St. Louis Man Sues HBO Over NXIVM Series The Vow

A defender of cult leader Keith Raniere, Marc Elliot says HBO used a recording without permission

River Front, Missouri/November 2, 2023

By Ryan Krull

A St. Louis man who was featured in the documentary series The Vow is now suing HBO as well as the series’ producers and directors.

Marc Elliot filed the lawsuit Tuesday in St. Louis City Circuit Court seeking more than $75,000 in damages, claiming that the filmmakers used a recording of a phone call he made without his consent.

Over the course of two seasons, The Vow told the story of the NXIVM cult, its leader Keith Raniere and his numerous victims. Key members of the group included Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagrams beverage heiress Clare Bronfman. In 2019, Raniere was found guilty of racketeering, sex trafficking and other charges. He is currently serving a 120-year prison sentence. The NXIVM saga received significant media attention, including several books, an E! True Hollywood Story, a Law and Order "ripped from the headlines" episode and a Starz docu-series and in addition to the HBO one.

Elliot features heavily in the third episode of The Vow's second season, which focuses on NXIVM’s purported treatment of Tourette’s syndrome. Elliot claims NXIVM's talk therapy and "self-help courses" helped him overcome the condition.

The phone call at the center of his lawsuit is between Elliot and a woman named Isabella Constantino, who was fleeing NXIVM because she was freaked out that Raniere's female followers were branded with Raniere's initials. The docu-series portrays Elliot as trying to convince her to reconsider leaving the group.

Elliot's lawsuit alleges that although he did sign a release for the filmmakers in 2020, it only covered footage of him taken beginning that July, which was two years after the phone call.

When Constantino was on the phone with Elliot, she was in New York, a state with a "one-party consent" law for recording phone calls. That means that only one person on the call needs to be aware it is being recorded.

However, whether HBO would have the right to use that call is a different question — and the one at the center of Elliot’s suit. He argues that the producers "knew that Plaintiff did not consent to the recording and did not waive any right to privacy in his voice, name and identification for the commercial use of the recording either by video or audio production." In the suit, which he filed on his own behalf, Elliot argues that its inclusion violates his right to privacy.

Elliot continues to steadfastly defend Raniere in the wake of his prison sentence and credit NXIVM with curing his Tourette's syndrome. Earlier this year, Elliot appeared on an episode of the H3 Podcast arguing for Raniere's innocence.

The host of the podcast, Ethan Klein, was not convinced.

"I don't even blame you, because honestly, in a sense, you're kind of the victim. You're part of this organization that clearly has this powerful hold over you," said Klein. "Keith is gone. He can't hurt you anymore. You're free, bro."

In an interesting local connection, one of the experts that Elliot has put forth as an expert speaking to problems with the case against Raniere is Ronald Sullivan Jr., a Harvard law professor who also represented Kim Gardner amid the quo warranto proceedings attempting to remove her from office.

Previously, in October 2021, Elliot filed a $12 million defamation lawsuit in California against Starz over their Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult. Last November, a judge ruled against Elliot in that suit.

Elliott is from St. Louis and graduated from Washington University in 2008, according to his LinkedIn. Court records list his current address in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood.

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