Judge Denies NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere’s Second Motion for New Trial

Variety/October 24, 2020

By Cynthia Littleton

A federal judge has denied convicted NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere’s second request for a new trial based on his accusation that prosecutors intimidated “Battlestar Galactica” actor Nicki Clyne and another potential witness who would have testified in his favor.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis nixed Raniere’s motion, saying it was filed too late after his conviction last year on racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy and two counts of sex trafficking. In the order written on Friday, Garaufis also rejected the claim that Clyne and Michelle Hatchette could have provided information that was otherwise unknown to Raniere’s defense team.

“The substance of the testimony that Ms. Hatchette and Ms. Clyne allege that they would have given is also not new; indeed, far from containing some sort of evidentiary revelation, the hypothetical testimony described in their affidavits covers ground that is well tread in this case,” Garaufis wrote. “They allege principally that they would have countered the testimony of various witnesses for the prosecution who described elements of DOS, including the use of collateral, assigned labor, and certain members’ sexual contact with Mr. Raniere, as products of coercion and psychological manipulation…The substance of the testimony that Ms. Hatchette and Ms. Clyne claim they would have offered was not unknown to Mr. Raniere, and certainly was not outside the realm of evidence that he could have discovered through due diligence.”

Raniere was convicted in June 2019 after a six-week trial in federal court in Brooklyn. He is facing the possibility of life in prison as he awaits sentencing on Oct. 27. The saga of the NXIVM and sex cult DOS that Raniere spearheaded in tandem with “Smallville” star Allison Mack, another one of his celebrity followers, has been amplified in recent weeks by the HBO docu-series “The Vow.” That nine-part series made use of copious amounts of video that Raniere and his cohorts produced over the years to recruit customers for NXIVM’s pricey self-help courses and other activities.

Clyne is married to Mack, who is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.

Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagrams spirits fortune and the primary financier of NXIVM’s activities prior to her arrest in 2019, was sentenced earlier this month to more than six years in prison after pleading guilty to identity theft and harboring aliens for financial gain. As detailed in the trial, DOS members kept a Mexican woman who was in a sexual relationship with Raniere captive in a single room for nearly two years as punishment for expressing romantic interest in another man.

Despite his convictions and the sordid drama around Raniere, Clyne and Hatchette submitted affidavits to the court on Oct. 19 in support of Raniere’s motion.

“At some point during the Government’s correspondence with Ms. Clyne’s attorney, the Government’s lead prosecutor allegedly stated, ‘[f]irst we are going to cut the head of the snake off and then we’re coming for the body. This is not going away for her,’ ” the order states.

But Garaufis ruled that Raniere provided only “scant and highly questionable evidence” of prosecutorial misconduct in the case handled by the Eastern District of New York.

“There is no question that Mr. Raniere has known Ms. Hatchette and Ms. Clyne personally since before his arrest. Ms. Clyne was a ‘first-line’ DOS master who reported directly to Mr. Raniere, and in a letter to the court she describes herself as ‘a partner of [his] for over a decade,’ ” the order states. “Ms. Hatchette had sexual contact with Mr. Raniere in connection with an ‘assignment’ given to her by Allison Mack, her DOS ‘master.’ Mr. Raniere knew both of these individuals and was aware of their involvement in DOS. The fact that Ms. Hatchette and Ms. Clyne did not offer to testify at Mr. Raniere’s trial pertains only to the availability of their testimony, and does not suggest in any way that they were unknown to him.”

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