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Keith Raniere’s attorney begins cross-examination of first Nxivm ‘slave’ witness

[Keith Raniere and his attorney, Marc Agnifilo]

VillageDianne called us again from the overflow room at the Brooklyn courthouse, where she had watched about an hour of Marc Agnifilo’s cross-examination of the government’s first witness in the Nxivm trial.

Agnifilo is representing Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, who is now the only defendant in the case after five others all pleaded guilty before trial started yesterday.

Agnifilo was reading Nxivm’s mission statement to Sylvie, the first witness, and asking her what portions of it meant to her.

“He’s being very calm and methodical, nothing accusatory or confrontational,” Dianne says. “He’s trying to get her to say what the parts of the mission statement mean to her, and he’s also trying to get her to say what good things Keith Raniere or Clare Bronfman did for her, like spending money on her.”

Sylvie’s testimony started yesterday, and Dianne has been there for all of it. Here’s her description of how the testifying has gone after opening statements were completed…


Sylvie is British. She’s a slender blonde with her hair in a bun. She was initially being trained by Clare to be a professional show jumper, but eventually that fizzled out. After a family visit in Europe, she returned on a training visa, for agriculture.

Keith was presented as one of the most intelligent men in the world, talented at everything. Sylvie thought it was strange but everybody re-affirmed it. Sylvie became more involved with NXIVM, became a coach. Her greater involvement was a chance to show she was committed to her growth.

Clare quit show riding. Sylvie remained in the US because she didn’t feel she had anything else. It was a dark time, she had no sense of her future, didn’t have a community back home, felt dependent on Clare. She became anorexic. She had been anorexic in early adolescence, and became anorexic again at this time, with a low point of 89-90 lbs. Sylvie noticed that all the women she interacted with had a big focus on food. Women were very very thin. She found this unnerving. They did the ” master cleanse” consisting of water, lemon, maple syrup and cayenne.

She attended Vanguard-week. There were lots of tributes to Keith. Clare informed Sylvie that she should come to volleyball. Things in NXIVM were suggested, not told outright. It was “it might be a good idea” or “you might want to consider.” Sylvie took these as directives, that if she did not do these things she was it was a sign of not “upholding yourself.” Pam and Clare made her food because of the anorexia. Sylvie started lying about her weight. When she admitted this, they told her she was not upholding herself. Nancy Salzman told her if she did not reach 100 lbs in 2 weeks she would have to leave the community. Sylvie was scared, she had nowhere else to go, no friends or life elsewhere. Sylvie does not recall receiving any suggestion that she get professional help. There was a lot of monitoring, daily check ins with Keith and Clare. This checking in went on for years.

Sylvie went home for Xmas 2006. Clare and others tried to discourage her. Her family was worried about her weight but not a lot was said, that was the family culture. She came back to US, and her visa expired. She was told Albany was the best place for her, that her family had programmed her. They called her a nickname, Sylvie-bot, because her family’s indoctrination had made her a robot. This indoctrination was things like getting married and starting a family. Upholding herself was running. Clare had visa lawyers, a scheme was tried but did not work out. Back to England, Sylvie got a job and started building a life there. More talk from Clare about visa tries. Sylvie got a job with Goldman Sachs, and a boyfriend, but still checking in every day with Clare and Keith. Clare told Sylvie she lost herself in indoctrination. Keith said that women walked around with a checklist re the man to marry, like good dad, good provider. Sylvie worried that was what she was doing, that that was a bad thing.

At this point someone suggested Sylvie could become an elite runner. Sara B. had a job for her, plan was for her to return to US and run and be trained by Keith. She thought Keith could make her an Olympian, and leaving her life in UK was a sacrifice she had to make in order to be trained by Keith. She participated in a race in Albany. Broke up with UK boyfriend. Stayed beyond her visa to do more training.

“Jness” was a Nxivm program for women to work out what they were without input from men. But Sylvie did not like the “intensives.” They were too long, especially if given by Keith. She wanted to focus on being an athlete. On a walk with Keith, when Sylvie said she did not want to attend an intensive, Keith told her that she was cold hearted and that her children wouldn’t love her. She ended up taking an intensive but not with Keith. They broke out into groups, the men telling the women what it’s like to be a man. Sylvie found it uncomfortable. She was told women do “antics” to get things from men. Sylvie found it regimented, uncomfortable, scary. She was told that women were materialistic, self-absorbed and narcissistic. Multiple partners were healthy for men but unnatural for women. Women only had other partners for reasons like spite. Women lacked character, were impulsive, didn’t uphold their word. At one point, now in Vancouver, she was asked to return to Albany for an intensive but didn’t want to.

Sylvie took the NXIVM training, it was stressful and humiliating. One woman was dressed as a princess because she was ‘too much of a princess.’ Women were given cow suits because they focused too much on their breasts.

Meanwhile, she was still training 6 hrs per day. Her efforts were never enough. She said she didn’t feel well, but was not told to see a doctor. She got an abcess in her bum, that eventually turned into a fistula. Also around that time, when she traveled to US, Clare told her to avoid JFK airport because of her visa status.

Sylvie was feeling rundown and had severe pain in her bum, not sleeping well. She still attempted to train for 6 hours a day, but couldn’t get through it. By now she was under medical care. Keith dismissed her concerns and told her to keep exercising if it doesn’t hurt too much.

When Sylvie did stop training so much, she reflected that she had felt like a wound up ball of tension. Maybe it’s OK to just be OK being me, instead of being good at something. What do I want outside of these things? Self love, compassion, a family. It’s a lonely ride to train. Sylvie didn’t feel supported trying to express herself to Clare. In an email Clare responded, “It seems you slipped back to Robot Sylvie,” that Sylvie did the easy, comfortable thing. Sylvie felt this was a common type of response from Clare. If she wasn’t an athlete, she was a robot.

Abcess turned into a fistula, but Sylvie carried on running against doctor’s direction. She didn’t want to be a robot. She needed a nurse to pack the wound daily. Clare said come back to Albany, someone there can pack it. Sylvie had been moving around to different places a lot, I believe because of visa issues. No she does not have a visa. There was joking about here getting married for a visa. But Sylvie did not want to get married in order to get a visa. But then she met someone in NXIVM, John, who she liked. John is currently her husband. They both ended up working in The Knife. Sylvie felt she could marry John, and spoke to Keith about it. Keith suggested it should be a business arrangement, and platonic for the first 2 years. At the end of the conversation Keith put his hand on her shoulder and said “its’ a shame, we could have had fun.” Sylvie laughed it off. She and John talked about marriage, and what they wanted from this ‘backward relationship’. She visited him in NYC, then was accused by Clare, ‘did you have sex with him?’

There were lots of discussions, putting in writing what they wanted. They got married. Clare told her she was acting too happy, lost in a bubble. [Women live in a fantasy bubble, according to Keith] Clare suggested not having sex. Someone else told her that Keith said not to have sex for two years. She and her husband agreed to this. Lauren Salzman told her that she, Sylvie, hadn’t been well since being with John, and that she was acting like a robot when she spent time with him in NYC. The couple were dividing their time between NYC and Albany area.

A woman named Monica Duran, who Sylvie looked up to as a big sister/mother figure, told her she had a project for her that would change everything and make everything better. Not ESP or NXIVM. But if Sylvie wanted to know what it was, first she would have to give collateral. It had to be embarrassing, ruinous, so strong that not even your family would look at you the same way. Sylvie’s first two ideas were not strong enough. Finally it was to write a letter to her parents that she was a prostitute. The letter was addressed and stamped. Monica took naked pics of her to go along with the collateral. “No one will look at it” Monica said. Monica was the master, she was the slave. Monica would give her assignments that would make Sylvie push past her fears. Sylvie was to do ‘acts of care’ and anticipate Monica’s needs. Then Monica said collateral needs to be given month by month. Sylvie did not know this when she joined. Monica had her create a secret chat in an app called Telegram, for readiness drills. She had to always have her phone on her as she might get called anytime day or night, no ‘going dark.’ She had to always answer the phone or there would be a penalty.

Sylvie was given an assignment to seduce Keith. She almost laughed in shock. But she felt she didn’t have a choice. She tried stalling but Monica said she needed to do it. She messaged Keith, and Keith messaged at one point “you’ll have to do better than that.” Did Keith know? Keith prompted her to be more vulnerable by taking pics of herself lower and lower on her body. Sometimes her vagina, sometimes poses.

Sylvie is still celibate with John. Spending a lot of time in the bathroom, was anxious, stressed.

Sylvie’s testimony continued this morning….

Monica is Sylvie’s master. Monica arranged for her to meet Keith at a house on Flintlock Drive. Monica described that Sylvie needed to ask Kieth to take her picture. When Sylvie came in the house, they stopped in a bedroom. Sylvie was terrified.

She knew she was supposed to ask Keith to take her picture, but she could barely get the words out. Keith told her to get undressed and lie on the bed. Sylvie did so, and Keith performed oral sex on her for a long time. Sylvie wanted it to end, eventually her body had a response. She doesn’t know if she orgasmed, but her body had a response. She didn’t want to do this, but she was a slave and was afraid for the release of her collateral.

Keith then talked to her, told her she was special and part of the inner circle. He was now her grandmaster and Monica was her master. Now Sylvie could ask for help whenever she wanted. She said she wanted help with her marriage. He said he would but in the end he didn’t. She felt that it was all lies with Keith.

For the photos, Keith positioned her in a pose lying on the bed with her legs open. So he sent a photo to Monica. Later Sylvie asked Monica if she could delete it, and Monica said yes. The next morning Monica said, get the picture back, we need it. Sylvie tried frantically to get it back but it was gone. Monica said they’d have to do it again. So they took the photo again. Sylvie didn’t delete it until Monica said.

Sylvie said she felt a lot of shame and still does. At this point she broke down in tears, saying that what she felt was darkness.

Regarding her marriage, Sylvie tried to block it out of her mind. Sylvie felt that she was living a lie. In communications with Kieth, she told him what she wanted him to hear. She was trying to navigate the situation. In a message, Sylvie told Keith that her commitment was to her husband. Keith’s respones: Your ultimate commitment is to me.

Sylvie was stressed up and wound up all the time. She had an argument with her husband. They could’t go camping because she couldn’t go anywhere without her cellphone. She’s glad John didn’t leave her. Now she was expected to recruit for DOS, and send a list of names to Monica.

She testified about the tasks and errands she did for Monica. Taking care of her dog, etc. Never paid for anything. Now she was being told she has to give additional collateral. Since she’s gone a few months, she had to give a few months in one go. She pledged half of her income. Monica could decide if she could have children.

At some point Monica had Sylvie meet another of Monica’s slaves, Anna. They talked about fitness. Sylvie liked her.

But later Monica said she was having problems with Anna, and at some point they would have to release her collateral. It would be the first slave that was done to. Sylvie was asked to speak with Anna, but Anna didn’t want to send in naked photos, didn’t want to stick with the diet. This is all messed up, she said.

Sylvie didn’t want Anna’s collateral to be released, and she told Anna, who responded do what you’re told.

Sylvie never got branded, but she came close. She was told it was Keith and Monica’s initials. Monica showed her her brand.

Branding was supposed to happen on a Friday just before Sylvie was going to run a race. So they put it off.

Around this time Monica said she was afraid, something was going on. It was around the time Frank Parlato’s blog had started up. Sylvie read it, and she was upset to read that women were hit with a paddle. She asked Monica, who didn’t deny it. Now things were changing. No more recruiting. No more readiness drills. Conversations about Parlato’s website, and with her husband John.

Keith then left Albany. Monica went back to Mexico. Keith put out a statement on a website saying he had no connection to the sorority, which Sylvie knew was a lie.

Prior to going to England, Syl wanted her collateral back. Don’t worry, she was told, if it was on his phone, Keith got rid of it.

Sylvie met with the gov before moving to England. She’s still trying to recover from the Nxivm curriculum. She was only 18 when she started, and she’s still affected by the misogynistic material.

A Nxivm video was shown as an example of what she was talking about. At one point the video discusses child sexual abuse, and makes the point that children aren’t harmed by it learn later, as adults, to consider themselves victims.

Dianne has gone back in the courtroom for the afternoon testimony.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 8, 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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