Jury deliberations to begin in NXIVM sex-trafficking case

Elias Hubbard
June 20, 2019

There was no shortage whatsoever of lurid testimony over the course of an accused sex cult leader's trial in the Eastern District of NY, and it didn't take long for a jury of his peers to reach a verdict. Keith faces up to life behind bars.

A jury is about to begin deliberating at the trial of the former leader of an upstate NY self-help group that prosecutors say branded women. "It's a very sad day for him", Agnifilo told reporters after the verdict. His lawyer said the verdict will be appealed.

Raniere's lawyer Marc Agnifilo said Raniere had a "disgusting lifestyle", the New York Daily News reported, but that the government has not proven its case that he is guilty of sex trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy.

Since early May, jurors have been hearing testimony from what prosecutors say are former "sex slaves" who spoke about the torment of being branded with Raniere's initials - their "supreme master", often referred to as "Vanguard". Raniere will be sentenced September 25. The women said they were duped into a joining a secretive NXIVM sub-sect known as DOS under the pretenses that it was a women's empowerment group.

"She's in shock", Oxenberg was heard saying of her daughter.

"The girls in the cult would not talk to me.", Jenner said. Attorneys for the defendant say he had no criminal intent and that his sexual encounters with followers were consensual. His behaviour could be seen as "repulsive and offensive, but we don't convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive", Agnifilo said in his closing statement.

Raniere, 58, was arrested at a Mexican hideout in 2018 following an investigation his Albany-area group.

Among the ugly details that emerged at trial: Raniere allegedly called one woman "Norelco" because she had no pubic hair, urged her to have an abortion as a "great opportunity to lose weight and get fit", and shamed women he'd surrounded himself with to lose weight so he could have sex with them.

During closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Moira Penza told the jurors that to the outside world, Raniere's inner circle had tried to construct an image of him as a "humanitarian, leader, mentor, guru".

Raniere did not testify in the case and his attorneys did not call any witnesses.

One of the victims, whose names were withheld to protect her privacy, described being confined to a bedroom for more than 700 days on orders from Raniere as punishment for showing interest in another man. A third recounted making up an excuse to leave the community so she could avoid completing an assignment from her "master" - Allison Mack - to "seduce" Raniere.

Members who were invited to be a part of the exclusive group first came to think of themselves as "slaves" and Raniere as "master", but they would then recruit more women and become the "masters" themselves and the newly recruited women would, in turn, become their "slaves", according to a criminal complaint obtained by the outlet. And since the group never released any of the slaves' collateral, "Where's the extortion?" he asked.

But with the victims' stories of abuse at the hands of Raniere, Penza said, "A light has been shown into the darkness and the defendant's crimes have been exposed".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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