NXIVM jury could be on a tight sched­ule

Albany Times Union - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Gavin

Three ju­rors on the trial of NXIVM spir­i­tual leader Keith Raniere have va­ca­tions set to be­gin June 24 — plans that could boot them from the case and cause jury de­lib­er­a­tions to start all over again.

Clos­ing ar­gu­ments are ex­pected to be­gin at 9 a.m. Mon­day.

The panel of eight men and four women is ex­pected to be­gin de­lib­er­a­tions in the trial of the 58-year-old pur­ported self-im­prove­ment guru after lawyers on op­pos­ing sides de­liver their fi­nal ar­gu­ments Mon­day and Tues­day in U.S. District Court in Brook­lyn.

If ju­rors have not reached a ver­dict by the end of the day Fri­day, the panel could be called in to de­lib­er­ate Satur­day, said Se­nior U.S. District Judge Ni­cholas Ga­rau­fis. He

said if there is no ver­dict by the end of Satur­day, he would re­place the three ju­rors who have va­ca­tions with three al­ter­nate ju­rors.

If that hap­pens, de­lib­er­a­tions would have to be­gin from scratch, he said.

That could po­ten­tially put ju­rors un­der a time crunch this week to de­cide the fate of Raniere, known as “Vanguard,” who is charged in a seven-count in­dict­ment with rack­e­teer­ing, sex traffickin­g, forced la­bor and con­spir­acy.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors have de­scribed Raniere as the leader of a se­cre­tive and para­noid cult-like or­ga­ni­za­tion whose mem­bers used shame, hu­mil­i­a­tion and cru­elty to break the law to at­tain con­trol, power and sex.

Raniere is ac­cused of op­er­at­ing a se­cret “mas­ter/ slave” or­ga­ni­za­tion within NXIVM known as The Vow and, later, as Domi­nus Ob­se­quious Soro­r­ium (DOS), Latin for “Lord/ Mas­ter of the Obe­di­ent Fe­male Com­pan­ions.” The clan in­cluded only women and Raniere. Women in the group were phys­i­cally branded and told to sub­mit em­bar­rass­ing “col­lat­eral” to ensure loy­alty, tes­ti­mony has re­vealed.

All other mem­bers — from “first-line slaves” who an­swered di­rectly to Raniere to lower-rank­ing “slaves” within DOS — were re­quired to give the col­lat­eral to ensure their obe­di­ence, which in­cluded naked pho­tos or false claims im­pli­cat­ing their loved ones in sex crimes and in one case, as a ter­ror­ist.

For­mer mem­bers of DOS have tes­ti­fied that they were lured into DOS un­der the idea that it was a women’s em­pow­er­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion that would be good for them. They tes­ti­fied that they un­wit­tingly be­came “slaves” and were or­dered to pro­duce ad­di­tional col­lat­eral ev­ery month and to do what­ever their masters asked, which in­cluded as­sign­ments to se­duce and have sex with Raniere.

The “slaves” were pad­dled, forced to nearly starve by ad­her­ing to 500-calo­rie daily di­ets and phys­i­cally branded with Raniere’s ini­tials in a painful process per­formed with a cau­ter­iz­ing pen.

Prose­cu­tors and wit­nesses have said Raniere helped a fam­ily move from Mex­ico to Half­moon. He ended up hav­ing sex with three sis­ters, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony. One sis­ter was 15 years old at the time, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony. An­other sis­ter tes­ti­fied she was al­legedly forced to stay in a room on Wil­ton Court in the Knox Woods apartment com­plex, where more than two dozen NXIVM lead­ers lived, be­cause she showed in­ter­est in an­other man.

Raniere went to trial on May 7 after his five code­fen­dants pleaded guilty ear­lier this year. They were NXIVM pres­i­dent Nancy Salz­man; her daugh­ter, for­mer high-rank­ing NXIVM and DOS mem­ber Lau­ren Salz­man, who tes­ti­fied against Raniere; tele­vi­sion ac­tress and high-rank­ing NXIVM and DOS mem­ber Al­li­son Mack; NXIVM di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions Clare Bronf­man, a Sea­gram’s liquor for­tune heiress; and for­mer NXIVM book­keeper Kathy Rus­sell. Tes­ti­mony re­vealed all the women had a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with Raniere at one point.

On Thurs­day, Nancy Salz­man agreed to for­feit more than $515,000 that in­ves­ti­ga­tors seized on March 27, 2018, in a raid on her home on Ore­gon Trail in Half­moon. She also for­feited prop­er­ties in Knox Woods at 7 Gen­eral’s Way, at 8 Hale Drive (Raniere’s so-called “ex­ec­u­tive library”); three of NXIVM’S office build­ings on New Karner Road in Colonie; First Prin­ci­ples Inc., a Delaware cor­po­ra­tion she owned; and a Stein­way pi­ano that was in her home.

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