Monday, 2 Aug 2021

Sex cult leader Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison

Disgraced ‘self-improvement’ guru Keith Raniere has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for turning girls and young women into sex slaves. 

Raniere, who followers called ‘Vanguard’, had a secret sorority, Nxivm, where he forced girls and women to have sex with him and branded them with his initials.

Women were also pressured into giving up embarrassing information about themselves that could be used against them if they left the group.

His organisation, which some describe as a cult, attracted millionaires and Hollywood actors including Smallville’s Allison Mack. 

US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis called Raniere, 60, ‘ruthless and unyielding’ in crimes that were ‘particularly egregious’ because he targeted girls and young women.

He was convicted of racketeering, sex trafficking, extortion and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said he also had a sexual relationship in 2005 with a 15-year-old girl and confined another teenager to a room for almost two years. 

‘I do believe I am innocent of the charges. … It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all,’ Raniere said.

Raniere’s refusal to accept responsibility or show remorse is one of the reasons for his unusually high sentence given by a federal court in Brooklyn. Another motivating factor for the judge was hearing statements from victims of a sex-trafficking conspiracy that ended in Rainere’s conviction last year. 

Prosecutors had sought life in prison while defence lawyers said he should face 15 years behind bars.

Raniere’s programme, Nxivm, which charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses at its headquarters near Albany, New York, along with branches in Mexico and Canada.

Prosecutors said Raniere used shame and guilt to influence and control co-conspirators and get them to help with the recruitment and grooming of his sexual partners. 

On Tuesday a former follower, India Oxenberg (the daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg) called him an ‘entitled little princess’ and a sexual predator and lamented that she ‘may have to spend the rest of my life with Keith Raniere’s initials seared into me’.

Clare Bronfman, 41, an heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, was recently handed seven years for her role in the organisation when prosecutors had only sought five. 

Ex-followers told the judge that Bronfman for years had used her wealth to try to silence Nxivm defectors.

Allison Mack has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. 

In a sentencing submission, lawyers for Raniere said he ‘continues to assert his complete innocence to these charges’.

They wrote that his jury conviction was an unfair trial because of a media campaign involving witnesses who were motivated to testify falsely as part of a ‘heavy-handed prosecution that threatened potential defence witnesses’.

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