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With trial just a month away, the jockeying in the Nxivm case gets frenetic

[US Attorney Richard P. Donoghue]

Underground Bunker regular John P. Capitalist has been digging into Nxivm for years, and we asked him to give us his thoughts on a couple of recent additions to the court file in the looming trial. And keep in mind, we expect a superseding indictment from the government in the near future that should shake things up quite a bit.

Here, we analyze the two most recent filings in the Nxivm case, where the prosecutors are seeking more time to reply to a defense motion to limit evidence in the case, and where they’re expressing concern about new potential conflicts of interest between various defense lawyers, an issue the court is already grappling with.

Extension to File Reply to Opposition to Motion to Admit Enterprise Evidence (court document 386)

This is a request by US Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for more time to file a reply to a motion by the various defendants. The government needs an extra week to write a longer brief than they expected, and they say this should be granted because the defendants got to write a really long 63-page brief. I’m guessing that the judge OK’s this.


This hints at a very big battle going on behind the scenes. The word “enterprise” in the discussion is key. The Government is charging the defendants under organized crime statutes, of not just committing the crimes such as sex slavery and money laundering, but of running an organized criminal enterprise to do so. If you’re convicted of running a criminal enterprise, your sentence is much longer than if you simply committed the same crimes in a random fashion, and the government gets to seize any assets that are tainted with the stench of coming from those crimes. From what I understand, there are enough gray areas in the definition of what constitutes an enterprise that any good defense lawyer is going to fight tooth and nail to break up the “enterprise” charges and either go for an acquittal or to just get the predicate acts tried as such.

There may also be some trial strategy going on here: Trial is supposed to start on April 29, and pre-trial motions are probably due only a few weeks from now in late March (I don’t have the schedule in front of me). So an extra week delay here is going to make anyone considering a plea deal start sweating because they’d have to have a deal negotiated pretty soon. If the judge rules that the “enterprise” evidence gets in, it increases the leverage the government has on deals it can offer.

Letter re Conflicts among Defense Attorneys (court document 390)

This one is lots of fun. The prosecutors are asking the judge to investigate a potential conflict of interest between two lawyers who are each representing different defendants. Cult leader Keith Raniere is represented by Teny Geragos, a very capable attorney. Recently, Clare Bronfman added Teny’s father, celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos (who defended Michael Jackson on pedophilia charges, among other well-known defendants) to her team. From what I can observe, Geragos isn’t known as a courtroom predator, but he has been effective at trying cases in the press.

The second paragraph is precious: it piously tells the court that the prosecutors are not bringing this issue up out of any sinister motives, but because they don’t have any choice: they’re required to raise these issues due to a bunch of case law. No delaying tactics here, no siree!

The legal analysis includes authorities (an ABA model court rule, but not necessarily actual case law) where close family relationships are presumed to be a conflict of interest. It also admits that there’s no precedent that exactly mimics the current situation, with both a close family relationship and the even more complex issue of this trust.

I suspect the prosecution’s goal with this letter, as well as with the previous one, is to delay the trial start date, ideally by a couple of months at the least. I would bet that the FBI team investigating Nxivm are having a tough time slogging through tons of financial records to put together a large number of additional charges. Based on the reading I’ve done about Nxivm over the last two years, the organization may have been heavily involved in tax evasion and money laundering, not only of the organization’s money but money of members looking to get money out of their home countries. The longer the prosecution can delay the start of the trial, the more charges they can accumulate – the prosecutors have recently promised a new indictment with more charges and more defendants. They may be able to go to trial in April with a new indictment, but if they can buy more time, they’ll have an even better chance to make sure that more former Nxivm members spend even longer in jail, permanently shutting the group down.

In Tony’s article from Thursday night, attorney Teny Geragos wrote the court a nice note saying that she is really, really sure that the potential conflict will be manageable and that she promises to behave. It’s entirely likely that she will; most attorneys treat conflict-of-interest issues very seriously, as failing to do so would almost guarantee a loss when the client sues, and could even result in disbarment. However, the form of the response is interesting – the subjective “feel” I get reading about this is that she’s wise to the government’s game, but doesn’t want to go thundering into court and demand that the trial begin on April 29th. I think she’s trying to get the government to overreach in trying to prolong the Curcio hearing and thus get caught at delaying tactics, with the penalty being that the trial has to start on time. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on but I think we’ll see fairly soon whether the trial starts on April 29, as planned.

— John P. Capitalist


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 09, 2019 at 14:45

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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