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Keith Raniere’s defense sums up the Nxivm trial: ‘A disgusting lifestyle is not criminal’

[Keith Raniere and his attorney, Marc Agnifilo]

Dianne Lipson was in court to witness Keith Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, make his closing argument to the jury in the Nxivm trial. But first, her account starts with the end of the prosecution’s closing argument on Monday afternoon…

After lunch on Monday, Penza continues the prosecution’s closing statement. We hear an audio of Keith with some of the women who became first-line slaves.

Keith: It should look sacrificial. They should say ‘Please brand me, it would be an honor.’ But they should say that before the branding, otherwise it will look coerced.

Penza observes: It happened just as Keith said. Their arms were held above their heads. It obviously was coerced.

Regarding forced labor, Penza said the first-line slaves obtained labor from lower-ranking slaves. The DOS book said the slaves should surrender their life, mind, and body. Keith said the first line slaves might get 40 hours of labor from their slaves. Lauren testified that the work should be the highest they could give. For instance, if a slave was a lawyer, they would be expected do legal work rather than something on a lower level. If the slave did not perform labor, they or someone else would suffer serious harm. Nicole stayed all night transcribing lectures for Pam’s memorial service. There’s no chance she would have stayed up for 23 hours straight unless she felt she had to.


Penza walked us through the sex trafficking of Nicole. It was Nicole’s first winter in NYC. She was depressed and suicidal. “Allison began pushing her way into Nicole’s life.” Allison Mack meets Nicole New York. Allison has something that is “exactly what you need.” Nicole feels hopeful. Penza describes how Nicole broke down when describing a letter she wrote falsely accusing her father of sexually abusing her. Allison emailed Nicole: Why are you scaring yourself? You made a commitment. It’s like an arranged marriage. It’s a choice you made. Don’t question, just do. Penza described that before sending Nicole out to do the assignment Allison said, “Now be a good slave.”

Nicole is on the wooden table. In a picture of the apartment Kathy Russell rented each year for cash, there are still ties hanging off a large wooden table. Penza: I submit that Keith video recorded Nicole without her knowledge.

Afterward, Keith told Nicole not to tell anyone, and that what had happened was not wrong. Penza: I submit Keith told Nicole what had happened was not wrong, because he knew it was very, very wrong.

The expert witness testified that a rape victim might send the abuser a friendly message afterward, but that does not mean they enjoyed being raped. Penza: I submit that all of Nicole’s interactions with Keith were because of coercion and collateral.

Penza explained that a thing of value in a commercial sex act does not have to be financial. Were the photos of the slaves with their clothes off a thing of value? Nicole was given money for transportation.

The last count was attempted sex trafficking of Jaye. Allison tried to convince Jaye that her assignment with Keith would help her with her childhood trauma. Allison admitted that Jaye was supposed to have sex with Keith.

Penza: In November of 2017, the defendant fled to Mexico. He went into hiding. The defendant was with his first-line slaves when he was arrested in Mexico. His crimes are exposed. For the first time, he is being held accountable. Trust your judgement. Trust the evidence.

With Penza done, it was time for the defense’s closing statement, delivered by attorney Marc Agnifilo.

Agnifilo: It’s important you look at each of the charges. It’s a difficult job. It’s quite frankly a difficult job I have. You may have emotional reactions, but you really have to go through what’s actually charged. Keith Raniere is not charged with having sex with Camila. I’ll take you step by step through the charges.

This case is about an enterprise, not about Keith acting alone. An enterprise is a circle of people. The government is basically saying Keith did not work alone. Judge Garaufis and no one else instructs on the law. I’m marrying evidence to legal principles.

An enterprise means a common purpose. Do we have a common purpose here? Is Keith’s purpose common to anybody else’s? This is not a technicality. This is the charge. Is there a common purpose between Nxivm and DOS? Nxivm is a business. There is nothing business-like about DOS. DOS is a social group. It has nothing to do with commerce.

Agnifilo brought up the charge of identity theft regarding the false ID in the name of Ashana Chenoa used to cross the border. Agnifilo said the crime is conspiracy, an agreement regarding crossing the border. Agnifilo: At no place does Daniela ever say that Keith was involved in getting her across the border by means of the ID of another person. Danila says that Keith came up with a plan, that she would come in through Canada and someone would have an ID for her. Even if you believe Daniela, I’m going to go through why you shouldn’t. There is nothing in the testimony that Keith was involved in a plan of a fake ID of another person. No emails, text messages, nothing written connecting it to Keith. Daniela is the only source of this info. If I say a witness is truthful, or untruthful, you decide.

Agnifilo: I’ve never had a jury be on time every single day. You are an unusual jury. You’re on the jury to be critical thinkers. Danila said when she flew to Canada, her father paid for the flight. She says Kathy Russell gave her the ID card. Agnifilo then said the name on the woman’s coffin is Lisa Chenoa. Is this the same person?

Daniela said that Kathy Russell handed the border official both of their IDs. Agnifilo said there was no record that Kathy Russell left the USA or came back to the USA. Would she not be entered into the system? She crosses the border twice and there is no record? This is hard to believe. Agnifilo: I submit Kathy Russell didn’t go to Canada. Neither crossing is in an official document. Does that mean that Daniela made her own ID card? She made a false ID for Camila. Daniela made a fake national ID card for Camila so she could travel around Mexico. Did she do it before? Daniela couldn’t remember if Kristin Keeffe was there, on the trip back to Albany. Kristin Keeffe played some role, rather than Raniere, in trying to get Dani back. Receipts from Denny’s show that Kristin Keefe was in Niagara Falls. I have no doubt that Kathy Russell was in the area. I have no doubt that two people went to meet Dani, Kristin Keeffe and Kathy Russell. Daniela’s level of detail on the border crossing is so clear. Kathy gives the official both ID cards. Does the official miss putting Kathy into the system? But Daniela does not remember if Kathy, or Kathy and Kristin Keeffe, drove her to Albany. I submit that Daniela is keeping Kristin Keeffe out of it. Daniela did not know about the Denny’s reciepts.

Agnifilo moved on to Racketeering count 5, Identity theft regarding the hacking of the computers of Edgar Bronfman and James Loperfido. Agnifilo: What if any role, did Keith play in this? There was no reason for Keith to be involved in getting into Loperfido’s computer. They didn’t have any real connection. Loperfido only met Keith twice. Loperfido was not on Keith’s radar screen. Kristin Keeffe is involved with Loperfido. Danila sent Mariana’s keylogger information to Keith. How does Daniela explain that she does not do the same for Loperfido? Daniela said she gave the info to Keith on a thumb drive. But there is no email or other communication indicating this.
Agnifilo: There was an obsession with Rick Ross. There are Kristin Keeffe’s handwritten notes on this. I submit, this is Kristin Keeffe and Daniela doing the keylogs. That’s what the emails show.

Agnifilo discusses Racketeering charge 6, the video Vicente testified to altering. Agnifilo: I submit to you the governments proof is indefinite. Vicente can’t link the video he altered with what was turned over to Rick Ross. Vicente can’t say for certain. Vicente had many projects going on at the same time. He made reference to a ‘never ending project.’ There was a long project of digitizing old tapes made by Keith. Keith wanted everything he said preserved. I submit, the never ending project is this digitization project.

Agnifilo: Vicente said Keith never told him that the tape was in connection to a lawsuit. Vicente only realized about the lawsuit later. Vicente got his information regarding the lawsuit from Kristin Keeffe. There is no indication or evidence that Keith had any involvement.

Regarding racketeering count 7, identity theft in the key logging of Mariana’s computer. Agnifilo: Who is Mariana? Mariana and Keith had a close loving relationship. They lived together for many years. Agnifilo said, regarding the hacking into Mariana’s Facebook, that there was no criminal intent. Agnifilo: There are indications Mariana tried to get into Keith’s Facebook account. She’s doing it. He’s doing it. There is no indication that this is not authorized, or that Mariana had any objection to it.

Agnifilo moved on to Daniela being kept in the room. Agnifilo: Daniela being kept in the room is not a charge. The idea that the purpose of Daniela being kept in the room is for labor and service, is inconsistent with the charge. There is no evidence that Daniela was put into the room so she could work. The testimony was that it was punishment.

Agnifilo: Daniela has a family. They can’t ignore that and say Keith did it. The dad is a very successful businessman. He went to college on a scholarship. He is a very capable man. He made sure the children got an education, and played sports. There is no evidence that the Dad got run over by Keith. The dad is involved in this, he is on the emails. The dad expresses real frustration with Dani. The dad knows things none of us know. The dad says she stole from him and hacked into his Facebook. I submit, The dad is frustrated, and I’m not picking on Dani, there is enough evidence the father is frustrated because of Dani’s conduct. Daniela made a list of all the things she did wrong. On the list was to pay back what she had taken from stores. She lists a number of stores. She stole from stores. Someone other than her knows it. That someone is probably her father. The dad expresses frustration for Dani stealing from him. How is this all on Keith? I submit the dad is frustrated. If Dani stole from stores, why doesn’t she just admit it? Dani says she doesn’t know why she wrote about stealing from stores in the list that she made. Why did she write it? Because it’s true!
Agnifilo: Kristin Keeffe and the dad drove her to Mexico. He had his accountant waiting. He did not leave her to fend for herself.

Agnifilo: How did she get herself into this problem? She made an adult decision to come into the US illegally. Agnifilo explains that the family had an immigration lawyer for the two younger siblings, and Dani knew this but did not do anything about it regarding her own status. Agnifilo: She’s playing a game. She was not honest in her visit to the women’s health clinic. She said she was visiting from Mexico, but it was not true. She’s slick. She knows how to play the game. She asked the immigration official ‘How’s the weather’ to get across the border. I don’t know that Dani told the truth. There is ample basis that she is not totally honest.

Agnifilo certainly is a good lawyer. He made some good points. He came across as powerful, more powerful than Penza. In cross examinations he did not always seem to be successful. He did not always seem to get what he wanted. But now I see how he skillfully weaves the information gleaned from cross, into his closing argument.

Agnifilo moved on to Keith’s use of Pam’s credit card and bank account. He spoke of how Pam used the same card to pay for airline flights for Keith and Mariana. Agnifilo: Pam financed Mariana and Keith’s lifestyle. When Pam passes, Keith doesn’t do anything different. Keith, Pam, and Mariana lived together. They were intimate. There is nothing in the record that Pam wouldn’t have wanted this. After Pam died, Keith signed checks in his own name. He did not forge Pam’s signature. The bank cleared the checks. Keith was not stealing Pam’s identity. Keith was Pam’s beneficiary; He was not looting Pam’s estate. It’s his money. There is no evidence that Keith knew there was an income tax issue.

Agnifilo now discusses DOS, in conjunction with the extortion and sex trafficking charges. Agnifilo asks, “Why is there DOS?” He explains that the closest thing on the record is an audiotape of a Society of Protectors (SOP) meeting. Agnifilo: Keith does 90 percent of the talking. He talks a lot about commitment. This was three years before DOS. Keith speaks of the power and potency of commitment. Keith says commitment gives virtue, character, and personal potency. Keith says commitment has to be the glue of their group. Without commitment, there is no character or potency.

Agnifilo: You decide Keith’s guilt or innocence by what’s on his mind. You have Keith telling in his own words what commitment is about. In 2012, he talks about collateral. Collateral is part of commitment. Keith is not talking about collateral as something to hold over someone’s head, but as giving weight to commitment. Agnifilo explains that Keith says collateral is saying ‘I’m serous. It gives my word additional weight.’ That’s all that is.

Agnifilo speaks of the many affluent and influential Mexicans in DOS. Readiness is about the connection to Mexico, in case a kidnapping should occur. Agnifilo: Readiness is not meant to harm you. It is not meant to wear down your will or keep you sleepless. Readiness is a real thing, and it’s not such a bad idea.

Agnifilo circles back to the SOP meeting in 2012. Agnifilo: Listen to Keith talking about commitment and collateral, not what someone else says they thought.
Agnifilo brings up the audio tapes where Keith talks about the creation of DOS. Agnifilo: I don’t want to walk away from that. Keith has a connection to DOS. One vignette sums up Keith’s role. Nicki Clyne comes up with an idea. Keith says ‘You can use your own brain or you can rent my brain.’ You hear Keith ask the women what they want to do. They don’t know or don’t agree. So Keith enters.

Agnifilo: Why DOS? The evidence is in the record. Camila was cutting herself. Keith finds this out and wants her to make a commitment. Keith says he created that group that ended up being DOS. If you listen to the tapes again, Keith says he wants Camila in the group. The women push back on this idea. The tapes say that Keith created the group, and he wants to work Camila into the group.

Agnifilo: Let me take you through actual relationships that Keith had. I submit, there is no uniformity in these relationships. Cult is just a word, it’s a dead end. Each of these relationships with different women is absolutely unique. Starting with Lauren, Keith and Lauren were in a long term serious relationship, a life commitment. How did this relationship end? When Agnifilo asked if her relationship with Keith had ended, she said, “For me it has.” Lauren says they had a lifetime commitment, but she doesn’t know how Keith feels. Lauren broke up with Keith in front of all of us.

Agnifilo: When asked about the arrest, Lauren spoke from the heart. I think she went through that story for a reason. She spoke of how the Mexican police had machine guns and were wearing black masks. She gave a long detailed emotional answer. That was her way of saying, “I’m done. I’m breaking up with you.” She went through all the frustration and heartbreak. She broke down. It was a real relationship.

Agnifilo: Lauren said, “Keith was the most important person to me.” The government says that’s because of undue influence. I’ll tell you what I think it is. This is the hardest point to grasp. The witnesses have tremendous changes in perspective. They are not feeling the same as they did. Let’s teleport you to when Nxivm was Nxivm. Every witness said positive things about what they thought Nxivm was. Lauren is all in with Nxivm. When she said Keith is her most important person , it’s because he made her life possible. Lauren was flying all over the world, to Mexico, Vancouver, San Francisco. She thinks, “I am doing something to help humanity. And I get paid for it!” Keith made it all possible. He make her life difficult, but he made it all possible.

Agnifilo: People don’t love him because he’s Vanguard. Edgar Bronfman took courses. These are smart people. Vicente was a seeker, trying to do something special. Keith made it all possible. The Mexican initiative was important. Rainbow Gardens was wonderful. Taking little kids, exposing them to other languages and cultures. Making them citizens of the world. It’s not us versus them. It’s just us. I think it’s a beautiful idea. They thought it was a beautiful idea.

Agnifilo spoke of how honest Lauren was. Agnifilo: Lauren says she was attracted to Keith, she wanted a relationship with Keith. She knew about the other women. She said, “Yeah, I knew.” It was a choice. People say it was coerced. I don’t think so. I think they made choices. The only time Keith was abusive, Lauren told him to stop and he did stop. There is nothing in the record that Keith was abusive. It was a lifestyle, in some ways inconceivable. Keith said he could have as many women as he wanted, but they could have just him. But they accepted it.

Agnifilo speaks of Keith’s many intimate partners before DOS. Agnifilo: All of these women are pre-DOS. Keith has no shortage of intimate partners. He doesn’t need DOS for intimate partners. Keith did not create DOS because he wanted sex. Sarah Edmondson had no relation with Keith. None of Lauren’s slaves had a sexual relationship with Keith. I submit to you that Allison Mack’s group was doing something none of the other groups were doing.

Agnifilo moves on to Keith’s relationship with Nicole. He references an email of her journaling where she says: Allison gave me the mission of putting myself into a vulnerable position, submitting to KR. And where ever that walk led, the walk led many places.’ Agnifilo: Nicole did not tell Allison about when she had sex with Keith. I think [in the email], Nicole is talking in a coded sentence that she did something with Keith right before the journal entry. In the journal, Nicole never says it’s something she didn’t want. Then she had a relationship with Keith.

Agnifilo: Nicole has a loving family. If she wants to leave, she can leave. She is having a relationship with Keith. She sent him nice notes, they go on walks. The end of the relationship is significant. Keith is very sad. He asks if he will ever see or speak to her again, and if she will say bad things about him. And their relationship ends.

Agnifio: Before Allison invites Nicole to join DOS, Nicole is battling a serious depression, feeling suicidal. Allison actually cared about her, was worried about her. Allison really believed DOS would help her. Nicole never quite took to DOS. Others did. Allison Mack took to it. Ultimately Nicole was let out, and nothing happened. You saw the same thing when Audrey left. Audrey doesn’t want to stay. Audrey says to Lauren, ‘I love you’ and Lauren says ‘I love you’ back. Where’s the extortion? The extortion is theoretical! There were no threats. No one says, ‘I’ll release this collateral.’ That never happened. If someone was threatened, the Government would have found that person and put them on the stand.

Agnifilo reiterates that Nicole didn’t take to DOS. Referring to the emails from Nicole’s depression, before she joined DOS, Agnifilo said: You never saw the same dark emails or journal entries again. Maybe it [DOS] worked!
Moving on to Jaye, Agnifilo, saying about forced labor: Jaye worked for Delegates and she got paid. Agnifilo: Jay was asked to do the assignment. Jaye thought that meant sex with Keith and she was out. Jaye joined DOS because she loved Nxivm. When she got the assignment she felt, ‘Its not for me.’ And she wrote Keith a nice card. It was a choice. Nothing happened.

Agnifilo explained that a commercial sex act is when someone recruits, entices, harbors, transports, or benefits financially, or receives something of value. Agnifilo: Something of value. What wouldn’t be commercial sex? If you want that person to love you, being loved has value. Where are the limits? Was DOS created for commercial sex? There’s nothing in the evidence on that. This isn’t a commercial sex undertaking.

Agnifilo: The conduct is pretty ‘out there.’; People getting branded, assignments to seduce Keith. It’s pretty ‘out there’, but that’s not a crime. Things will offend you and make you upset. I’m not talking to that. Is it really, at the end of the day, about commercial sex? I think you’re not going to think so. It’s not commercial.

End of Day 24

Tuesday morning, Agnifilo continued his closing statement. He brought up that people had worked for free on Pam’s funeral, because people respected and loved her. This is what a community does.

What was DOS? What was it meant to be. Was it meant to be sex trafficking, coercion, commercial sex or was it something else?

Sylvie said she was close to Clare Bronfman and that Clare took good care of her. Helped her financially. And Sylvie joined DOS.

Agnifilo pointed to an episode regarding Sylvie, Keith bringing her upstairs and he goes down on her, and she said she’d never had an orgasm before. But her body had a reaction.

Here’s my question, asks Agnifilo, why is Keith doing this? Nothing else ever happened again. It was that one incident of oral sex and nothing else.

I suggest to you that the ratio of talking about things is 100,000-to-1 to sex. What is Keith trying to get? What is Keith searching for?

What if it isn’t exactly sex? What about opening people up? How do you get people to step out of themselves?

The thing that happens when people are attracted to each other, attraction brings people out of themselves. Things change, there’s an interaction that people who aren’t attracted to each other just don’t have.

He’s looking for that special way that people relate to each other. There were a huge amount of chats. The chats are day and night, intense and unrelenting. That’s what he’s chasing after.

He’s Sylvie’s grandmaster and he can have sex with her all he wants, but it’s only the one time.

So it’s not about sex, it’s about attraction that isn’t necessarily about sex. You share yourself, that’s what Keith is after.

Commercial sex is in another universe to this. Commercial sex is clearly not part of this.

Agnifilo then refers to 2014, when Pam had cancer. Pam told Mark Vicente that she hoped he and Keith would become friends, because keith doesn’t have many male friends.

Agnifilo: I don’t think there’s anything in this case that shows Keith was a misogynist. Women run DOS, women had high positions in Nxivm. Keith just relates to women.

It’s on tape that Keith wants DOS to become big. There were 100 women in DOS, but you’ve only heard about sexual contact with a handful.

Also, Keith didn’t need DOS to have sex. He had sex with multiple women.

I think DOS was created with the best of intentions, Agnifilo says.

If in the Allison Mack group there was more sex, that’s how Allison viewed Keith.

Maybe it’s a safe place where someone can be sexual.

It’s individual, it’s not across the board.

When Vicente left Nxivm. His leaving was a big blow. People started speaking to each other. Vicente’s concern about this thing DOS, which sounded bad. He thinks there’s something nefarious going on. He then contacts Catherine Oxenberg, and that brought it to another lever. She’s a concerned mother.

A battle ensues. Which side are you going to be on? Both sides end up digging in, and it becomes a black and white thing.

There’s no longer any middle ground.

Nicole has a conversation with blogger Frank Parlato. Parlato wanted her to go to law enforcement. Frank was pushing people to the Vicente-Oxenberg side.

The two sides cause a big change in perspectives. Once K’s motives are questioned, there’s a big shift in perceptive.

Agnifilo gives an analogy. Let’s say you have a strict father who makes you go into your room to study, and you can’t get out until you get an A. But then you become a lawyer. You look back at your father and you see that your father loved you so much he punished you.

But another perspective is that you see that your father is bad, and your entire past has changed.

You view your childhood differently. Vicente had credibility, and he said don’t trust Keith, this is bad. This change in perspective is not because of the past, but because of the change in perspective.

The only way you know what their perspective was, is through written communications at the time.

(In other words, Nxivm and DOS were fine until critics started ruining everything, Agnifilo seems to be saying.)

Agnifilo then turns to Camila. Are we supposed to believe what Daniela said about Camila?

I think Keith had a long term intense loving relationship with Camila, Agnifilo says.

And he reminds the jury, Keith is not charged (in this trial, anyway) with having underage sex with her.

Keith and Camila were emotionally connected. She stood up to him and put him in his place – she was no shrinking violet.

There’s a notion of Keith as the wizard behind the curtain, but the evidence shows the opposite. He hid in the bathroom. He was out of his mind with jealousy and anger. (Then Agnifilo walked that back — not anger, he says.)

When Keith was jealous of another man, that wasn’t power. It’s the opposite.

Keith is not godlike. Keith looks for relationships with people.

Agnifilo then talked about the hard drive and the images on it. He made the point that the computer is no longer around.

There’s no evidence that the photos were looked at or sent to anyone. Where is there evidence of a racketeering enterprise? This is just Keith and his private life.

The photos had no common purpose.

Agnifilo praised the jury. He said you’ve been here every day and on time. He knows it hasn’t been easy.

So many things that Keith did were wrong and offensive, but if you go through elements of the actual charges, it’s not commercial sex.

The jury has to have courage, to bring in a verdict of not guilty because of all of the things in the case that were offensive.

You might think a lot of the things are distasteful, but they aren’t involved in the charges.

A disgusting lifestyle is not criminal. Disgusting behavior is not criminal.

When Dianne left the courtroom, Judge Garaufis was beginning to give the jury lengthy instructions. Which way do you think that jury is going to go?


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 18, 2019 at 14:15

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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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