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April fools: Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman sentencing hearings set for cruelest month

[Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman]

Judge Nicholas Garaufis has announced sentencing dates for Nxivm leaders Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman in the month April.

Bronfmans’s sentencing was postponed from an earlier date in the same month to avoid Passover, and is now set for April 23 at 10 am. Garaufis has stated previously that he is considering sentencing Bronfman above the guidelines of 21-27 months. Per her plea agreement, this allows her to appeal her sentence but does not allow her to rescind her guilty plea.

Raniere’s sentencing date of April 16 may be postponed yet again pending the outcome of a possible evidentiary hearing which might take place on April 13 for the two sides to present objections to a pre-sentencing report. No doubt Raniere will have objections, and we’ll see if Garaufis can deal with that and still bring the sentencing on April 16.

Meanwhile, Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo has weighed in on the implications of the lawsuit that was filed by attorney Neil Glazer against several Nxivm members and related Nxivm entities. During the trial, Agnifilo repeatedly and persistently asked former Nxivm members who testified for the government if they intended to take part in a civil suit against Nxivm. They all emphatically answered that they had no plans to do so. A typical example was Agnifilo’s exchange with the witness identified as Daniela, who had testified previously to being confined to a room for two years. Mark Vicente, mentioned in Agnifilo’s questioning, was also a witness for the government in the trial and is a named plaintiff in the recently filed lawsuit against Nxivm.

Agnifilo: You have a lawyer named Neil Glazer, correct?

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Daniela: Yes.
Q: Because you are going to bring a civil lawsuit, aren’t you?
A: No.
Q: You have no intention of bringing a civil lawsuit against Keith Raniere or Nxivm or anyone else?
A: That’s not something that I have done or decided, no.
Q: I know you haven’t done it but you plan on doing it, don’t you?
A: No.
Q: Why do you have Neil Glazer as your lawyer?
A: I, initially — I needed counsel to handle the precarious situation with my little sister Camila and after that, I needed counsel to interact with officials from the government.
Q: Mr. Glazer is not a criminal lawyer, right?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Do you know that he’s Mark Vicente’s lawyer too?
MS. PENZA: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q: Did you get Mr. Glazer from Mark Vicente?
MS. PENZA: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Agnifilo: Your Honor, can we approach?
THE COURT: No. Next question.
Q: How did you find Mr. Glazer as your lawyer?
MS. PENZA: Objection, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q: So as you sit here today, you have no intention of bringing a civil lawsuit?
A: That’s right.
Q: And you haven’t had any discussions with anyone about bringing a civil lawsuit?
MS. PENZA: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.

The account of Jane Doe 1 in Glazer’s lawsuit closely resembles Daniela’s testimony of her experience in Nxivm. From the lawsuit: “At some point, Jane Doe 1 informed Raniere that she was attracted to another man and was experiencing romantic feelings that she had never felt for him. She informed Raniere that she would no longer have sex with him. Thereafter, he and members of his Inner Circle, including Defendants Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman and Karen Unterreiner began a campaign of extreme isolation, harassment and other abuse that lasted years, culminating in her confinement to a room with virtually no human contact for nearly two years, during which her pleas to be let out were either rejected or ignored. Defendants eventually sent her back to Mexico with almost no money and no identity papers (which they had taken and refused to give back to her) and cut her off from all contact with her immediate and extended family.”

According to the New York Times, “Marc Agnifilo, a lawyer for Mr. Raniere, said the lawsuit would allow Mr. Raniere to argue that some former Nxivm members did not provide truthful testimony at his trial.

‘As several of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit testified at trial that they were not planning on bringing a lawsuit, Keith’s chances on appeal just increased,’ Mr. Agnifilo said in a statement.”

The same New York Times article tells the story of another plaintiff in the lawsuit. Sally Brink joined Nxivm in her 20s, when she was putting in 18-hour days and struggling as the new co-owner of a restaurant in Vermont. Nxivm had been pitched to her as a program to help entrepreneurs. At first, she found the teachings were “profound” and improved her relationships with family and co-workers. But her Nxivm involvement subsequently took a darker turn. From The New York Times article quoted above, “More than a decade later, however, Ms. Brink was fighting to escape. The worst moment came in 2017, she said, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nxivm associates told her that she had given herself the disease to get her husband’s attention. Instead of spending the money she had raised online for treatment, they urged her to make the ethical decision to die, she added.”

When Nxivm’s co-founder Nancy Salzman, known in the organization by the title of “Prefect”, also developed breast cancer, she opted to treat her cancer. Moreover, Prefect chose conventional medicine rather than utilize the treatments developed by Raniere which had failed to save the lives of two other Nxivm cancer victims.

Nancy Salzman was also the first Nxivm defendant to obtain a plea agreement from the government.

Like many another high-control groups, Nxivm sought to limit its members’ access to outside information. Nxivm’s news outlet company, Knife of Aristotle, purported to separate fake news from fact, using scientific analysis including fact-checking. The lawsuit states, “It [Knife of Aristotle] also enabled him [Raniere] to shield members from bad press about Nxivm because members of the Nxivm community received their news solely from The Knife. To get news from anywhere else meant that one was rebellious and jeopardizing the community.”

— Dianne Lipson

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