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Scientology escaping justice is no reason Nxivm should, Judge rules before trial

[Judge Nicholas Garaufis and Keith Raniere]

Judge Nicholas Garaufis just took a sledgehammer to Nxivm leader Keith Raniere’s final hopes for having some or all of the various charges he’s facing dismissed before next week’s trial starts.

In a tightly-reasoned, heavily cited 64-page order, Garaufis takes on each of the technical arguments Raniere had made against the various racketeering, forced labor, and sex trafficking charges that he’s facing.

Some of the arguments were actually originally made by his co-defendants, who have all pleaded guilty and are no longer facing trial. But Raniere joined in each of their objections, so Garaufis treated them as though they were Raniere’s objections.

There was Allison Mack’s pretrial argument, for example, that Scientology got away with treating Marc and Claire Headley like indentured servants while they worked for years with little or no pay at Scientology’s secretive international management base near Hemet, California. A California court found that the Headleys, as much hardship as they went through, did not receive enough “serious harm” that they should prevail under forced labor statutes. Mack argued that similarly, the “slaves” of “DOS,” the Nxivm secret sorority, had things no worse and also did not suffer “serious harm.” So if Scientology got away with treating people like shit, so should she and her fellow slave masters, Mack seemed to be arguing.

It was a screwy argument that got a lot of press, but we knew right away that it ignored what the Headley case was really about and why it had failed in court. Marc and Claire were Sea Org workers who had signed billion-year contracts and gave up their entire lives to Scientology. It was true that they lived off-campus and drove themselves to work in the morning, and that was enough to convince an appellate judge that the couple had the chance to escape by merely driving the other way. But even that judge admitted that Scientology had treated the Headleys horribly, and he suggested that they should have filed under something other than forced labor statutes. It was a complex matter and not really comparable to Nxivm in any real way.


And Judge Garaufis didn’t take the bait, pointing out that the Headley matter was civil, not a criminal case like Nxivm, and that the “serious harm” from DOS slavery could come in several forms.

Headley, upon which Raniere relies for this point, is not binding on this court, is related to a civil summary-judgment motion, and is easily distinguishable because the plaintiffs in that case faced only one potential adverse consequence: excommunication from the Church of Scientology. Threatening excommunication was a “legitimate warning,” not an improper threat, because “a church is entitled to stop associating with someone who abandons it” and “may also warn that it will stop associating with members who do not act in accordance with the church doctrine”… But in this case — taking the Government’s allegations as true — the release of collateral could damage DOS slaves in other ways, such as ruining their careers, finances, and personal relationships with non-DOS members.

That argument was just a speed bump in the judge’s lengthy order that took on each of Raniere’s arguments that the government hadn’t pleaded the charges correctly, or hadn’t provided enough information about them. Yes, they did, Judge Garaufis says time and again to each of the specific charges.

Also, another important disclosure in this document: Raniere had asked that his witnesses be allowed to testify by closed-circuit TV in Mexico, because they feared to come to the US. But the judge notes that now, Raniere is saying his witnesses will come, and so there’s no reason to rule on the need for testifying remotely.

That’s interesting, because just this morning we told you that in a filing by Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, he indicates that the defense will call no witnesses at all, and that Raniere’s defense will consist entirely of cross-examining prosecution witnesses. So which is it? Are witnesses coming from Mexico and will they testify or not? We’re anxious to find out.

So, now that his final chances at escaping trial are formally ended, Raniere has only a week to figure out if he really wants to go through with this thing. There are still some final matters for Garaufis to rule on regarding which evidence is allowed in and how it is presented, but that’s mostly fairly minor stuff.

With his motions to dismiss deflected, does Raniere plead guilty in the final days? Tell us what you think.

Here’s the document…

Nxivm Doc 600: Order on Raniere's Motion to Dismiss by Tony Ortega on Scribd


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 29, 2019 at 17:00

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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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