If you have been watching the HBO Max docu-series, The Vow, based on cult leader, Keith Raniere’s crooked self help classes, you were watching the news closely today. The sex cult leader who branded his followers was sentenced to a 120 years of prison.
US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis read the sentence in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, after more than a dozen people gave victim impact statements at his sentencing.
Raniere, 60, was convicted in 2019 by a jury in Brooklyn federal court of counts including racketeering, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child and human trafficking.
“Keith Raniere will not be able to victimize people anymore after today’s sentence and we’re very grateful for that,” said Acting US Attorney for Eastern District of New York Seth DuCharme. “It struck me in listening to the victims that Raniere really twisted people’s trust and their need to find some meaning and hope in their lives in just the most insidious and devious ways.”
During his time as leader of the cult, the oddly charismatic Raniere swayed television stars such as Smallville’s Allison Mack and for a short time Kristin Kreuk, as well as Stargate SG-1’s Sarah Edmondson, Battlestar Galactica’s Nicki Clyne and Grace Park.
One woman named Camilla testified she met Raniere when she was 13 years old. She and her two older sisters left their home in Mexico and moved to upstate New York to be with him. He got all three pregnant and forced them to have abortions.
Camila said she was a 15-year-old virgin when the then-45-year-old Raniere raped her. He also took naked pictures of her, an act that led to child pornography charges being brought against him.
Another victim, India Oxenberg, cried in court as she told the judge that Raniere starved her to look like a 12-year-old while raping her. She also described herself as Raniere’s “human science experiment” because he severely restricted what she ate to keep her looking like a child and deprived her of sleep.
This was something that was detailed a lot on the HBO Max docu-series. Raniere would convince his female followers to starve themselves and sleep very little so he could easily manipulate them.
The court sentencing in Brooklyn culminates several years of revelations about NXIVM, which charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses at its headquarters near Albany, New York, and had branches in Mexico and Canada.
His lawyers said the life prison term prosecutors sought seemed out of line with a case involving no guns, knives or force.
“No one was shot, stabbed, punched, kicked, slapped or even yelled at,” the attorneys said. “Despite the sex offenses, there is no evidence that any woman ever told Keith Raniere that she did not want to kiss him, touch him, hold his hand or have sex with him.”
Hmmm, maybe these lawyers should be sentenced too.