Jun 14, 2019

Reflections on The Keith Raniere Trial

Bounded Choice
Janja Lalich, Ph.D.
June 13, 2019

"Court update: Today was the most difficult. By the end of the day, I was so emotional and upset about the degree of power that little sick sexual predator and pedophile had over so many people and the harm he caused.

The morning started with a member of the Prosection standing in front of the jury and slowly paging through a binder of pornographic photos of a young girl who had been a victim of Raniere. You could have heard a pin drop. The atmosphere was silent and solemn. The jurors' faces said it all: grimaces, putting their heads in their hands, glancing away as quickly as possible. Even though none of us could see the photos, it felt as though we were seeing them.

Afterwards was the cross-examination of the FBI tech guy from yesterday, who had retrieved the photos from the hard drive found in Raniere's lair. The Defense went on and on about the make of the camera, metadata, file dates, etc etc, which I'm sure the jury could have cared less about. He was trying to get the photos disqualified by implying that they had been tampered with. Not successful.

After lunch the Prosecution called the FBI Case Agent, who knew everything about the case. The brilliant prosecutor Moira Penza produced a box that had been found in the house of Nancy Salzman (cofounder of the group). The files were described, followed by the display and reading of what seemed like hundreds of emails going as far back as 2003.

For the first time, it seemed, Raniere really paid attention. Emails about their private detectives, photos of stalking Toni Natale, Barbara Bouchey, and Kristin Keeffe, who had left the group years before. Emails on critics, journalists, ex-members, Ed Bronfman, politicians, judges, etc. Connections with PIs and attorneys in Mexico with the help of the son of Mexico's former President, who was a follower. They had illegally obtained all these people's financial records. It was clear that it was a huge criminal organization and that Raniere was in control of everything.

Also lots of emails back and forth between Raniere and Clare Bronfman, Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, and others. A whole range of emails outlining the setup of the Collateral, each type given points. The most points was for something that took away freedom and experience of self (their words). The extent of the control and manipulation became more and more evident. The cruelty, the sadism, the constant pressure. The belief that pain is love. The twisting of morals and ideals. The tearing down and denigration. "I love you Master." " My darling Vanguard." "I'll kiss you in all the right places." Endless pleas for approval, acceptance, guidance. Constant expressions of self-abnegation, self insults ("I'm a crappy slave"). The final communication was from a First Line Slave who was writing him about giving him her 14-year-old daughter to be a "successor," a virginal sacrifice.

My blood was boiling. It was overwhelming.

But the grand finale was showing Raniere's description on their website: the smartest man in the world, went to RPI, studied science and physics and psychology and on and on. The only student to ever graduate with a triple major. Blah blah blah. And then his college transcript showing that he graduated with a 2.26 GPA."


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