Feds want prison time for NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman

The Albany Times-Union/August 19, 2021

By Robert Gavin

Federal prosecutors want former NXIVM president and co-founder Nancy Salzman to potentially serve more than three years in prison for targeting those who broke NXIVM orthodoxy or criticized the organization as Keith Raniere's fiercely loyal second-in-command.

A prosecution memo filed late Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court detailed the 67-year-old Halfmoon woman’s unyielding devotion to Raniere’s teachings, including Salzman's untroubled parroting of Raniere's claims that some little children are “perfectly happy” having sex with adults and that women experience "freedom" during rape.

"Many of the NXIVM teachings promulgated by Nancy Salzman disparaged or humiliated women and blamed victims of abuse," stated the memo written by Assistant U.S Attorney Tanya Hajjar.

The prosecutor asked Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to sentence Salzman on the “high end” of federal sentencing guidelines that recommend a range of imprisonment between 33 to 41 months. Salzman, known as “Prefect” in the cult-like organization she founded with Raniere in 1998, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in March 2019. She will be sentenced on Sept. 8 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

“Raniere’s teachings, which Nancy Salzman helped to create and promote, were designed to maintain power and control over NXIVM members,” Hajjar stated. “The defendant instructed NXIVM members that anyone who challenged Raniere or NXIVM, including family members and friends, were ‘suppressives’ and must be avoided.”

Hajjar said Salzman altered tapes that were to be used as evidence in a civil suit in New Jersey after NXIVM sued cult expert Rick Ross and others and, in turn, faced counterclaims. Salzman removed portions of the tapes where she made unsubstantiated health claims, such as that NXIVM programs could cure poor eyesight. NXIVM's lawyers presented the doctored tapes as unedited evidence, the memo said.

Hajjar included a preview of victim statements Salzman is likely to hear at sentencing. The prosecutor said they reflected Salzman's treatment of NXIVM members who made "ethical breaches" for a supposed lack of work ethic, failure to lose weight, exhibition of "pride," "playing the victim" or causing negative publicity for NXIVM or Raniere.

One victim told the judge of participation in a purported "cure" for Tourette's syndrome, stating the time with Salzman during the study "made me painfully aware of why there are ethics boards and protocols in the field of clinical psychology. ... Sessions with [the defendant] broke me, and they broke me fast.” 

Another victim, who at 15 was sexually victimized by Raniere, said Salzman promoted Raniere’s “poisonous and predatory falsehoods to an unsuspecting audience.” She said it included the notion that girls were ready for sex as soon as they could physically conceive and that women enjoy the "out-of-control experience that comes from being raped."  The victim said Salzman used "all the same twisted ideas (Raniere) used to groom me and abuse me.”

Prosecutors at Raniere's trial showed jurors a tape-recording of the "Vanguard" telling disciples that the age of consent (17 in New York) is as young as 12 in places. "Often when you counsel people who were, say, children of what you call abuse ... some little children are perfectly happy with it until they find out what happened later in life and then it's more society that abuses them" Raniere said.

Salzman repeated those words during a meeting of Jness, a woman's group in NXIVM, in the Apropos restaurant on Route 9 in Halfmoon.

Salzman has since renounced Raniere, her one-time lover and guru , who was convicted at trial in 2019 of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges. He is serving a 120-year sentence in an Arizona prison.

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