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NXIVM: Judge allows anonymous victims to give statements in Raniere sentencing

[Judge Garaufis and Keith Raniere]

Judge Nicholas Garaufis has issued an order to permit victims to provide impact statements at Nxivm leader Keith Raniere’s sentencing without having to disclose their identities.

This will include alleged victims who were not included in the second superseding indictment against Raniere.

According to the Albany Times Union, that was over the objection of Raniere’s attorneys that the government will be deciding who is or isn’t a victim…

“Although the government has not identified these individuals, the prosecution is seemingly extending its request far beyond the operating indictment’s named Jane and John Does,” DerOhannesian stated. “In so doing, the prosecution is certifying to this court and the public who is a ‘victim’ which necessarily places the government in the position of vouching for the credibility of an individual who seeks to influence Raniere’s punishment.”

Raniere’s team also opposed the government’s effort to allow the alleged victims to deliver their statements anonymously. However, the judge agreed with the government in their contention that Raniere’s argument was “meritless” and that he had not shown a “particularized need” for the victim’s identities to be disclosed. Prosecuting attorney Tanya Hajjar further stated


“Requiring the victims of certain crimes, including sex trafficking, to provide their names in public could chill their willingness to be heard, for fear of having their personal histories publicized, and the embarrassment and humiliation that such publicity could cause them as they rebuild their lives. . . . In addition, a ruling requiring the victims to disclose their full identities publicly could cause other victims to fear seeking help from law enforcement as that could subject them to further harassment and embarrassment.”

I observed the power of victim statements when I was in court in Manhattan on the day Jeffrey Epstein’s indictment was dismissed following his untimely death. US District Judge Richard Berman allowed Epstein’s alleged victims to read their statements in court. They had the option to speak without disclosing their identities.. Even so, the prosecution stated that some witnesses declined to appear for fear of public exposure.

Alleged victim Courtney Wild’s attorney Brian Edwards said that the hearing meant a lot to the victims. The secret 2008 plea deal had made them feel that they did not matter.

One of the Jane Does recounted that she came from a small town to be a model in New York City. She met a female who told her about an amazing man who could help her. At Epstein’s home, she was sexually assaulted. She was ashamed and embarrassed. This was not how she was brought up. Her world spiraled. She stopped modeling, became depressed, and left New York. She buried what happened deep within her. She said Epstein took away the future she had envisioned for herself, and she will never fully heal.

Another Jane Doe, whom I had seen carrying her baby in the hallway outside the courtroom, was in tears as she stated she is still a victim of Jeffrey Epstein. She is fearful for her daughter and for everyone’s daughter in a world where there are predators and cowards. She was 17 years old and she thought she found someone who cared about her. Epstein took advantage of that poor girl who will never be the same. “He thought he was untouchable and so did I.”

Another Jane Doe related that when she was 15 she was on a plane to the ranch. I’m paraphrasing what she said: “When I was molested, he explained to me how beneficial this experience was to me and how he was helping me to grow. After he had finished, he told me to describe how good my first sexual experience had felt.”

She was not the only alleged victim who stated that she was a virgin before being molested by Epstein. Epstein’s description of the rape as helping her to “grow”, is a bizarre echo of Raniere’s self-serving delusions.

Of the over 20 accusers who read their statements in court, at least ten were Jane Does. If they had been forced to reveal their identities, they might not have come forward, or they might have experienced additional trauma if they had.

Compared to Epstein, presumably a smaller proportion of Raniere’s alleged victims were underage at the time they were victimized. Perhaps not all of the accusations against him will be of a sexual nature. But just as Epstein’s victim’s statements were powerful, I expect the statements of Raniere’s victims will have a powerful effect when read by the accusers in open court. And unlike in the Epstein case, Raniere’s victims will have the chance to confront a living defendant.

In other news, Kathy Russell’s January 29 sentencing date has been postponed until April 21 or later. Her Pre-Sentence Investigation Report is not expected to be issued until the end of January. Currently, only Clare Bronfman has a scheduled sentencing date, of February 14.

— Dianne Lipson

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