BROOKLYN — A witness in the federal trial of alleged sex cult leader Keith Raniere testified Tuesday that she and her two sisters were all led to terminate pregnancies after having sex with the NXIVM leader.
The Mexican-born woman, who has only been referred to by her first name, Daniela, since first taking the stand last Thursday, recalled how she felt in 2006, at age 20 or 21, when she found out she was carrying Raniere’s child.
“I panicked, I was scared,” Daniela testified. “I didn’t wanna have a baby, and I didn’t wanna have a baby with Keith.”
Raniere was charged last year with with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, racketeering, and conspiracy to commit forced labor in relation to his self-help group NXIVM (pronounced "nex-ee-um"), which authorities say masked a forced sex cult in which women were branded. Raniere has pleaded not guilty, while his lawyers have argued he is a "good man" with "good intentions."
Last week, Daniela testified she felt Raniere began “grooming” her at a young age, and coerced her into sex with him just days after her 18th birthday in October 2003.
She testified on Tuesday that when she told Raniere of her pregnancy years later, "he didn't react to it."
“He was very calm and collected,” she said.
Raniere responded, she said, by telling her that the two of them had “already talked about this." (Daniela said his statement was untrue because she would’ve remembered a conversation that sensitive.)
She then kept quiet when Raniere suggested she get an abortion. The witness said Raniere told her that his longtime friend, the now-deceased Pam Cafritz, would “take care of it.”
According to Daniela, Cafritz coached her on what to expect when entering the doctor’s office. At the time, Daniela was living in the US undocumented and needed to exercise caution when it came to revealing personal information. She said Cafritz told her to say she “was in the country temporarily,” “in a long-term, stable relationship,” and that Cafritz was “a friend of the family” assisting her.
Daniela said she was given a prescription of pills that would terminate the pregnancy and recalled being in “physical pain.”
“I was scared,” Daniela said, adding that no one properly monitored her while on the medication, something that was strongly suggested by the doctor.
“I was alone,” she said. “I was incredibly emotional.”
A couple of years later in 2008, Daniela learned that her then–18-year-old younger sister Camila — who prosecutors say was referred to as “Virgin Camila” by Raniere — was pregnant by the NXIVM leader.
Again, Cafritz was tasked with guiding the young woman through an abortion. Daniela said she was present during Camila’s abortion and remembered one of the people within the doctor’s office making a comment about how she’d had the procedure performed a few years prior. The witness said Cafritz then yelled about patient confidentiality laws.
“At the time, it felt like she was taking care of me,” Daniela said of Cafritz. But now, she says she feels Cafritz’s role was to “shield Keith” of any liability.
Daniela also said that at some point she learned her older sister Marianna had had two abortions after becoming pregnant by Raniere.
The prosecution is set to continue their direct examination of Daniela on Wednesday.