Judge Decides Who Qualifies for Victim Restitution despite Their Claims Not being Proven at Trial

Judge Decides Who Qualifies for Victim Restitution despite Their Claims Not being Proven at Trial

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis will soon determine what victims Keith Raniere must pay restitution to and for how much. The judge has almost unilateral power to declare a person a victim of Keith Raniere.

The prosecution seems to have corralled many of the almost 100 individuals into writing victim impact statements and into filing restitution claims, with a little help from Neil Glazer, an attorney who represents many of them.

Most of these individuals were not determined to be victims in the trial.  

Judge Garaufis gets to decide who is a victim and who gets what amount of money, for people he mostly never met, and whose claims of victimization he cannot possibly vet, and then will order the taking of citizen Raniere’s money from that citizen without – in almost every instance – any of the allegations being subjected to the rigors of trial.

There will be no one under oath, no testimony elicited, no cross-examination, no documents to be admitted as evidence, and no jury to listen and judge the veracity of their claims of victimhood.

All a claimant has to do is write a letter describing her or his victimization in any language they care to choose, knowing full well that the greater the harm is laid out, the greater the chance of a bigger payout.

Knowing that there is a limited pot of gold at the end of the Raniere rainbow, I can well imagine contestants competing in their tales of Raniere-horror.

I heard one woman, Toni Natalie, who is said to be seeking restitution, reportedly fabricated the cause of the death of her own brother, who she claims committed suicide because of his despondency over how Keith Raniere was allegedly treating his sister.

According to this publication, Frank Parlato interviewed the brother’s longtime live-in girlfriend who told Parlato that Natalie’s brother died of a heart attack, and she had the autopsy to prove it. 

Who’s telling the truth, the live-in girlfriend of the deceased or his sister?

I cannot imagine the judge will order a copy of the autopsy to vet this claim or any of the other claims made by the 100 other individuals aspiring to qualify for restitution.  

Had Natalie been subjected to any of the rigors of due process, she would have been required to produce an autopsy, or the defense would have produced it, to show the jury before she could claim this harm she endured because of her brother’s suicide.

In other words, a serious claim of suicide would have to be proven to be a suicide before it would even be determined if the defendant had a role in that suicide. This would be true even in a civil lawsuit.

But under the rules in this case, the judge just gets to choose who he believes, without evidence.

There is no compelling reason for so-called victims not to embellish, or lie even, since they know they will not be questioned, no one will vet their stories, and the more harrowing the tale of victimhood, the greater the chances at receiving restitution money.

There is no safeguard to ensure claimants to restitution are telling the truth.

This is a shoddy way to pursue justice. 

Of course, it is easy to go along with granting a judge this kind of awesome power to create victims out of whole cloth, for, in Raniere’s case, anyone who can craft a narrative that fits the judge’s sense of who he is, may get money and be declared a victim, and no one will complain. 

The whole world hates Raniere – they’d rather see anyone get money, even under false pretenses, rather than let Raniere keep a dime of it.

Yet, this concept cannot possibly appeal to those who can look beyond their dislike of Keith Raniere. It is not about Raniere but about the system. A judge simply should not have the power to declare anyone a victim who was not so declared a victim by a jury at trial.

There must be a better process than a federal judge merely deciding what to do with someone’s money based on someone else’s story of victimization for behavior not criminally charged and not proven in a court of law.

This judicial creation of victims by fiat is not justice.