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Convicted NXIVM leader Keith Raniere back in court for discussions about his attorney

[Teny Geragos and Keith Raniere]

There were no surprises in yesterday’s “Curcio” hearing for the Keith Raniere case. Raniere was wearing tan prison garb, and he seemed confident, even upbeat as he entered the courtroom and approached the bench. The hearing is regarding a possible conflict of interest around defense lawyer Teny Geragos’ application to become a US attorney in the Eastern District of New York. The Eastern District is where the Raniere trial took place, and Ms. Geragos was presumably applying for the spot vacated by prosecutor Moira Penza, lead government attorney in the Raniere case.

Yesterdays hearing was a postponement from the original hearing on September 13th. At that hearing, Mr. Moskowitz, the attorney appointed by the court to represent Raniere in this matter, had not yet had adequate time to confer with his client. At the time of the September hearing, Garagos’ application to become a US attorney was still pending. She has since withdrawn it.

Geragos’ application arrived to the government on August 12th, which was after the trial was over. Judge Garaufis explained to Raniere why the Curcio hearing was still necessary even though Geragos has now withdrawn her application. The trial has ended but the case is not yet over; It is still his responsibly to sentence Raniere. During the time when her application to become a US attorney was pending, there may have been advice given by Geragos or communication with the government that would create a potential conflict.

Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s lead attorney, felt the the risk of conflict is small. Judge Garaufis countered that even though Geragos only cross-examined three witnesses, she was still a very active participant in the trail. She had many conversations with the defendant, and he relied on her for guidance. (This is true, they conversed frequently. One day Raniere and Geragos were huddled close together watching the same monitor. I couldn’t help thinking that this was the nearest Raniere had been to a woman since his arrest.) Agnifilo replied that the overarching issue of how to handle the case is his responsibility. He added that Geragos is one of the best advocates anyone can have, and it was important to the defense for her to stay on the case.

The judge told Raniere that Garagos might still reapply for the job, and so she might try to please the government. After explaining the conflict in his own words, as requested by the judge, Raniere made the decision to waive the conflict. Judge Garaufis added that that Raniere was also waiving his right to appeal on this issue. The judge announced that the pre-sentencing report is not yet received, but they are working on it. Raniere gazed toward the the gallery as he left the courtroom.

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After the hearing I asked Agnifilo if Raniere seemed upbeat to him, as he had appeared to me in the courtroom. Agnifilo paused, reflecting on how he would answer if I hadn’t said “upbeat.” Finally he said that Raniere appeared engaged, and it was fair to say upbeat.

Raniere is scheduled to be sentenced on January 17. Clare Bronfman will be sentenced on January 8th, Kathy Russell on January 29th. No sentencing dates have been set for Lauren and Nancy Salzman, and Allison Mack.

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