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NXIVM: Keith Raniere’s prosecutor gets her reward, parachutes to private practice

[Moira Penza leaving court. Photo by Dianne Lipson]

Moira Penza, the lead government attorney on the team that convicted Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, has left the Department of Justice to re-enter private practice. She has joined the boutique law firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz.

In her prosecution of Raniere, Penza made a significant contribution to women’s issues and the MeToo movement, according to the Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz website:

In a groundbreaking prosecution, Raniere and his co-defendants were charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, involving an array of crimes including child exploitation, sex trafficking, forced labor, identity theft, extortion, money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of justice, as well as stand-alone counts of sex trafficking and other crimes. Following a six-week trial, where Moira served as first chair for the government, Raniere was convicted of all charges. Moira’s prosecution of Raniere has generated worldwide media attention and has been credited with paving the way for other high profile sex trafficking prosecutions against powerful individuals.

It seemed from my observation that Penza took a personal interest in stopping the abuses of Keith Raniere and NXIVM. In her book Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult, Catherine Oxenberg, mother of former DOS slave India Oxenberg, described her overwhelming relief when she was informed that prosecutors, along with the FBI, had “moved in aggressively” on NXIVM. Ms. Oxenberg’s lawyer, Art Middlemiss, added that “Assistant US Attorney Moira Kim Penza was particularly moved by your story.” Oxenberg writes, ” It had taken a woman and a mother to understand. It had taken a woman to respond to my call for help.”

A moment in court stands out for me. On May 14, in a discussion in open court when the jurors were not present, Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo urged that Kristen Keeffe be called as a witness regarding her role in investigating NXIVM’s perceived enemies. Ms. Keeffe, the mother of Raniere’s first child, is no longer involved in NXIVM. She has been in hiding, along with the child, in fear of the long reach of Keith Raniere and NXIVM. Mr. Agnifilo argued, “So what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to bring in a mountain of controversial, very nuanced, very difficult evidence without calling the witness who actually did all this. . . . they should call [as a witness] Kristin Keeffe and put all this stuff in through her. . . . They’re making a judgment decision not to call her because they’re afraid of the cross, and maybe they should be. That’s the witness who did it.” In Ms. Penza’s angry retort she said, “Mr. Agnifilo is the one who’s afraid of Kristin Keeffe, because the defendant tortured her, and so that is, that’s why he hasn’t spoken to her.” Ms. Penza’s furious emphasis on the word “tortured” make me feel how deeply she was invested in seeking justice for the sake of Ms. Keeffe and the other NXIVM victims.


An amusing side note. Heels are not comfortable shoes, but most female attorneys wear sky-high heels in court. A law student told me the reason for this is so they will appear taller in comparison to the men, and also to project confidence. The attorney with the best heels was always Ms. Penza. She did not have a lot of shoes, but the ones she had were beautiful, fashionable, and very well cared for. One that really popped was a stunning pair of turquoise suede heels. Suede in a shade like that is hell to maintain, but hers were immaculate. The saturation of the color in the leather showed that they were really expensive.

At the FrankReport, Frank Parlato wrote that Penza said in an interview that the law firm she has joined has a commitment to advancing women. Parlato speculates that Penza will now earn significantly more, going from an estimated salary of $175,000 at the DOJ to a possible $1 million per year between salary and partnership distributions at the new job.

I wish Moira Penza continued success in her new role, and I am happy that her brilliance, dedication, and hard work has been well rewarded. I have to admit, though it may be incorrect to say so, I also can’t help thinking that she will now have a lot more pretty shoes.

In other news, The Albany Times Union reports that Teny Garagos, an attorney on Raniere’s defense team, has applied to work as a prosecutor for the Eastern District, which was Penza’s previous role. Government prosecutor Tanya Hajjar has requested that a hearing be held to determine if Raniere has any objection to Geragos continuing to represent him in light of a possible conflict of interest on her part. If this hearing takes place, it will be the first glimpse we will have of Raniere since he was convicted in June.

— Dianne Lipson


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 7, 2019 at 17:30

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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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