Judge denies NXIVM leader's request for prison with 'sensitive needs' unit

Keith Raniere's defense team seeks Pennsylvania facility placement for him

Albany Times-Union/November 4, 2020

By Robert Gavin

New York – President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden weren’t the only people with eyes on Pennsylvania on Election Day.

Lawyers for NXIVM leader Keith Raniere asked a federal judge Tuesday to recommend that the reputed cult leader known as "Vanguard" serve his 120-year prison sentence in a facility in Allenwood, Pa. There, they suggested, Raniere could be housed at a facility with a "special or sensitive needs unit" known as a “drop-out yard.”

Attorneys Marc Agnifilo and Teny Geragos made the request “in light of the media interest in this case and due to the nature of the offense conduct and other matters discussed during the hearing,” they told Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who imposed Raniere’s sentence last week.

Raniere's lawyers also asked that he be placed, if possible, in a prison within an eight-hour drive of New York City because he will need to meet with his attorneys to discuss his appeal and "plane travel during the extended pandemic may be difficult."

Garaufis rejected the request Wednesday, though the ultimate decision is up to the federal Bureau of Prisons. The judge noted Raniere's lawyers can contact the BOP's Designation & Sentence Computation Center to "identify any concerns it has regarding an appropriate facility for the defendant."

Scott Taylor, a spokesman for the BOP, told the Times Union in an email he could not comment specifically on Raniere, who is now in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He said generally "inmates are housed based on their security, programming, medical, and other needs."

NXIVM, a purported personal growth company also known as Executive Success Programs (ESP) that started in 1998, was based on New Karner Road in Colonie. It also had locations in Mexico, Los Angeles and Vancouver, among other places.

In June 2019, a federal jury in Brooklyn's Eastern District convicted Raniere, 60, formerly of Halfmoon, on all charges, which included sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering crimes with underlying acts of extortion, identity theft, possession of child pornography and exploitation of a child.

Last week, 15 victims of Raniere delivered statements at his sentencing in which they spoke of the disgraced self-help guru's sexual abuse, manipulation and cruelty.

India Oxenberg, a former member of Raniere’s “master/slave” organization, Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), revealed that Raniere used the N-word racial slur to refer to Michele Hatchette, a Black woman in DOS, and instructed DOS member Allison Mack, Hatchette's "master" in DOS, to use the term for Hatchette as well.

Other victims included a woman from Mexico, now 30, who was 15 when Raniere began having sex with her, and her older sister, whom Raniere ordered confined to a room in her parents' townhouse in Halfmoon for almost two years because she kissed another man.

"As the court sentences Keith Raniere, I would like to remind them he showed me no mercy, he showed my little sister no mercy," the older sister told the judge. "He deserves no mercy."

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