NXIVM's Raniere loses bid to have victims names disclosed at sentencing

Albany Times-Union/January 14, 2020

By Robert Gavin

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled Tuesday that victims of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere can speak at his sentencing under anonymity.

Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis sided with federal prosecutors who argued that victims of the 59-year-old Raniere should be allowed to deliver impact statements under pseudonyms.

Raniere, known within his cult-like organization as “Vanguard,” tried to stop the victims from speaking without their full names being aired, but the judge was unmoved.

"Mr. Raniere failed to identify a particularized need for this information to be disclosed in open court,” Garaufis stated in his ruling.

Raniere, who lived in Halfmoon and operated out of NXIVM's headquarters in Colonie, faces up to life in federal prison at his sentencing. A jury convicted him in June of sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering charges. The sentencing date has been adjourned indefinitely as the judge awaits a pre-sentencing report from a federal probation officer.

In a Dec. 19 motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar told the judge a “significant number of victims” – including ones not named in the indictment against Raniere -- hoped to speak at Raniere’s sentencing but were concerned for their privacy.  The prosecutor highlighted “degrading and humiliating treatment that certain victims in this case were forced to endure.”

In turn, Raniere defense lawyers Paul DerOhannesian and Danielle Smith told the judge that Raniere “disputes the ‘victimhood’ of individuals” not mentioned in the second superseding indictment against their client.

In his ruling Tuesday, the judge noted that he previously approved a nearly identity proposal before the trial to allow witnesses to testify against Raniere under partial or whole anonymity.

The judge said Raniere “will be provided with the identity of any victim whose submission or testimony the court may consider at his sentencing.”

Victims of Raniere included the women in his secret group, Dominus Obsequious Sororium or DOS, which translates in Latin to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions.” Members of DOS – all women except for Raniere, whose control of the group was kept secret -- were forced to adhere to 500-a-day calorie diets, pleasure Raniere sexually and be branded with Raniere’s initials in their pelvic regions by a person using a cauterizing pen.

NXIVM also maintained an "enemies" list.

Raniere’s co-defendants, including former NXIVM president Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, actress Allison Mack and NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell,  await sentencing.  Each pleaded guilty before the trial.

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