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After the verdict, the Nxivm prosecutors — men and women — wept

Dianne Lipson, who kept us so well informed during the Nxivm trial, sent us these observations of the scene when the jury’s verdict was read Wednesday…

Very few of us expected a jury verdict yesterday. We were having a nice lunch in the park across from the courthouse at a quarter to two. There was no rush, we knew this was the judge’s lunch hour. Suddenly we saw one of the in-house reporters running past us and into the courthouse, clutching her cellphone. We all took off running in her wake. At 2:30, when the verdict was to be announced, the courtroom was full. Full of people, and full of anticipation. Mark Vicente was there. Susan Dones was there. Toni Natalie looked expectant and tense. Usually Judge Garaufis eschews his robes for a suit, but both yesterday and today he wore his robes. Keith was brought in. He spoke with his lawyers. He looked a little sad, and a little scared. The jury did not look at him as they filed in.

There were 24 counts and racketeering acts for the jury to answer to. The jury foreman spoke in a strong, clear voice. In answer to each count, he said, “Guilty,”, and for the racketeering acts, “Proven.” After the first several answers, it felt like it was going to be a clean sweep. And it was. He was guilty on all counts. While the foreman answered on each charge, Keith was looking intently at the judge. His face was a little red. Otherwise he showed no emotion. Each juror was then asked if he or she agreed. Keith looked at each juror in turn as they each answered, “Yes.”

Judge Garaufis addressed the jury. “Thank you for your professionalism. Your are excellent citizens. We are honored by your participation in this trial.” Toni Natalie clutched Catherine Oxenberg’s hand as they exited the courtroom. She looked stunned, almost overwhelmed. At the elevator bank, Mr. Agnifilo said, “It’s been an incredibly taxing, difficult, emotional trial. The level of emotion was reflected in the juror’s verdict.”


Richard Donohue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, gave a press conference outside the courthouse.

We noticed that Prosecutor Penza could not keep a grin off her face. I was told that when the verdict was read in the courtroom, the prosecutors cried – both the men and the women. As the government lawyers strolled back to the courthouse, the crowd cheered.

Next Toni Natalie and Catherine Oxenberg spoke. Toni said we had an amazing judge. Ms. Oxenberg said her daughter was in shock, and she was in shock as well. It’s the culmination of a year and half of effort. Someone told Ms. Oxenberg that she was a hero for bringing her information to the FBI. Oxenberg replied that there were many heroes involved. When asked how India was feeling, Ms. Oxenberg said that, like all the young women who suffered under Keith, no one is unscathed. When asked if the nightmare has ended, Oxenberg simply responded, “Yes.”

Toni Natalie had on a navy and white striped blouse today. “I wore this so he’d be looking at what he’ll see for the rest of his life.” Someone reminded Toni of Keith’s last words to her many years ago, “I’ll see you dead or in jail.” Tony now responded, “I’m alive and he’s in jail. He didn’t win.”

Catherine Oxenberg described her feelings on hearing the verdict as a wave of emotion and relief. Oxenberg said there are thousands of abusive cults. Everybody is susceptible at some point. Toni Natalie added, “These are normal people, everyday people. They are people who wanted to make a difference. It was all lies. Keith’s inner circle helped enable him. It is an enterprise.” She added, “No one joins a cult. They go in with the trappings of what was presented.” Oxenberg intends to keep raising awareness. She said that India is happy in her new relationship.

All through the trial, Keith constantly gave Post-It notes to his lawyers. Toni Natalie had the last word, saying, “Everyone send Keith Post-It notes!” With their arms around each other. Toni and Catherine walked away from the group of reporters. As she mingled with the crowd, there was a marked change in Ms. Natalie’s countenance. The initial shock of the quick verdict had worn off. Gone was the tension seen on her face every day since the trial started, since the hearings started. I think the implications of the verdict now sank in. She looked like a new person, tranquil, and relaxed.

The defense team exited the courthouse and spoke to the crowd outside.

Cult expert Dr. Janja Lalich told me that after they have heard all that disturbing testimony, she thinks the jurors will now need counseling.

Undoubtedly what happened in court these last few weeks is being closely watched by leaders of high-control groups all over the country. As the judge said, this was an unusual case. Possibly there has never been another one quite like it. Will this verdict be a tipping point, a kind of me-too moment for survivors of abuse by cults?


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 20, 2019 at 16:45

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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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