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Final testimony concludes in Nxivm trial. Judge calls it a most unusual case.

[Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Nxivm leader Keith Raniere]

Dianne Lipson was in court Friday and Saturday for the final testimony in the Nxivm trial and a conference before the judge. Here’s her wrap-up of the testimony in this bizarre trial…

On Friday, direct testimony continued with FBI Agent Michael Weniger. From Keith Raniere’s online bio, which has since been taken down:

Keith Raniere entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) at age sixteen. From his first semester onward, he began taking Ph.D. level mathematics courses, ultimately taking most of the graduate-level physics and mathematics courses available at the time. Upon graduating, he became RPI’s first triple major, earning degrees in mathematics, biology and physics, with minors in philosophy and psychology, and an expertise in computer science.

From Keith’s transcript we see his grades. Advanced Ordinary Differential Equations: F, Quantum Mechanics: F, Theoretical Physics: F, Experimental Physics: D. At one point he was on academic probation and his final GPA is 2.26.

We saw in evidence SMS messages between Kristin Keeffe and Keith. It is from when Keeffe and Dani’s father are driving Dani to Mexico. There were many messages from Keith like this one: “Remember for her [Dani] it is about control. She is incapable of remorse and truly admitting she is wrong.”

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Agent Weniger said he viewed the video of Sara’s branding ceremony. The majority of people in the video were unclothed.

Regarding the folders from the hard drive which included Camila’s picture, Weniger said the folders had a certain format. There would be an initial, representing the name or nickname of the person, and then the date. Laura’s folder was named 4L122505. 4L stood for ForLauren, Lauren’s nickname. Camila’s folder started with the letter ‘V’, for Virgin Camila. Agent Weniger said there were similarities in the photos. Most were photos of the vagina and inner labia. There were shots showing both the vagina and the face. There were other ways of dating the photos. One of the women’s photos shows an old model cell phone, and in another photo, there was an old type of VCR.

Weniger was able to obtain the medical records of Camila’s appendectomy. A recent photo of Camila showed the appendectomy scar. The photo from the hard drive showed no scar. Both photos were passed around to the jury for comparison.

Videos were shown of Keith talking about women having orgasm during rape. That the experience of freedom which occurs during rape frees them to achieve orgasm. In a module titled “Abuse, Rights, and Injury” Keith speaks of a person who had experience of sex with three adults during childhood, and at age 50 has no physical effects of it. Keith asks: Where is the injury if an adult parent has sex with a child and the child enjoys it?

In a video, Nancy Salzman is addressing a J’ness meeting. She is reading from a paper:

In some states in the United States the age of consent is 17, in some parts of the world the age of consent is 12. Yes, so what’s abuse in one area is not abuse in another. But what is sexual abuse really? Is the person a child or is the person adult like? Does the person have a certain type of understanding or cognition of morality to make such a choice? In other words; when you are talking to a 12-year-old, does the 12-year-old understand the choice she is actually making and that determines whether it is abuse or not. . . . Often when you counsel people who are children, of what you might call abuse, some little children are perfectly happy with it until they find out what happens later in life. In other words, at the time they didn’t know it was bad. They didn’t know anything about it was bad, later they grow up and they find out that it was actually something that was bad, in that case is it more society that’s abusing them? Because society says its bad but they didn’t know it was bad right so society is abusing them. . . . then actually so more society abusing them than the adult, because they didn’t even know it was bad, but society tells them it’s bad therefore they’re bad. Something bad was done to them. So was it the adult or was it society? Because in some societies it might not even consider bad, does that make sense? OK. So, in other societies in the past like in Rome, standards were completely different, but we are not in Rome.

Nancy is not put off or disgusted by this. She is speaking with the enthusiasm of a teacher eagerly imparting knowledge.

Agent Weniger explains that the Nxivm curriculum consists of what was called ‘downloads’ by Keith, in which his words are recorded and transcribed, then developed into course material. We see a video where Kieth is saying the same things as Nancy said above, in almost the same words as she read off the paper. Keith prefaces it by saying that when people scream abuse, the screaming of abuse is abuse in itself.

In cross-examination, Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo pointed out that there were a tremendous amount of audio and videotapes, and 2000 modules, only a small portion of which were played at the trial.

Agnifilo brought up the work of Canaprobe. Canaprobe reported that Rick Ross was engaged in money laundering, that he was in debt, and that he engaged in coercive deprogramming. Agnifilo showed report after report from Canaprobe indicating that Rick Ross had a financial relationship with many individuals who Nxivm was also investigating. Kristin Keeffe got all these reports. Agnifilo seemed to suggest that the paranoia demonstrated by Keeffe had its origins in the false reports from Canaprobe. (It did seem that Canaprobe was telling Nxivm what they wanted to hear.)

An affidavit was shown from Michael Sutton, in which Michael says that his father wanted him to pay off the non-Sephardic-Orthodox mother of his daughter, and never see the child again. And that Michael did not like it when his sister Stephanie gave Nxivm materials to Ross.

The jury was again showed the picture of the woman, Ashana Chenoa, whose name was apparently used in the false ID supplied to Dani to cross the border. There had been a Homeland Security document stating a personal interaction with Chenoa, after the Chenoa’s death, and at the time of Dani’s border crossing. Agnifilo asked if there were any similar documents for Kathy Russell, or any indication that Russell had crossed the border at that time. In direct, we had been shown Sunoco receipts for Russell, from an area on the US side, close to the border. Agnifilo then showed credit card records for Kristin Keeffe from Denny’s in Niagara Falls, for December 21, December 24, and December 29, There was also a receipt for Niagara Falls Days Inn dated December 29th. Agnifilo asked Weniger if Keeffe was in Niagara Falls, and Weniger answered, “Yes.” So far, Kristin Keeffe is looming large in Agnifilo’s questioning.

Agnifilo asked whether there was anything improper about the investigation by Canaprobe. Weniger answered that he is no longer a practicing attorney, but it may be improper to obtain banking information. Agnifilo said that Canaprobe operated in Quebec, and asked Weniger if he knew the rules in Quebec.

Agniflo brought up that Nxivm was very litigious. Agnifilo: Some of the people they focused on were convicted of crimes? Weniger: Yes. Agnifilo: So not all the litigations were frivolous? Weniger: I don’t understand. Agnifilo: Not all the litigations were frivolous. There was ligation over computer hacking. John Tighe hacked into a Nxivm computer. Do you know if he plead guilty? Weniger: I don’t know. Agnifilo also mentioned a lawsuit against Yuri Plyam, which Clare won. Agnifilo: At some point, did Nxivm suspect that Canaprobe was sending false information? Weniger: Yes.

On re-direct, Penza showed an email in which Keith commented about an investigation by Canaprobe. Penza: Do you know if Kristin Keeffe ever acted without going through the defendant? Weniger: Everything went through Keith. Penza pointed out that others in the organization were paranoid, it was not just Kristin Keeffe. After Keeffe left, banking info was sought for her, Toni Natalie, and Barbara Bouchey.

In re-cross, Agnifilo asked: Do you know if an attorney petition was filed by Keith because Kristin took their child Gaelen. Objection! [Kristin escaped Nxivm with Gaelen, the son she had with Keith. Kristin is currently in hiding.] That was the end of Weniger’s testimony.

Motions were discussed between the judge and the attorneys. Agnifilo said the defense did not believe there was sufficient evidence of an enterprise, and that there was insufficient evidence of counts 1 and 2. Hajjar countered that there was more than sufficient evidence that the defendant committed racketeering acts. Agnifilo said there was an absence of evidence of commercial sex. But Hajjar said there certainly was ample evidence that money and business opportunities were offered. DOS first line had access to financial opportunities, which was shown in email correspondence. Judge Garaufis said there was sufficient evidence of an enterprise and commercial sex acts. Motion is denied.

The judge asked if the defendant had any intention of testifying in his own behalf. There was a full minute of whispering between Agnifilo and Raniere. Agnifilo announced that Keith was not testifying. The judge explained that he had the right to testify, but if he decides not to testify the court will instruct the jury not to take that into account. The defense is not planning to put on a case. The judge asked Keith a few questions, such as if he made the decision voluntarily. For each question, Keith answered in a very respectful tone, “I have, your honor” or “I do, your honor”, or “Yes, your honor.” This was the first time we heard Keith Raniere speak in court, and he sounded like a boy scout.

This was the end of Day 23, and the end of testimony in the case. There was a charging conference on Saturday, which was fairly uneventful. The judge is letting the defense include ‘good faith’ language. At one point, the judge stated that this is an unusual case. Also of note was discussion about defining ‘a thing of value’ in a commercial sex act. It might not be financial in nature. Judge Garaufis said: I don’t know if it was ever contemplated that there would be an instruction quite like this.

Closing arguments will start on Monday.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on June 16, 2019 at 04:00

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 gmail.com (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)

 

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