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More Nxivm witness testimony: Keith Raniere’s solution for a doubter? Lick a puddle.

[Mark Vicente and Bonnie Piesse]

Dianne Lipson reached us between court sessions this afternoon, and we have her latest updates from the cross-examination and redirect testimony of filmmaker Mark Vicente at the Nxivm trial.

First, her report on yesterday’s afternoon session, when Vicente was still being cross-examined by Keith Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo. Here are her impressions…

Vicente was asked questions about the departure of the Nxivm 9, a group of women who left in 2009. The women in the Nxivm 9 claimed they were owed money and wanted it back. This was characterized to Vicente as an extortion attempt.

Agnifilo questioned Vicente about a letter he had written to the Saratoga County DA, saying the Nxivm 9 had damaged the company and damaged Vicente’s ability to enroll people. Agnfilo stressed the seriousness of Vicente, a grown man of 45 years of age at the time, writing this letter. There was some back and forth between Vicente and Agnifilo on whether Vicente had expressed that he had specific knowledge or evidence of the extortion. Vicente felt that he hadn’t expressed that he had this specific knowledge. Agnifilo pointed out that Vicente had claimed that the actions of Barbara Bouchey (one of the nine) had cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Vicente countered that he was not sure now if that sum represented potential or actual earnings. Aginifilo asked Vicente about his claim, in the letter, that Barbara Bouchey slandered Nancy Salzman and Keith Raniere. Vicente replied that that was his belief, but he does not recall if it was based on fact.

Agnifilo challenged Vicente, wouldn’t you want to be clear on facts? Vicente: I believed what I was told. I don’t remember if I had the facts in front of me or if I was told.


There was also mention in the letter of blogger John Tighe. (Tighe’s blog, Saratoga in Decline, was highly critical of Raniere and NXIVM. Tighe is currently in prison because of child pornography found on his computer. Many NXIVM-watchers suspect that Thighe’s arrest was a set-up by NXIVM. More about Tighe here.)

The letter said that Tighe committed character assassination on his blog. Vicente’s comment on this was “I think I thought so at the time.” This is an example of the type of answers Vicente was giving Agnifilo. Agnifilo: You told the DA that Tighe had made death threats on his website? Vicente believed that referred to comments that Tighe was allowing.

Agnifilo got Vicente to admit that at the time Vicente wrote this letter to the Saratoga County DA, Vicente did not know if he, Vicente, actually lived in Saratoga County.

The drafting process of the letter had been a group effort by Kristen Keefe, Lauren, and maybe Nancy (according to Vicente’s recollection.)

After the Nxivm 9 left, the Tacoma Center was practically closed down, with no one to run it. Vicente was sent to do damage control.

Vicente had gone to Fiji and Agnifilo was trying to show that Vicente enjoyed it, great beaches, a beautiful place. Vicente: I never said I had a bad time.

After a short break, a video was played in which Keith was heard to say things like: The stronger your commitment the more powerful you are. Commitment is the seed of all virtue. This is a lifetime commitment, years from now we will still be here. We are creating an Order that will have tremendous power. We have to wield that power with noble virtue. This is the inner circle, the founding fathers. Having a commitment runs so deep, the deeper, the stronger, the better, the more alive I feel.

Vicente said that at the meeting where this video was played, the listeners liked the concept. The video was saying they should be a force in the world collecting others who could also commit, and they would influence politics and be a force for good.

I suspect Agnifilo was trying to show Keith’s good intent.

In the video, Keith said collateral should be vast, $100 K, not $10. Your word should be that important. Agnifilo said this showed that you should not violate your word. Agnifilo got Vicente to admit that he was not concerned for himself regarding collateral. Vicente did not disagree with these concepts of collateral and commitment at the time.

There was discussion of a game played in “Society of Protectors complete”. The women had M&M’s and were trying to give them all to the men. The men did not know that this was the object of the game. There was a punishment of push-ups if the women did not give away all the candy. Agnifilo stressed that things got very emotional and both men and women were crying. Vicente countered that the nature of Human Potential is that there is a lot of emotion. (I believe Vicente was saying that getting emotional was a feature of Human Potential endeavors.)

Agnifilo mentioned a meeting where the organizers were supposed to enroll 100 men. They got 100 men, but some of them weren’t enrolled, they were ‘borrowed.’ Agnifilo asked if Vicente remembered that Keith had left the meeting, and offered to refund all their money. Vicente did not remember this offer.

Agnifilo brought up conversions Vicente had with the FBI on specific dates. In his questioning, it looked to me like Agnifilo was trying to show that Vicente left out information incriminating to himself, and was trying to cover his own rear end. Another observer seated near me had the same impression. In response to questions asking what Vicente said to the FBI on specific days, Vicente said things like: Twelve years of materials in my brain are not organized very well. I don’t have perfect recall.

Often I was not able to work out the intent of certain things Agnifilo was questioning Vicente about. Such as Clare buying a system to gather all of Keith’s material into one place, searchable by keywords. Or that Vicente initiated a project to organize the video equipment. Inexperienced people working for him were leaving stuff all over the place. Agnifilo tried to nail down when Vicente was aware that that the video he had altered, was to be turned over in a lawsuit. Vicente said he only found this out from Kristen Keefe years later, or he may have found out from reading. He was reading voraciously in 2017.

Thursday morning

Still on cross-examination this morning, Vicente was asked to describe what Nxivm’s “rational inquiry” is. It’s their patent. A series of questions to help a person reconcile their perception of reality with reality itself.

Agnifilo asked Vicente about a letter he wrote complainng about upper management. Agnifilo asked him, Were you kicked out of Nxivm for writing this letter? No, he wasn’t.

Agnfilo then turned to Vicente’s involvement in the Ramtha movement, which is led by a woman, JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior.

(Bouchey told me she had enrolled Vicente into Ramtha. Bouchey said Vicente told her Keith’s system was more scientific than Ramtha’s.)

Vicente said that he did believe at that time that Knight was channeling a 35,000 year old warrior. But he doesn’t believe Knight anymore. It didn’t make sense.

Vicente had criticized the Ramtha organization, and as a result Knight stood up during a meeting and said that Vicente would die a horrible death. That was the aftermath of him sending a letter.

Agnifilo was drawing that distinction — that Vicente suffered consequences when he complained in Ramtha, but in Nxivm he didn’t.

Vicente left the Ramtha movement. Also in cross-examination, Agnifilo asked Vicente about his wife Bonnie having a dispute with Allison Mack, and with Bonnie’s disaffection from Nxivm.

Vicente said that Bonnie went to Keith to share her concerns that the company was run on fear and coercion. Keith told her, don’t be the squeaky wheel, don’t be the problem.

As his own doubts grew, Vicente began communicating with Catherine Oxenberg, sharing his concerns about her daughter India, about her mental state and her drop in weight.

In cross-examination, Agnifilo seemed to be trying to portray Vicente as harassing India, and later also the people who made a film for Nxivm about Tourette’s syndrome.

Vicente said he was concerned about India, but he was also worried that she was spying on him. Did you yell at India that she was a monster? Agnifilo asked. I don’t recall, Vicente answered.

Agnifilo wanted to know why Vicente had so many conversations with Sarah (presumably Edmondson) on the day he talked to the FBI. Vicente said he wanted to be accurate, and he hadn’t been in DOS, like Sarah had.

Also, Vicente said he was trying to keep an upcoming branding ceremony from taking place.

Vicente believed that Nxivm was hiring private investigators to follow him. He sent an email to people formerly in Nxivm. The first line was, “grab a glass of wine.”

Again, Agnifilo was interested in Vicente having a film crew and recording material that will be used in an HBO series. Vicente and his film crew were located in the Lower East Side, only a couple of blocks away from a restaurant where India Oxenberg worked.

Again, Agnifilo seemed to be portraying Vicente as harassing her, and he said, around this time India had not “come around,” that she was still a true Nxivm believer.

I thought that was a curious thing for Agnifilo to say. [Seems stunning to me too, Dianne. — Tony]

Vicente said he didn’t think the camera went to the restaurant. And as for trying to get into the Tourette’s movie screening at the Green Mountain Film Festival, the director didn’t allow them in.

As for the HBO series, Vicente said that in a documentary the subject doesn’t make creative decisions. He didn’t expect to play a role in how the series portrays him.

If Agnifilo was trying to question Vicente’s motives and actions as a whistleblower, it seemed an odd line of questioning.

On re-direct, Vicente was asked what he hoped for the HBO series. That it gives some dignity to other victims, Vicente said. He talked about the burden of being referred to as a “former cult member” in the press, and he assumes other former Nxians are also feeling burdened by it.

Another interesting moment on re-direct. He was asked about his wife’s doubts and how Keith handled them.

They took a walk together, Vicente said. And on the walk, Keith was telling Bonnie that her problem were her boundary issues. To help her deal with it, he instructed her to run into a tree, and also to lick a puddle.

Was this in the context of mentoring your wife? Yes, he answered.

Dianne’s back in the courtroom for today’s afternoon session.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 16, 2019 at 15:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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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