Prosecutors: Self-help guru calls sex slave scheme ‘noble’
NEW YORK (AP) — Communications from jail show the leader of a cult-like self-improvement group in upstate New York has no remorse over his conviction last year on charges he turned some of his followers into sex slaves, even calling his conspiracy “noble,” prosecutors said Friday in court papers.
The papers filed in federal court in Brooklyn ask a judge to give Keith Raniere a sentence of life in prison at a sentencing later this year, in part for showing “a complete lack of acceptance of responsibility for his crimes.” They say Raniere has stayed in touch with members of his NXIVM organization since his conviction on sex-trafficking charges last year, casting himself in emails as a victim and encouraging them to keep the group alive.
“This situation has been a purely political, envy driven, money-powered lie to destroy a community, and keep me either incarcerated for life or otherwise ‘disposed of,’” prosecutors say Raniere wrote in one missive.
In an email to actress Nicki Clyne, Raniere defended his formation of a secret sorority that prosecutors said was comprised of brainwashed female “slaves” who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him.
“I believe the sorority is good - not just good and even noble, but great - and vitally important for women and humanity,” he wrote. “The missing part of our society, found in a secret group of women like this, aches to be embraced; we should deeply mourn its possible loss.”
The defendant also directed his supporters start a podcast to promote a contest asking people “to find purported errors in Raniere’s prosecution and trial in exchange for a cash prize,” the papers say.
In a statement, defense attorney Marc Agnifilo said Friday that his client “maintains his innocence and he still believes in his teachings.”
At trial, prosecutors told jurors the 60-year-old Raniere’s organization, NXIVM — pronounced NEHK-see-uhm — operated like a cult that won him the devotion of a wealthy heiress and Hollywood actresses.
His adherents included actress Allison Mack of TV’s “Smallville”; an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, Clare Bronfman; and a daughter of TV star Catherine Oxenberg of “Dynasty” fame. Both women have pleaded guilty to assisting the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
Authorities identified Clyne, who appeared on the “Battlestar Galactica” TV series, as a sex slave recruiter for Raniere but never charged her with a crime. On a recent social media video showing her dancing outside the jail holding Raniere, she insisted she was “never part of a sex cult.”