NXIVM leader Keith Raniere's new lawyer worked for Bill Cosby

Jennifer Bonjean asks judge to keep jailed guru in Brooklyn facility

Albany Times-Union/January 6, 2021

By Robert Gavin

New York – A Brooklyn attorney who recently argued on behalf of disgraced comedian and convicted sexual predator Bill Cosby has joined the legal team of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.

In her first move on behalf of the notorious self-help guru from Halfmoon, appellate lawyer Jennifer Bonjean asked the same federal judge who imposed Raniere's 120-year prison sentence to recommend he be allowed to stay in his federal lock-up in Brooklyn, and not be transferred to a facility in Arizona.

Bonjean filed a motion on Tuesday asking Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to recommend to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that Raniere be allowed to remain in Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center, where he has been since his arrest in March 2018.

Bonjean told the judge she was only recently retained to represent Raniere, known within his cult-like organization as “Vanguard,” on his direct appeal. On Oct. 27, the judge sentenced the 60-year-old to 120 years in prison for his convictions for sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy racketeering charges with underlying acts that included extortion, identity theft and possession of child pornography.

Bonjean, who is based in Brooklyn, represented Cosby before Pennsylvania's highest court in the comedian's appeal of his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in Philadelphia in 2004, according to reports in the New York Times and elsewhere. Cosby was sentenced in 2018 to three to 10 years in federal prison.

Bonjean visited Albany in 2013 as an advocate for professional mixed martial arts, appearing at a news conference at the state Capitol to rebut the concerns of women's groups that said the sport — then seeking legalization of pro bouts — contributed to the mistreatment of women.

"We live in a society where women are often seen as sex objects," she said, and then obliquely referred to the sexual harassment scandal involving former Assemblyman Vito Lopez that was at the time roiling the Capitol: "There are sexist men everywhere, including in this building — maybe even in this room." She said pro MMA leagues such as Ultimate Fighting Championship "are no exception to that rule ... but neither are they a club of rapists, any more than the general Assembly is a club of sexual harassers."

Now, Bonjean will defend Raniere, who directed female "slaves" in his secret club, Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), and ordered they be branded with his initials on their pelvic area.

On Tuesday, Bonjean told Garaufis that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, she had no opportunity to meet with Raniere to discuss the appeal. She joins existing Raniere lawyers Marc Agnifilo, Paul DerOhannesian, Teny Geragos and Danielle Smith.

“In normal times, traveling to confer with (a) defendant would not prove overly problematic," Bonjean stated. "However, in the current climate, multiple and/or an extended trip to Tucson would be exceedingly burdensome — to speak nothing of the health risks posed to all involved."

In the filing, Bonjean said she cannot have meaningful communication with Raniere over the phone. She said she hoped that visits between attorneys and their clients would soon resume at the MDC.

Bonjean said it was "critical that the defendant remain close so that he can assist and participate in his defense as it relates to challenges he may wish to lodge to the government’s proposed restitution order," which is due Jan. 27.

Raniere asked Garaufis to recommend he remain at the MDC at least until he has an opportunity to object to his restitution claims or until his defense has filed an opening brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Bonjean said.

A core of Raniere loyalists made news over the summer when they gathered to dance in support of him and other inmates on the street outside the MDC.

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