The Subject of the Alleged Contraband was Never Identified By Anyone Who Knew Them.
By Suneel Chakravorty
First, I do not condone sexual assault, whether it is against women, men, transgender, and certainly not against minors. If Keith Raniere is guilty of such a crime, I support his prosecution.
Also, as opposed to your snide inferences, I do not worship Raniere. Painting me as someone who “worships” Raniere is ad hominem and misdirection. I wonder if you are afraid of going toe-to-toe with me on facts?
As I have stated, I am not questioning Raniere’s guilt or innocence on the allegation of sexual abuse of Camila. I am questioning the guilt or innocence of FBI agents and prosecutors. I am questioning whether they used competent evidence in getting a conviction on the child pornography and sexual exploitation predicate acts for racketeering charges.
FBI expert witness Brian Booth’s so-called ‘best evidence’ was unreliable. Booth misrepresented its reliability, which even you, with your confirmation-bias-tinted designer sunglasses, were able to see.
Second, and I don’t know if you noticed this, it’s probably something you were willfully blind to considering, which is, WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE THAT THE PHOTOS WERE OF CAMI.
Before you and your readers go apoplectic, let us veer to other evidence first. We will get back to Cami after you had a chance to calm down.
EXIF Data Is ‘Poor’ Evidence
Even if it were true that Raniere and Camila began a relationship when she was 15, and he took photos of her, that does not mean the government had the evidence to prove it.
Camila did not testify and the best evidence for proving naked photos were taken in 2005, when she would have been underage, was EXIF data. We’ve already proven EXIF data is easy to change. We can do it.
For some bizarre reason, no one asked Booth the question:
Q: Mr. Booth, you say EXIF data is hard to change or alter, but do you have anybody working at the FBI, or can you, yourself, change or alter EXIF data?
2005 Was The Year – Or Was It?
Right from the start, in her opening statement, AUSA Hajjar mentioned the naked photos of Camila.
May 7, 2019:
MS. HAJJAR: The defendant started having sex with Camila when she was just 15, the age she is in this photograph. At that time, the defendant was 45.
The defendant took graphic, naked photographs of Camila, close-up photographs of her private parts. These images are child pornography and possessing them and producing them is a crime. During the course of this trial, you will learn that these photographs of Camila were only part of the defendant’s collection. He took dozens of explicit photographs of women’s private parts that he kept in a folder on its computer which he labeled his “studies,” his souvenirs. And over the years, the defendant collected hundreds more of the same kind of photographs, graphic naked photographs, posed the same way that Camila’s were….
What About Lauren Salzman?
Hajjar points out that naked photos were taken of adult women,- as well as Cami in 2005 and then over the years.
Naked photos were mentioned in Lauren Salzman’s testimony. Not naked pictures of Cami but naked pictures of Lauren herself, taken from the same camera, according to EXIF data, during the same year, 2005, according to EXIF data.
This testimony was elicited to tie in Lauren’s naked pictures in which she posed the same way as Camila allegedly did to show that the Cami photos are properly dated to 2005.
The best evidence to establish Lauren’s photos were authentic would have been to show Lauren her photos, and ask, “Are those your photos? Were they taken in 2005? Were they taken by Raniere with his camera? Was it on these dates as shown in the EXIF data?”
They could have blurred out private parts, if decency was a concern (although they had no concerns showing Lauren’s pictures to the defense, the judge and the jury). All saw her naked photos, yet somehow they didn’t show Lauren her pictures and ask her to identify them. Why?
Was it because the pictures were taken later?
They asked her to describe the pictures, which the jury would later see, but did not show them to her for identification. If they had this would have permitted the defense to cross examine her on the authenticity of the dates.
Here’s her testimony:
Direct examination by Tanya Hajjar, May 17, 2019
HAJJAR: Did there come a time when the defendant took intimate photographs of you?
L. SALZMAN: Yes… Somewhere before 2006. Like around 2005… I remember that we had been intimate and… there was like a shelf above the bed, and there was a camera. And he took the camera and said that he wanted to take a picture of me. And I was very shy about that and didn’t want to have a picture taken of me. And he was like, no, let me. It’s going to be nice.
And so he took, I think, two pictures. But they were like — they were looking up at me from like the angle of — it’s like an up-close crotch shot, like — like vagina looking up where you could see my whole upper body and face.
HAJJAR: Did you see the photographs at the time the defendant took them?
L. SALZMAN: I saw one briefly. Quickly.
HAJJAR: And did that photograph show what you just described to the jury?
L. SALZMAN: Yes.
They had Lauren’s photos. If they wanted to establish the photos were of the date 2005, why didn’t they show the pictures to her? Hajjar said he took photos over the years. Lauren may have posed for more nude photos. The pictures could have been taken later, but it was important to date them to 2005 to tie into Cami photos. If they were taken in 2008, there wouldn’t have been a case of child pornography and exploitation of a child.
Yet, neither the prosecution nor the defense required Lauren to identify her photos. Why?
Never Showed Daniela Her Pictures
Daniela is the older sister of Camila. She posed for nude photos. She too was questioned about her photos.
Direct Examination of Daniela by Moira Kim Penza, May 23, 2019
PENZA: Did the defendant ever take naked pictures of you?
PENZA: Do you remember when that was?
DANIELA: I remember the period of time. I think it was around — after I crossed, before the fight — it would have been, like, around 2005, somewhere around 2005.
PENZA: What do you remember about that?
DANIELA: I remember he got a camera. I remember he was looking for a camera and he got a camera .. I think it was, like, a Cannon camera. It was a big one. Not a small one. It was a big, professional camera….
PENZA: Do you remember all of the pictures?
DANIELA: No. I — no. I remember we were by the couch, and he asked me to remove my pants and my panties and he was — you know, covered — I remember covering myself with my hands and I remember him telling me to move them and telling me to spread my legs and I remember wanting it to stop. I remember asking what do you want my picture for. And I don’t remember what else….
Dani testified she posed for photos in 2005. The government had in evidence photos they said were taken of her in 2005. Why didn’t they show her the photos and ask her to identify that they were the photos taken in 2005?
They might have been taken later. Ask yourself, why was the jury shown naked pictures of Daniela and Lauren but the two witnesses who testified that they posed for naked pictures in 2005, were not asked to identify their pictures.
To my mind, there had to be a reason: The pictures weren’t taken in 2005 and they didn’t want to risk Daniela or Lauren committing perjury.
Daniela was asked about her sister’s appendectomy scar to help establish that the Cami photos were taken when she was underage.
May 28, 2019, Direct Examination of Daniela by Penza
PENZA: While your sister Camila was under 18, did she ever have any medical issues?
PENZA: Can you explain?
DANIELA: She had — she had appendicitis. She was, she had appendicitis and she had to have a surgical, severe surgical procedure when she was — it was around 2007, early 2007.
PENZA: What do you remember about the surgery?
DANIELA: I remember, I remember, it was very expensive. She didn’t have health insurance. I remember it was long. We were worried and there was — I remember her wound. I remember after the surgery, there was a big, like, a big hole in, in the, and it needed to be, like, drained every certain period of time like throughout the day.
Q Can you explain where on her body the wound was?
DANIELA: Yes. It was in her, you know, in the lower — I don’t know what that part is called.
THE COURT: Abdomen.
DANIELA: In her lower abdomen. In the —
THE COURT: You can stand up and show on your body where it was?
DANIELA: Okay. So in her lower abdomen. (Indicating.)
THE COURT: On the right side, correct?
DANIELA: Yes, as I remember, on the right side. And like a big slit. It was, like, a slit that was wide open. It was wide open. I remember my mom used to take — may I sit down now?
THE COURT: Yes, you may sit.
Daniela appeared to not know the word ‘abdomen’ and had to stand up to show the body part she meant.
This is not a woman who speaks in broken English. During her testimony we hear Daniela say sentences like this:
My childhood was idyllic
We grew up in a relatively-abundant, financially, setting.
We went to private school, we had English lessons, tennis lessons.
I learned to program in a pretty archaic languaging program
How many distinct spaces can be created by three cubes that are intersected
What’s the most 3-D spaces that can be created by three cubes intersecting each other.
It’s a spatial type of — yes, it has a basis in geometry and math…. There were others that were more like brainteasers?
Much was made of the fact that there’s no appendectomy scar on the lower abdomen in the photos of Camila. It was Daniela who said Camila had an appendectomy when she was 16 meaning she must have been 16 or younger in the photographs, for there was no appendectomy scar visible.
Yet, they never showed Daniela the pictures of Cami without the scar for her to identify. They never asked, “Is this your sister? Does this indicate to you that she was under the age off 16 because there is no scar?”
Why did they not show Dani the photos of Camila for identification? You could argue, it would be too graphic, but they could have blurred out the genitals and still shown the … what do you call it – the “abdomen” of Camila, and her face — to get best evidence that the photos were Camila.
There must have been a reason for not showing Daniela the pictures of her sister. Maybe they weren’t Camila or were not taken on the date the EXIF data purports to show. Perhaps the government knew the pictures weren’t real, and that Dani knew. She might have been cross-examined about whether she had seen those pictures before or if they were ever in her possession. she might have been asked if she was the one who provided the government with them.
How were Cami’s pictures identified? Answer: They were not identified by anyone who knew Cami.
The so-called photos of Camila were brought in by FBI agent Maeghan Rees, who carried them in a red binder. First, she brought them to the judge, and, as I recall, the judge looked at them and, with dramatic flourish, put his hands to his eyes then turned away.
Raniere was not shown the photos so he had no opportunity to advise his attorneys whether they were photos of Camila or not. Rees showed the jurors the photos in the binder, one by one, and the jury barely glanced at them and turned away.
Glimpse or gander, stare, ogle or study, it wouldn’t have made a difference, because there’s not a person on the jury who met Cami. They couldn’t have identified her at 15, or 18 or even if it was her or her lookalike sister, Daniela.
What proof was there that it was Cami?
Testimony of FBI SA Michael Weniger
Marc Agnifilo stipulated for the defense that the naked photos of adults were Lauren Salzman, Angel Smith, Barbara Jeske, Dawn Morrison, Daniela, Barbara Bouchey, Loreta Garza, Pamela Cafritz and Marianna together, Monica Duran and Kathy Russell.
This stipulation, marked as Government Exhibit 252, is admissible in evidence.
Yet, I see no place where Agnifilo stipulated that the photos allegedly of Camila were Camila.
We don’t have the defense saying these were Cami’s photos. but, if they knew they were photos of Cami, why didn’t they stipulate?
Camila did not testify. But someone who knew her could have identified her in the photos. That would be best evidence. Yet not Daniela, not Lauren who knew Camila, or any number of people could have been called, like Adrianna her mother, or Adrian, the brother, were called to testify “Yes, that’s Cami. That’s her face. I know it’s different than Daniela’s. That’s Cami when she was fifteen.”
None who knew here were called to identify the Cami photos. Who identified the photos as being Cami?
FBI Special Agent Michael Weniger.
Here’s the testimony:
June 14, 2019, Direct Examination of Weniger by Penza
PENZA: Special Agent Weniger, you said you also reviewed the photographs that were in the folder marked V?
PENZA: And those were photographs that you identified as being of Camila?
PENZA: Did you take any addition — in addition to the steps that we talked about yesterday in terms of the forensics, were there any other steps taken to identify her age in those photos?
PENZA: Can you explain?
WENIGER: Yes. Late in the investigation but before trial began, we had a conversation with a witness who indicated that Camila had surgery when she was a teenager on her appendix…. we verified that information…. We re-reviewed the medical records… obtained from McGinnis Medical Clinic… which did, in fact, reflect an appendectomy when Camila was at the age of 16….
PENZA: showed Weniger the medical reports.
PENZA: … Camila had appendix surgery on January 9, 2007?
WENIGER: That’s correct.
PENZA: And have you reviewed photographs of Camila from after January 2007?
WENIGER: I have.
PENZA: And you’ve reviewed photographs up until how recently?
WENIGER: … Yes, as recently as… 2017, 2018.
PENZA: And in those photographs is there any scar visible from this appendix surgery?
WENIGER: In those photographs, there are. The scars are reflected in those photographs.
PENZA: After January 9, 2007, the scars were reflected?
PENZA: And did you review those photographs and compare them with the photographs that were within the Studies folder under V? [the ones with the EXIF data of 2005]
WENIGER: Yes, I did.
PENZA: And what did you determine?
WENIGER: I determined that in the Studies folder those images do not reflect a scar where the appendectomy occurred.
PENZA: And so what did that tell you?
WENIGER: That told me that… those photographs were taken before the appendectomy surgery in 2007. I should add that the appendectomy surgery occurred when Camila was 16 years old.
Weniger testified there are no scars in the photos, so the inference is Camila is underage. Still, Weniger doesn’t know Cami. Cami allegedly wasn’t available to be interviewed until after the trial.
How could he know it was Cami in the scarless photos?
There was no testimony elicited that he was a facial recognition expert. Our only evidence that these were Cami’s photos was a man who never met Cami. He was never cross-examined about how he knew they were Cami’s photos – in my opinion, a lapse on the part of the defense.
This trial was conducted without anybody proving those are Cami’s photos, and there were plenty of opportunities to get witness validation of the identity of the person photographed.
The only person who identified the pictures was an FBI agent who never met her and the only thing that dated the pictures was an FBI employee who spoke of EXIF data as if it was inviolable.
How do we even know the photos are of Cami?