Lawyers for Smallville actor Allison Mack tried to dismiss two of the charges against her in the alleged sex cult case by arguing that the Church of Scientology had also been accused of "forced labor" but a court had ruled in its favor.
Prosecutors say Mack was second in command in a master/slave cult run by Keith Raniere that was hidden behind the facade of a self-help organization called NXIVM (pronounced "nexium") based in Albany, New York.
The 36-year-old actor was arrested in April and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy.
Mack's lawyers filed documents on Friday in a New York federal court arguing that the forced labor and trafficking charges should be dismissed, referencing both the Church of Scientology and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in their filings.
Prosecutors allege Mack forced women in NXIVM to submit damaging collateral information about themselves, such as naked photos, in order to join the cult. If they didn't follow the rules of the group, including having sex with Raniere, then the incriminating information would be released.
But in documents filed Friday, Mack's lawyers, William McGovern and Sean Buckley, argued that the threat of being publicly humiliated through the release of the collateral did not amount to "serious harm."
"Courts have found, however, that such an outcome, albeit embarrassing, does not amount to serious harm under the statute," the lawyers wrote.
The attorneys cited a 2012 case involving the Church of Scientology, where the court found that Scientologists being threatened with excommunication from loved ones and labeled a "dissenter" for leaving the church did not count as "forced labor."
That case had been filed in 2009 by Claire and Marc Headley, two former Scientologists and members of the Sea Org, an order within the church.
The couple argued that the church had kept them in forced labor conditions, which included banning them from outside contact with family members, insisting Claire have two abortions because of a no-children rule, and disciplining them with manual labor. However, both a federal district court and the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the pair had chosen to stay.
"The threat of reputational damage and isolation from loved ones therefore did not qualify as serious harm," argued Mack's lawyers.
They also called for the sex trafficking charges to be dropped, arguing Mack did not receive payment or "anything of value" for the sexual encounters between Raniere and the other women.
The defense lawyers compared Mack's case to a sex trafficking lawsuit against Weinstein, noting that the judge in that case had called for the "anything of value" argument to be read expansively.
"The producer’s ability to give an actress a role in a film often leads to lucrative contracts worth millions of dollars," the lawyers wrote, arguing that the "inherent power dynamic" held by Weinstein in a meeting with an actor was completely different than that within the NXIVM organization.