Nxivm trial testimony ends with video of founder discussing child sex abuse

CNN/June 14, 2019

By Sonia Moghe

New York (CNN)As testimony in the trial of Nxivm founder Keith Raniere concluded Friday, jurors watched a video of the leader of the cult-like group discussing his views on child sex abuse.

Before resting their case after nearly six weeks of testimony, prosecutors played a video of Raniere, 58, talking about how the age of sexual consent differs in various countries and states.

"Most people scream abuse, and a lot of times the screaming of abuse is abuse in itself," Raniere said, facing the camera as he sat at a kitchen table. "Some little children are perfectly happy with it."
Prosecutors did not say when the video was shot.

Raniere is facing charges including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, human trafficking, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Prosecutors have accused Raniere of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Earlier this week, they showed jurors graphic photos of the teen that were found on a computer believed to be his.

Raniere's attorney, Marc Agnifilo, contested the time-stamping of the photos, saying it could be unreliable and easy to alter.

But prosecutors pointed to testimony that the girl had a noticeable scar on her lower right abdomen from an appendectomy she had when she was 16. FBI case agent Michael Weniger, who investigated the case for nearly two years, testified the girl did not have that scar in the graphic photos presented in court.

After prosecutors rested their case against Raniere on Friday, Agnifilo told US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis that he was not going to present a case in court. Raniere chose not to testify.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to make their closing statements Monday morning. The jury, made up of eight men and four women, with four alternates, is expected to begin deliberations by Tuesday.

Lesson plans on rape and abuse

Witnesses discussed throughout the trial how Raniere's thoughts would be "downloaded" or transcribed and turned into lesson plans for Nxivm's "self-help" courses, which claimed to help people achieve success.
Before the start of the trial, Agnifilo told CNN his client "firmly believes that his ideas are sound ideas, are good ideas, are humanitarian ideas."

Weniger said in court that investigators found Nxivm course lesson plans that Raniere forwarded between two of his own email accounts. Some of the lesson plans were for a course aimed at women with a section on rape.

"Do you know there's a certain percentage of women who have an orgasm when they get raped? Even if they don't want it," the lesson plan reads.

Another section is entitled "rape as a metaphor for orgasm," and claims: "There is the tension ultimately of being overcome, the release, and it is a sexual experience."

Former Nxivm members have testified about their interactions with Raniere, ranging from being held in isolation for years to being tied down and having sexual acts performed on them.

Several women said they were recruited to be part of what they were told was a "women's empowerment group" within Nxivm. They were told to give damaging personal information about themselves, nude photos or other types of "collateral," before they could hear more about the group, known as DOS.

Several testified that they had no idea that, once a member of the group, they would become "slaves" to "masters" in a chain that ended with Raniere as the head of the group, or "grandmaster."

One woman, identified only as "Nicole" in court, testified that she was told to write a letter to a local news outlet falsely accusing her father of sexual assault.

"There were so many things that were added on later once you were, like, sealed into this situation," she testified.

She said she was later tasked with meeting up with Raniere, who blindfolded her and tied her wrists and ankles to corners of a table, and then had another DOS "slave" perform oral sex on her.

Raniere was originally charged with five other co-defendants, all high-ranking women formerly from Nxivm who have pleaded guilty in the case. Former "Smallville" actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges.

Lauren Salzman also pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges. Seagram's liquor heiress Clare Bronfman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. Nxivm bookkeeper Kathy Russell pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud, and Nxivm CEO Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy.

CNN's Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.

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