Nxivm leader Keith Raniere found guilty of all counts in sex cult trial
Keith Raniere, the founder of the “Nxivm” self-help company that prosecutors said secretly housed a sex cult, was found guilty of racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes on Wednesday, according to a public information officer for New York’s Eastern District, Tyler Daniels.
Raniere, 58, was found guilty on all seven counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking. He was emotionless as the verdict was read and is due to be sentenced on September 25.
During six weeks of testimony in Brooklyn federal court, group members told the 16-person jury that they were pressured to have sex with Raniere, and were ceremonially branded near their bikini lines — only to realize later that their skin had been marked with Raniere’s initials.
Raniere did not testify in the case, and his defense attorney did not call any witnesses, but his attorney has argued that his relationships with Nxivm followers were consensual.
Witnesses maintain they were blackmailed into silence after being asked to turn damaging personal information over to their “masters.”
“The defendant tapped into a never-ending flow of women and money,” prosecutor Moira Penza told jurors in closing arguments on Monday. “(He was) a crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power.”
Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo has argued that no crimes were committed.
“You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive. We don’t convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive,” Agnifilo said. “Unpopular ideas aren’t criminal. Disgusting ideas aren’t criminal.”
Raniere could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. He has been in federal custody in Brooklyn since he was arrested in Mexico last year.
Jurors began deliberating at 9:25 a.m. on Wednesday and came to their verdict after about four hours of deliberation. As the first guilty count for racketeering was read, a few former Nxivm members in the gallery gasped.
Catherine Oxenberg, the mother of one woman in the group who has spoken publicly about how she fought to break her daughter out of it, buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
“It gives me so much faith,” she told CNN outside the courtroom. “Justice is served.”
Richard P. Donoghue, US attorney for the Eastern District, told CNN he was pleased with the verdict.
“This trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a massive manipulator, a con man, and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involved in sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation,” he said.