The underlying alleged conduct is exactly the same as Racketeering Act 10A, and that has been debunked above. Thus, Mr. Raniere is also innocent of this count.
The alleged attempted sex trafficking was that a member of DOS, Jay, was given an assignment to get Mr. Raniere to take a nude photo of her and send it to her “master,” India Oxenberg. See Trial Transcript Pg. 4427. This was what was known as the “seduction assignment,” and was not an assignment to have sex. It had a specific purpose, to test one’s vow of obedience they had made to their “master,” not unlike certain rituals within sororities and fraternities. Jay did not do this assignment. Instead she decided to leave DOS and stole other members’ collateral to potentially use as blackmail material.
Here, the elements of sex trafficking were not met. There was no evidence of a commercial benefit on account of this attempted assignment. For interstate commerce, the government offered Jay’s flights in and out of California, however there was no evidence linking this travel with the seduction assignment, thus there was no interstate commerce component. Finally, the same analysis regarding DOS collateral, for the element of coercion, as in the above counts and predicate acts applies. There was no coercion. Here it is especially clear, because the seduction assignment never occurred and yet there was no release of collateral, or threat thereof, even after Jay stole the collateral of others’ as leverage when she left, and which she admitted in her testimony to taking and intended to potentially use as actual blackmail.