Aug 30, 2018

Raniere files new request for bond

NXIVM leader's lawyers ask to keep secret those who would post his bond
Brendan J. Lyons
Albany Times Union
August 29, 2018

ALBANY — Attorneys for NXIVM founder Keith Raniere have asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to hold a closed-door hearing to reconsider Raniere's request for bail, and to keep secret the names of the individuals who are willing to post his bond.

The unusual application was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn this week, where a criminal case is pending against Raniere and five of his NXIVM associates. The application alleges that the unidentified individuals who would post any bond for Raniere could be endangered if their identities or home addresses are made public.

"Over the last twenty years, people associated with Executive Success Programs (“ESP”) and NXIVM have been the targets of threats, computer-hacking and blatant false statements on websites and other media specifically to damage their reputations, businesses and lives," the application states.

Raniere's attorneys contend in their letter to the judge that the individuals who would be willing to post his bond are concerned they would "be subject to reprisal and potentially be the victims of unlawful and criminal conduct."

Raniere's earlier requests to be released on bond were rejected by a federal judge who had agreed with federal prosecutors that Raniere, who prosecutors said has access to vast resources and followers around the world, poses a high risk of flight and a danger to the public.

His renewed request for bond is based on an assertion in the application that if Raniere is released on bond secured by the assets of others, he would be more unlikely to flee.

"The government continues to maintain that there are no conditions it will agree to regarding Mr. Raniere’s release," the application states. "Moreover, the government indicated it will not agree to the sealing of co-signers’ names or the partial courtroom closure referenced herein."

The judge set bond for Raniere's co-defendants — Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman Clare Bronfman and Kathy Russell — at amounts ranging from $25,000 for Russell, a longtime NXIVM bookkeeper, to $100 million for Bronfman, the Seagram's liquor fortune heiress who has served as NXIVM's operations director.

Raniere's latest bond request notes that while they are requesting that the bond hearing take place behind closed doors, a transcript of the proceeding could be made available with information about the people posting the bond blacked out.

In June, federal prosecutors had opposed Raniere's request to be released on a $10 million bond by unveiling text messages the Justice Department said showed that Raniere was directly involved in recruiting women to be his sex slaves and having them branded with a "monogram" that included his initials.

The prosecutors urged the judge to reject Raniere's request and keep him in custody, noting he had access to private jets and unlimited wealth. They said he also has both male and female devotees who may remain willing to help him escape.

Raniere, 57, whose organization has been described by at least one expert as a cult, was arrested in late March at a luxury beach villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, along the Pacific Ocean. In Mexico, authorities said, Raniere got rid of his mobile phone and used encrypted email to communicate with his followers. It took authorities nearly two months to locate and arrest him.

Raniere and Mack, a former television actress, were indicted in April and accused of organizing a secret group within NXIVM in which some of its female members said they felt coerced into joining a slave-master club, and were later branded with a design that included the initials of Raniere and Mack, according to the charges. The pair were charged with sex-trafficking and forced labor conspiracy.

On July 25, the criminal case expanded under a superseding indictment that elevated the charges against Raniere and Mack, and added as defendants NXIVM's president, Nancy Salzman, and her daughter Lauren, along with Bronfman and Russell.

The new indictment charged the six defendants with crimes that included identity theft, harboring of aliens for financial gain, forced labor, sex trafficking and wire fraud.

Raniere has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn while the case is pending. His latest application for bail — his trial is scheduled to begin in January — alleges that NXIVM and people involved with it have been subjected to defamatory statements and alleged computer hacking through the years.

The individuals willing to post bond for Raniere, the application states, are "reasonably concerned ... that they and their families will be threatened (and) that they and their families' personal private information may have been among the information hacked ... (and) that they and their families will be the subject of defamatory public statements specifically intended to damage their businesses and reputations."

The application claimed that two bloggers, two journalists — including one who had worked for the Times Union — and others, including former NXIVM devotees, had allegedly hacked into NXIVM's computers or used information from an illegal computer entry. In 2016, a judge in Albany dismissed computer trespassing charges against three people with past ties to NXIVM.

A fourth defendant in that case, former Saratoga County blogger John Tighe, pleaded guilty in 2014 to felony computer trespassing at a time when he was facing unrelated federal child pornography charges.

In September 2015, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by the NXIVM corporation that accused five people, including the two journalists, of hacking into its computers to obtain confidential information, including client lists and other non-public materials.

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