New York — Keith Raniere just lost in court — again.
The jailed NXIVM leader known as “Vanguard” will be powerless to prevent the federal government from seizing a Delaware company that owned the rights to the ideology of Raniere’s cult-like organization, a judge ruled Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Raniere, who awaits a possible life sentencing on his trial convictions last June on all counts of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering, claimed he was the “innocent owner” of a 10 percent stake in the First Principles corporation.
But Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who presided over Raniere’s trial, ruled that Raniere’s petition submitted by Albany defense lawyer Paul DerOhannesian “contains only one allegation that could be construed as attempting to set forth a factual basis for Mr. Raniere' s alleged interest” in the corporation. The judge found the claim bereft of details.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said last fall that First Principles belonged to NXIVM president Nancy Salzman, who pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge before Raniere went to trial in May. The government moved to seize First Principles in July as part of their asset forfeiture effort against Salzman.
Prosecutors said they had a right to seize the corporation because it owned NXIVM's ideology or "tech" that allowed it to isolate NXIVM members, encourage them to take expensive NXIVM courses and make them dependent on the secretive organization. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein previously said the ideology taught philosophies that "there are no ultimate victims; therefore I will not choose to be a victim" and a "precept that women make excuses and claim victimhood to avoid commitments."
It was that tech and philosophy taught in NXIVM and its affiliates that, according to prosecutors, culminated in Raniere's creation of Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), his secret "master/slave" group in which women were "slaves" ordered to live on 500-calorie-a-day diets, obey all commands from their "masters" and painfully branded with Raniere's initials on their pelvic areas.
DerOhannesian argued that Raniere held more of a stake in the corporation than Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, who later testified for prosecutors, and actress Allison Mack. Lauren Salzman, Mack, Seagrams’ heiress Clare Bronfman and NXIVM bookkeeper all pleaded guilty before the trial as well.
Raniere's sentencing date is on hold as the judge awaits a pre-sentencing investigative report conducted by a federal probation officer. The judge's decision Friday follows an earlier one Tuesday in which Garaufis ruled that individuals who will deliver victim impact statements at Raniere's sentencing can speak under anonymity.
Justine Harris, an attorney for Russell, who has been scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29, asked the judge Friday to adjourn her client's sentencing until April 21 or later because federal probation officials said they plan to issue Russell's pre-sentencing report at the end of January.
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