Keith Raniere, the founder of the cult-like group NXIVM. He is sentenced to 120 years in prison at a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday for running NXIVM, a self-help organization prosecutors labeled a “criminal enterprise” exploited by Raniere as women were kept on starvation diets, branded with his initials, and ordered to have sex with him.
The sentence was inflicted by US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, after a hearing where 15 former NXIVM members raised his voice in opposition to Raniere, 60. Garaufis said “no words can appropriately convey the lasting pain” Raniere has given to his victims by harming people’s psyches, their self-esteem, their belief in themselves, and their experience of sanity and well being.
He also fined Raniere $1.75 million, the maximum allowed by the law.
Before being sentenced Raniere said, “I do believe strongly that I’m innocent of these crimes”. He said some of the victims’ statements were false, but that he was “truly sorry” for causing them pain. After hearing this, the judge quoted “We’re not sentencing him based on a perspective; we’re sentencing him based on his behavior.”
Raniere even entrenched a clique within the NXIVM group called DOS, a pyramid structure in which the women were female “slaves” turned over nude photos and other compromising materials that could be used for blackmail if they tried to leave.
After Raniere’s conviction, Acting US Attorney for Eastern District of New York Seth DuCharme released a statement that “Keith Raniere will not be able to victimize people anymore after today’s sentence and we’re very grateful for that. He added It struck me in listening to the victims that Raniere really twisted people’s trust and their need to find some meaning and hope in their lives in just the most insidious and devious ways.”
The victims, most of whom were women, described what they called Raniere’s devastating impact on their lives.
TOI reported, Raniere was sentenced in June 2019 on all seven charges brought against him, including racketeering, sex trafficking, extortion, criminal conspiracy, and the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl Camila, The first speaker, identified in court, recounted a 12-year sexual relationship with Raniere starting when she was 15 and he was 45.
Camila said, “He screwed with my mind for so long that trying to find the strength and clarity to tell my story has been a slow and painful journey.” Further her sister Daniela, who testified at the trial about her own abusive relationship with Raniere, called Raniere “pathetic” and said he “deserves no mercy.” Their brother Adrian and mother Adriana, who was also part of NXIVM, lamented how his father and oldest sister remained loyal to Raniere.
“Before being part of NXIVM, my family was close,” Adrian said. “He destroyed my family.”
Another former member, the actress India Oxenberg, told Raniere at the hearing: “You stole seven years of my life that I’ll never get back.”
A total of 15 people, 13 of them women addressed the Brooklyn court Tuesday while more than 90 victims wrote letters to Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Several other people affiliated with NXIVM have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.
They included Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, actress Allison Mack, former NXIVM President Nancy Salzman, and her daughter Lauren Salzman, who became a star prosecution witness. Bronfman was accused of helping bankroll NXIVM and was sentenced last month to more than six years in prison.