Keith Raniere, former leader of the sex-slave cult NXIVM, was found guilty in New York Federal Court. The guilty verdict came after a six-week trial that outlined the evil and sadistic actions of Raniere toward members of his cult.
After a six week trial, Keith Raniere learned his fate in a New York Federal Court. A jury of his peers convicted him on all charges brought forth by the prosecution. After less than a half day of deliberations, the jury convicted Raniere of sex-trafficking, forced labor, extortion, identity theft, and sexual exploitation of a minor.
During the trial, intricate details of Raniere’s abuse, extortion, sexual exploitation, and fraud were outlined by former members and business associates. Raniere ran an organization called NXIVM that claimed to help individuals reach their highest potential.
However, Raniere used the group to form a “secret sorority” called “D.O.S” of women that served as his sexual slaves. Raniere recruited eight women from his organization to be first line slaves. The women were in charge of recruiting their own slaves that all would serve Raniere.
According to court documents, Raniere forced the women to take naked photos to be used as blackmail if the women decided to leave the group. Women within “DOS” were forced onto strict low-calorie diets, deprived of sleep, and branded with Raniere’s initials near their pubic bones.
Former slaves testified against Raniere in the trial. The women described a life of torture, abuse, intimidation, and starvation at the hands of their leader. One woman testified that Raniere blindfolded her and took her to an undisclosed location. When they arrived at the cabin, they forced her to lay on a table. While laying on the table, another member performed oral sex on her.
Another woman testified that she and her sisters were brought to New York from Mexico by their parents. During her time in the cult, Raniere developed a sexual relationship with her and her underage sister. When the woman confessed to Raniere that she had feelings for another man, she testified that Raniere locked her in a room for more than two years.
While confined to the room, Raniere confiscated her passport and all personal identification documents. After two years, her father and another member dropped her off at the Mexican border without any identification.
Raniere forced some women to go on 500 calories a day diet because he preferred the look of a “pre-pubescent” teen. If some of the women ate a slice a pizza, one woman testified that Raniere would make the sound of a pig. Additionally, masters in the cult forced their slaves to engage in sexual acts with Raniere at all hours of the day. Women kept cellphones on them and were abused if they did not answer calls by Raniere for sex.Not only did Raniere abuse women, but prosecutors outlined his attempts to intimidate and harass anyone that spoke out against his cult. Additionally, prosecutors presented evidence of Raniere stealing the identity of a deceased woman and taking more than $300,000.00 of her assets.
Despite the mounting evidence and dozens of former members sharing the same story, Raniere pled not guilty and denied all the charges. Only days before the guilty verdict, Raniere’s attorney’s requested a mistrial by the court.
After the jury read their verdict, United States District Attorney Richard Donoghue told reporters of the New York Times,
“Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a master manipulator,” Mr. Donoghue said. “His crimes, and the crimes of his co-conspirators, ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives.”
Mark Agnifilo an attorney for Raniere, said they plan to appeal the verdict and continue to deny his guilt.
“It was very obvious the jury had strong negative feelings about Keith and about certain aspects of his lifestyle,” Mr. Agnifilo said, adding, “Not everything that’s offensive translates to a crime.”
Former members of the cult hugged and thanked prosecutors for their work on the case. According to the New York Times, the women appeared relieved and grateful following the verdict.
According to court records, a judge will sentence Raniere on September 25, 2019. He faces up to life in prison without a possibility for parole for the seven convictions handed down by the jury.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis on The Non-Sequitur Channel. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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