Keith Raniere, the founder of an alleged sex cult within NXIVM, was found guilty Wednesday on all charges after a nearly six-week trial in Brooklyn federal court.
Raniere, 58, once called “vanguard” and “the smartest man in the world” by members of the organization he founded, was convicted of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, racketeering, and conspiracy to commit forced labor by a jury of eight men and four women after five hours of deliberations.
"This trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact, a master manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization," said Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, right after the verdict was made.
"His crimes, and the crimes of his co-conspirators, ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives," Donoghue said.
"The evidence proved that Raniere was truly a modern day Svengali."
His conviction brings an end to the case against NXIVM, which became a mainstay in headlines in 2017 after the New York Times reported on the group. The Times’ story revealed a secret women’s group within NXIVM called DOS, in which members became “slaves” and were branded with Raniere’s initials using a cautery pen.
Raniere was the sole defendant in the case to stand trial after several women previously pleaded guilty to a series of charges. Allison Mack, the former Smallville actor who allegedly was Raniere’s second-in-command, pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges. She did not testify at trial.
Clare Bronfman — an heir to the Seagram liquor fortune whose wealth helped fund NXIVM — Lauren Salzman, her mother Nancy, and Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty for their involvement.
Of the women who pleaded guilty, only Lauren Salzman testified during the trial, detailing her relationship with Raniere and how she tried to protect him up until the moment he was arrested in 2017.
Raniere did not testify during the trial, though his attorney Marc Agnifilo argued the relationships Raniere had with NXIVM members were consensual.
During the six-week-long trial, several former members of DOS spoke of how they got involved with the organization. The women testified that Raniere tried to control every aspect of their lives, including whom they dated, what they ate, as well as their weight.
To join the organization, the women had to provide “collateral” — personal information, including nude photographs, that could be used against them if they were to defy their “master” or speak publicly about the “secret sorority.”
Several of the women, who where identified in court only by their first names, described in graphic detail incidents in which Raniere coerced them into performing sexual acts. The women said they went along out of fear their collateral would be released.
A woman named Nicole testified that Raniere allegedly blindfolded her and watched while a woman she did not know performed oral sex on her. Another woman said she and her two sisters were led to have abortions after having sex with Raniere.
All of the women who testified said they became involved with NXIVM by taking the group’s purported self-help courses. Over time, the women said they developed what they thought was a special bond with Raniere.
Daniela, now 33, testified that she was 16 years old when she was introduced to Raniere at “V-Week,” — an annual 10-day-long celebration of Raniere’s birthday.
The young woman, originally from a small town in Mexico, testified that she was so inspired by NXIVM, she decided to move to Albany for one year to be mentored by Raniere.
While there, Raniere “punished” Daniela by forcing her to stay in a room for nearly two years, unable to see anyone from her family. Daniela said she had a sexual relationship with Raniere, as did her two sisters, and they were made to have abortions.
The tactics used to indoctrinate Daniela into the organization were similar to those of other women who testified, including Jay, Nicole, and Sylvie. The women testified that Raniere made them feel special before they were recruited to join DOS.
Nicole, an actor who became involved in the group after taking courses, testified that she was blindfolded, tied to a table, and sexually assaulted by an unknown person while Raniere asked her invasive questions about her sex life.
After the incident was over, she was told by Raniere that she was “brave” and that nothing bad had happened.
Her testimony was similar to Sylvie’s, who said she was coerced into having oral sex performed on her by Raniere.
Jay, an actor and model, told the court that the reason she joined DOS was because it was described to her as a program where women pushed one another to be better.
Jay testified that she had confided in other DOS members about her experience being abused as a child. She testified she was stunned when Mack instructed her to seduce Raniere, telling her it would “heal” her previous sexual abuse trauma.
In that moment, she said, she knew she “needed to get the fuck out of there.”
Mark Vicente, a former high-ranking member of NXIVM, testified in May that he convinced Jay to send him the images she saved of the collateral so he could give it to the FBI. Vicente said he first alerted authorities to the group.
Looking back on his time in the organization, Vicente said he felt “ashamed.”
“[To] see that I was basically enforcing this kind of really dark, hateful misogyny was deeply upsetting to me,” he said.
Raniere faces life in prison and is expected to be sentenced Sept. 25.